I have just been back to check on the 109 and give it a quick drive around the compound. It is a bit manic doing an eight hour overnight flight (over 11 hours on duty, including the pre and post flight tasks), getting to Birmingham, collecting the hire car, rushing to the crew hotel for a quick shower and change and then driving to Bedford during the rush hour, then doing several little jobs and seeing old friends before rushing back to Birmingham to get some sleep before flying back – it was a very long day!
The good news is that the 109 is in good shape. The inside seems a little dirtier, but outside seems clean enough, being stored indoors. The rear tyres have gone a little soft, so I’ll need to bring my tyre compressor next time, and the rear fuel tank has sweated at the seams and left a fairly large stain on the concrete floor. Such stains are always alarmist, looking far bigger than really represents the scale of the leak, and the leak has been about for several years (since I bought the vehicle in ’92), so I suspect that the POR15 fuel tank treatment will be quite sufficient to sort that out in the future, along with the under-seat tanks which, having been removed from scrapped MoD vehicles, are fairly old and sweat at the seams too.
The battery was as dead as the proverbial Dodo. I don’t think it’s safe to leave them attached permanently to chargers, even the high end smart chargers, so I’ll continue to put up with the inconvenience of jump starting. On the plus side, the engine fired instantly, as always. In fact, the site owner was shocked at that, given it has been eight months or so since it was last started. It was allowed to idle for a few minutes (while I tidied the jump leads and moved the hire car out) before driving out of the unit. All gear selections were normal and everything worked as it should. The only defect is a single blown bulb in the number plate lamp, The single Vee-belt squealed a little at first, especially when moving the steering, but that soon quietened down as any surface contamination got polished off. All in all, very pleasing.
I am still pondering the future of some technical aspects of the car. It’s noisy at high speed, mostly transmission noise, and I have previously bought an automatic gear box from a Discovery to deal with that, along with the Borg Warner transfer box from an RRC to mate to that unit, that would give the quietest driving and best 4wd system (in my opinion, based on my RRC), but if I fit it, I’ll have to go the IVA route and lose the tax exemption on the vehicle. While not horrific now, I have a nasty feeling that there may be steep road tax rises for diesel vehicles in the future now that they have fallen out of political favour. I’m still considering 4.1:1 diff sets, which if used with overdrive only selected in fourth gear (or low range) should not cause the damage I got when using overdrive with 3.54 diffs. I also rather fancy the idea of automatic torque biasing diffs (in this case Eaton Trutrac, as Ashcroft don’t make 10 spline or Salisbury units) to improve winter road driving, and I’d like to explore any ways of fitting viscous coupling to the forward drive to mimic the Borg Warner box. It’s all harder doing it out here, though, where I have access neither to the 109 or old parts to offer up for comparison. It’s vapour build or wish-list stuff at the moment, but the idea of 4.1 ATB equipped axles is very appealing, and would be just as useful if I can fit the later transmission, even if the noise level issue would be less pressing.
I also saw Helena’s 2009 90 at Rogers. The people that bought it from us didn’t know how to drive a Defender and had no mechanical respect or sympathy, so had blown the rear diff, the transfer box output shaft and turbo, and decided that it must be the vehicle at fault, not themselves. It seemed very sad to see it unwanted, but other than the removed rear seats (being refit, having been stored rather than sold after removal), it did look in very good order – no dents and only a handful of small, shallow scratches that would polish out. The work that I did on the front wings, lower grille, side steps and rear cross member was all still evident, with no corrosion or marks, so while it wasn’t well driven, neither was it abused. If only I had the money to buy it back and put it in storage too…