Sorting The Chassis

The rolling chassis was in excellent condition with only powdery surface rust here and there where it looked like condensation had gathered while the truck had been stood. There was no 'real' corrosion anywhere. There was, though, quite a bit of clutter that I didn’t think we’d ever need on the converted vehicle. There were many brackets, heavy steel boxes, a heavy radio battery tray, and many tying eyes and brackets that were meant to assist in securing loads carried on the bed.

Preparing the chassis was basically just donkey work consisting of wire-wheeling any flaky paint, grinding off any unnecessary brackets and stripping any parts to be renovated off the vehicle. After everything was cleaned up and prepared I simply applied a liberal coat of cold galvanising paint and then brushed / rollered a layer of NATO green from Trade Paints UK over all the repairs. I found zinc / galvanising paint really useful as not only does it offer decent rust protection, but can be built up in layers and then 'flatted off', acting much like a thin skim of filler or stopper.

The exterior of the cab would have needed no work at all had it not been for the fact that the truck had had some kind of insignia painted on the doors. I can only guess that it’s MoD policy, when releasing vehicles, to point some new recruits at vehicles armed with gallons of NATO green and a 6 inch brush with the clear instruction to make sure no trace of any ensign remains. It took an age to flat the doors to something acceptable but once I was there a few minutes with the roller saw everything looking clean and tidy.

Parts removed, prepared and re-painted at this early stage included:

  • Light guards
  • Headlamp bezels
  • Rear steel storage boxes
  • Mirrors
  • Machine gun hatch (sunroof / emergency entrance & exit)
  • Pintles
  • Windscreen wiper arms
  • Bonnet
  • Windscreen grab handles
    • Many of these items didn’t actually need painting but I wanted to ‘de-militarise’ the look a little so used some contrasting satin black and bright orange to break things up a bit.

      We decided early on to keep the standard load bed rather than strip it off and replace it with a DIY subframe. As is the case with just about every overlanding truck ever built, our off-the-beaten-track needs are not 'rock-crawler' extreme and I am not in any event convinced of the wisdom of second guessing 'improvements' to a truck that is already specifically designed and built to be driven roughly over harsh terrain in emergency situations without self-destruction. Accordingly, we decided that the standard bed, being so sturdy, would offer a good twist-resistant mount for the box. The bed is very strong, cleverly engineered in stress absorbing 'sections', and incorporates a rudimentary torsion relief system as standard. This comprises 8 bolted attachment points, the front two of which are opposing rubber bobbins that allow separation of the bed from the chassis rails.

      The bed needed stripping of all the old timber and tying eyes. This sounds easy – and it should have been – except all the fixings for both were well and truly knuckle-skinningy difficult to get to. It took many dull hours of contortionism with an angle grinder to finally cut all the necessary bits and bobs off. Once off, the timbers and eyes were simply lifted out in something of an anti-climax. I kept reminding myself though that this was the kind of extra step that professional converters just wouldn’t take. There is no way that work like this would be sensible if you were trying to turn a profit. Once stripped there was a bit of superficial rust to be dealt with where the timbers had retained damp and forced it into the bed’s screw holes. This was simply ground out and rescued with galvanising paint – job done. One bed item I did leave in place were the uprights that secured the original headboard as these are very sturdy and would, I figured, provide an excellent first fixing point for the box. The final bit of preparation on the bed was to weld a lip of 3mm equal angle steel around the perimeter that would act as support to butt the box walls up against.