Now that the basic mechanical work is done it is time to shift attention to the body. I have now had plenty of time to sit in, climb over and think about the vehicle to develop some ideas of what to do and how to do it.
The body is certainly in worse-than-average- condition for a Land Rover this age. There is a terrific amount of rust on the driver side footwell, and at the bottom of a couple of the doors. There are dents in most of the doors and panels that need to be knocked out and/or filled, although these are not serious. All the doors and windows are functional, if a bit sticky. The front fenders look like an elephant sat on them, after taking a roll in the mud.
The interior is pretty trashed, the front seats have little or no cover left, the rear cargo space seats are bent and soiled, there are seemingly random holes drilled in the floor that no doubt served some purpose in support of the public education/awareness-raising that this purpose-built vehicle was supporting. The windows rattle. What really impresses me is how much dirt there is. In every nook and cranny of the body, the dash the engine compartment, there seems to be 15 years of accumulated dust and grime. I have started to clean the dash but the dirt just keeps on coming.
Opere refers to his body person as “the welder”, which led to some misunderstanding at first. He kept saying I had to come back when the welder was there to talk about the body work. Not the first application I associate with that trade, but of course Defender bodies are (were) all aluminum, there is absolutely no fibreglass in this vehicle at all.
The idea is now to strip the body completely inside and out, remove or cut away all parts that show any rust (lower portions of the metal door frames and the footwells) and replace these with new galvanized metal, then straightening and filling dents, before priming and repainting. This is work that in North America or Europe would be too expensive for me to even contemplate, if I could find someone who could do the work. In Ghana they are so accustomed to keeping old vehicles on the road that the skills are in abundance, and they are affordable. I have quotes on the body that are so low I am embarrased to repeat them.
Here is a first general list of the things that need to be done to the body, exclusive of any soundproofing/cosmetics/expedition prep:
- Removal of all seats and interior fittings
- Removal of exterior fittings
- Removal and replacement of rusted metal (doors, footwells, bulkhead)
- Removal of most of the six electrical outlets located along the side of the roof
- Removal and/or Fill of all dents and scratches
- Filling of all drill holes left in cargo bay by previous owner
- Primer, interior and exterior
- Painting, interior and exterior
- Re-installation of interior and exterior fittings
- Replacement of all door hinge screws
- Installation of aluminum chequerplate on fender tops and bonnet
- Installation of new door seals
- Removal of electrical box in rear wheel well. This was a feature I initially found potentially useful, but all we will need is a couple of good lights on the roof rack, I can better use the wheel well space for additional fuel and water storage.
- Replacement of all interior and exterior fittings
Opere has a bodywork person (the “welder”) within his stable of specialists (Paani) that I have a quote from on the above that is so reasonable as to beggar belief. GHC 550, or about CAD 363. I have obtained a quote from another fellow who seems quite professional but is a much more costly (GHC 1200). I have seen a lot of the work that Paani has done and it is seems a good result, and I have watched him work. He is very good, why risk a higher price on an unknown bidder, when I know the low bidder does quality work? Of course these quotes do not include painting, that is done by someone else. It is typical of Ghana (of Africa?) that everyone specializes and it is difficult to find people who will quote you a price on a multi-component task. At one point I thought Opere would play this role because he hires these people to do work for him, but he seems to prefer that I deal with them directly. At least this cuts out the middleman, but I have to be careful I am not being given inflated quotes because I am percieved as a dumb foreigner that does not know the market. (a rather accurate perception, actually). I am obtaining two or more quotes for just about everything – painting, body work, interior upholstery, etc) and when the suppliers see me responding to good prices that will help to encourage reasonable pricing for future things.
I am gradually accumulating some body parts for this part of the restoration. I brought in new galvanized aluminum footwells from Famous Four, and as a first investment in the soundproofing I purchased new seals for all the doors. Looking ahead to the expedition prep I have ordered galvanized aluminum fender tops, knowing from our South Africa experience we will spend a fair bit of time clambering up to gain access to the roof rack. Installation of all these latter pieces will come later, after all the other body work is done.