Its all about the little things (Post #222) 11/25/2010

When you are restoring any older automobile the issue of replacing the “trim” parts comes up. When I watch the show Wheeler Dealers it is simple for them to just stop by a “breakers yard” for a few parts. But, when you live, 4,566 miles or 7348 kilometers from Solihull, United Kingdom getting those little things to make your Land Rover complete is at a minimum difficult.

You can sometimes find prime trim parts on eBay. You maybe even lucky enough to find a Range Rover in your local Pull-A-Part yard. I usually find them right about the time my bank account is empty. For now, Range Rover Classic trim parts for the most part are still available.

Which brings me to a recent trip to Rover Cannibal. I stopped in for a license plate lamp lens. It is a simple piece but totally irreplaceable without a breakers yard. I say that, and yet you can make your own. I watched a guy on one of the classic car shows mold his own 1936 Packard tail light lens. But I don’t have the patience or materials to do that. So it was off to my local breakers yard.

I walked in to Rover Cannibal and saw Ryan, I made the customary greetings and he asked if I was still blogging? How was the Rover? All the catch up stuff. His comment, “I don’t do enough social networking.” made me think, “dear Lord, I do too much social networking.”

I told him I was in to see if he had a few parts, knowing he had them. Rover Cannibal is a huge warehouse. The first floor is vehicles in various states of disassemble. The upstairs is racks and racks of parts. Knowing the Range Rovers are getting fewer and fewer it is good to see so many spares. He even had a 1994 white LWB being disassembled. Oh how I wish I had a shop to store a parts car.

I told him I could use the lens and a left front door seal. I told him I was sure I needed more but didn’t have my list with me. He told me to, “run up and get them”. Ryan and I have that kind of relationship. Nothing feels better than to be accepted and trusted like that.

When I didn’t find what I needed upstairs he told me to see Billy because, “he knows where everything is”. Billy is a Navy man and you can see that the sea salt is still caked on in places. So naturally we hit it off great. He showed me the 94 white LWB and I immediately found only a dozen things I needed. I didn’t have the money right in my budget this close to Christmas to take them off his hands.

As a matter of fact I had already attempted to glue and refurbish several of the pieces I found laying right there in that breakers yard LWB. This is where the rubber really meets the road. Right there in the bits I found what might be considered the holy grail of trim pieces. A fully intact fuse cover! Yes, I know, you can call me a lucky bastard all you like, I’ll take that for sure.

This is one of those parts you just can’t find. This is the story with any older car and restoration project, every car has its Holy Grail. My friend Mr. Fisher told me about a friend of his, Brian deFonteny, that has a 1966 Chevy El Camino. It is a total restoration and in mint condition. This fellow is going through the painstaking process of getting EVERY AVAILABLE FACTORY OPTION for this 1966 car. He finds the OEM parts still in the box in remote warehouses all over the United States. He mentions on the site that he recently replaced the manual windows with the factory electric ones. He has about $25,000 in parts on his car…not including labor.

Some of you younger readers might not know what this really means. Back in the golden days of automotive dealerships the 1950s and 60s you went to the dealership to see the latest models. There were not parking lots full of cars for you to drive home. You went to the dealership to test drive the models. Unless you wanted a USED car, you had to order your car from the factory. Seriously. An order would go to the factory and they would build your car and it would be delivered to the dealer.

So you would get the list of options and pick what you wanted your car to have. Paint color, radio, air conditioning, engine, think of something and you probably had the option of ordering it. It was an amazing time in the auto industry.

This gets me back to the trim options and Mr. deFonteny’s 1966 El Camino. Like I said, his quest is to have every available factory option for his car. He even has an ORIGINAL tissue holder. This part is apparently exceedingly rare. A true Holy Grail.

This is picture of a reproduction available for 90$(US). An original, once he was able to find it, cost him 1000$(US). Yes, one thousand dollars. He also has the headrests for the bench seats. These were only delivered on 689 of the half a million El Camino’s that were built in 1966.

But if you are going to play with the big boys you’ve got to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk. That is where I get off. I don’t think it is possible to build a Range Rover and have all the trim pieces be that nice. I am not building a show car. Hell, if necessary I’d drive my Range Rover through a barbed wire fence, I’m not afraid.

I’d just like to have all the visible bits be in functioning order. And having the fuses covered up on the dash is a good thing. Mrs. OkieRover is not a flight engineer. In fact, when we were on a date in my 1973 Dodge Ram pickup truck I had the headlights go out. I said, “well crap” and slid over to the middle of the bench seat and opened the glove box all this while I was still DRIVING. I dug out the appropriate fuse from the spares and popped it in restoring the lights. All the time she was mostly freaking out.

So I don’t need to have an exposed fuse box on the dash. And since my trusty wife will not be swapping fuses for me it needs to be covered. If not for the practical, it must be covered for the cosmetic factor. Mrs. OkieRover does not do “wires and stuff”. Mind you she is not without skills. Mrs. OkieRover can start an IV on a vampire with Raynaud’s Disease in the dark while she recites the famous Womack brownie recipe, but when it comes to cars or anything mechanical, forget about it.

So I’m pretty stoked that I have a nearly new fuse cover, my broken license plate lens replaced and a new driver’s side door trim with rubber seal intact. I pulled the headliner out and the dome light lens are nearly gone. In fact one sacrificed itself for this picture.

The good news here is this part is still available new from Atlantic British. I also need a tailgate trim piece that covers the carpet edge around the tailgate release. This piece is also available new. I only have 4 of the catches left and only one of eight contact pins left on the trim piece.

Plastic? Go figure. A nice aluminum piece secured by screws would have totally worked back there. Of course if they had done that, the screws would have rusted through the tailgate by now and I’d be writing about how I manufactured a new piece out of 16 gauge steel.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and as always thanks for reading and Happy Rovering.