By Lonn Howard
(Click on any picture for a larger view)
The following is NOT a "How-To"! If you want to undertake a project
of this magnitude you need the skills of a fabricator and the experience
of someone whom has done it successfully. Or be a masochist.
(Note from TeriAnn - The conversion fabrication done on
both my and Lonn's 109s was performed by Timm Cooper. Timm made
the same modifications to both Land Rovers to provide engine clearance,
set up the power steering and to centre the rear prop shaft hole
in the cross member behind the transfer case. In addition a number
of changes were made to Lonn's frame to mount his choice of gearbox
and transfer case that did not need to be done in my simpler gearbox
If you are contemplating a V8 swap read both Lonn's and my V8
conversion stories to get a more complete idea of how it can
be done well. And as Lonn says, don't attempt it unless you are
a very good experienced custom fabricator or a total masochist
who wants to learn how to do it by doing it. - Back to Lonn's
My '67 109 began life as a 2.25L petrol MOD FFR rig assigned to
service in some unknown LHD country. When I acquired it in October
of '99 it ran beautifully, however, one trip over a mountain pass
and I made the decision to convert it to V8 power at the earliest
opportunity. My goal was to develop a truck that would cruise at
70 mph at about 2400 rpm while still providing about 80 to 100:1
crawl ratio for serious rock crawling.
I cut my teeth on Chevrolet engines so it was a given that a Chevy
power plant would call the Rover home.
Chevy 350 and Scout
II power steering box in place. The cross member was moved
forward one inch for additional fan to radiator clearance.
Chev 350 and Scout II power steering.
The decision as to which transmission to use was not an easy one.
I first leaned towards the SM420 and SM465 transmissions. They are
both venerable and bulletproof old transmissions with a super-low
first gear in the SM420, and an improved gear spacing in the SM465.
A bonus to the SMs was that they would both bolt directly to a Chevy
bell housing and use all Chevy components. The downside was that
I would have to retain the Fairey overdrive and my Series t-case
to achieve the road-speed/rpm ratio I wanted.
While the Series t-case is strong enough to handle the V8 the Fairey
was not. My Fairey was in good shape and I had no desire to grenade
it by hitting it with way more power than it was designed to handle.
A new Santana at the time was $1400, so that was out of the question.
Enter the NV4500 transmission. I chose the Dodge version which
has a full synchro complement and an overdrive in a hell-for-stout
package. If you are considering this transmission, be aware that
you have to use the petrol version. The diesel version uses a different
input shaft and will not mate to a Chevy without extensive modification.
There are two Chevy versions as well that will work. The earlier
version has a very low first gear, but has a weird gear spacing
between 2nd and 3rd which was changed in the later version. The
early version also has no synchro on first or reverse. The later
Chevy version is similar to the Dodge.
To use the Dodge or late Chevy NV4500 tranny you must find an early
(pre'73) truck bell housing that has the large transmission locating
hole. Use the cast iron version, as the aluminum version is bigger
and clearance issues arise. The exact dimensions of the locating
hole escape me now, but a quick jump to the Advanced Adapters site
will enlighten you as to which bell housing will work with their
Dodge NV4500 overdrive transmission and LT230 transfer case.
Notice how far back the cross member was moved to accommodate
the longer transmission
The adapter is about 7/8th inch thick and comes with a pilot bushing
to fit the transmissions input shaft. This conversion uses a Ford
throw out bearing and a Chevy clutch and pressure plate. You might
have to grind down the ends of the clutch fork to fit the Ford throw
out bearing, but it is only a few thousandths at most. Be forewarned,
this transmission is HEAVY. It is about 200 lbs. dry, and it takes
a gallon of very expensive ($100/gallon) proprietary synthetic transmission
Since the NV4500 has a very capable overdrive I intended to use
my stock t-case sans the Fairey overdrive. Unfortunately, my t-case
had seen better days and would have had to be rebuilt. When a '96
full time LT230 t-case was made available it made more sense to
convert it to part-time operation as it is beefier than the Series
Had I used the Series t-case it would have been mated to the back
of the NV4500 via a spud shaft. The tail housing of the NV4500 would
have been machined to house a bearing for the spud shaft and new
holes would have been drilled to match the six holes on the t-case
flange. Relatively simple stuff.
The decision to use the LT230 brought with it a whole new problem.
The mating flanges didn't mate and the LT230 encroached on physical
space the NV4500 already occupied! Fortunately, the space the LT230
wanted was unused inside the NV4500 so some judicious cutting and
aluminum welding was done to alter the tail housing of the NV4500
to accommodate the LT230. Then an adapter had to be fabricated.
The adapter is about 3 inches long and houses a bearing and a spud
shaft. As you may surmise, this conversion is not feasible in an
88 due to the length of the whole enchilada.
Dodge NV4500 overdrive transmission and LT230 transfer case.
Mated via an Advanced Adapter and a custom adapter, respectively.
My front drive shaft is now 38.5 inches long and my rear drive
shaft is now 30.5 inches short. To handle to V8 power a Salisbury
rear end was installed which put the pinion 2 inches further forward
and 1 1/2 inched lower, which exacerbated the short rear drive line
problem. A pair of 4 degree camber compensators helped reduce the
This picture shows how the cross member was sectioned and relocated
further aft. The original tranny mount was moved, modified, and
A few frame modifications were also required to make this whole
thing work. The front cross member had to be moved forward and the
breakfast mounting tabs had to be shortened. (TW note - Shortening
& redrilling the radiator bulk housing mounting tabs allowed
the radiator bulk housing to stay in it's stock location.)
The radiator from a '64ish Chevy Impala will fit between the frame
rails with judicious use of a BFH on the radiator, but radiator
mounts had to be fabricated. The transmission mount had to be cut
off and modified to support the NV4500, and the mid-cross member
with the drive line pass-thru had to be sectioned and moved.
As if that wasn't bad enough, there was sheet metal work involved
as well. The bulkhead has to be modified to allow the bell housing
to fit, and the transmission tunnel and seat box had to be modified
to fit the monstrous NV4500 transmission.
POR-15ed foot wells and frame. Notice the alteration to the bulkhead
tunnel which was widened three inches to the right to fit the
Chevy bell housing. The mounting flange for the tunnel is one
This project is definitely not for the Land Rover purist, as there
is no return from whence you came, but for the Land Rover lover
whom would love more power, it's the only way to go.
Sandblasted and POR-15ed frame. The bulkhead is clean, sandblasted
metal at this point.
The sheet metal is going back on finally. You can see the results
of the second and third paint choices on the bulkhead. The first
choice, a custom color that turned out way too blue, is covered
by the second attempt, pastel green, which is a stock LR color.
Too light for our tastes though. Rhonda thought the pastel green
was too close to Forest Service green so we settled on a custom
olive drabbish flat paint that plays well on the military history
of our old beast. The best thing about flat paint is never having
to polish, wax or pamper it. Not that I would have anyway...
This pic was taken right after I got the fender flares installed
and the new wheels and tires on it. Adding the flares was a LOT
of work but I think it was worth every drop of sweat. The flares
are stock Defender but I trimmed the width about an inch and a
half to give the 35x12.50-15 Goodyear MT/Rs some breathing room.
Some customizing of the front bumper was in order to clear the
tires at full lock.
A year later
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