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Body Shape.

One of the biggest problems with the Discovery is the rear over hang. It has a terrible departure angle. How do I fix this? I had two options that could work. Cut the Disco off behind the front seats and make it into a pick up truck body style and in the process remove most of the rear over hang, or do a Discovery bobtail. I weighed up both options and in the end chose the bobtail. There have been many examples of Range Rover bobtails before but I had never seen a Discovery modified in this fashion, another plus.

Ok, I had chosen the bobtail but how was I going to do it. After reading up on many of the Range Rover conversions I settled on a plan. Ok how would it look? The following options were created by Dave Lucas of  Slickrock fabrication  for me to consider.

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Chop Option 1 Chop Option 2 Chop Option 3   

 

Of the 3 options above we chose Option 1, well at least to start with. From the above the following mock up was made. Ok I am a rotten designer but you get the idea. You will see that the end results came out somewhere between Option 1 & Option 3

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Once the above was worked out it was time to strip the inside of the Discovery. My wife cringed as I started to rip everything out, particularly as she had just seen the Discovery bought home and our boys thought it was awesome.  The 2 pictures below show what it looked like once I had started work.

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Keith Kreutzer of Rover Tracks is to be my co-driver in the Disco so would be helping out with all the work. A combination of my ideas [Ok many of his ideas as well] and his vast experience in engineering and fabrication would be used to make this project work. After measuring all the internal and external parameters we chose to cut out 16 inches. This may seem a lot compared to bobtailing a Range Rover Classic but we felt it could be done successfully. LRM Magazine ran a great article in their August 2003 issue on bobtailing a Range Rover Classic. If considering this process get yourself a copy and read their article first.

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Well the time had come. Our first job was to remove the rear door and all side panels. This gave us access to the structural parts we needed to cut. We measured once, measured twice and then just to be sure measured again. To help with alignment the 16 inches were not just cut from one place. You can see from the picture above that the 16" came from the roof but we moved forward the cuts for the side panel and secondary panel. We thought that this would help with alignment and also ensure that the cut was spread structurally. Pictures 2 & 3 above show the results. Yes that's me surveying our handy work.

The LRM articles for bobtailing a Range Rover recommended 13 or 15 inches only. We actually found that in the Discovery a cut of the full 16” allowed for perfect alignment of the rear wheel arch to the rear bumper section and also allowed for good alignment of the side structures. The outer side panels were more of a problem but I doubt that they would have aligned perfectly even if we only took out 13 inches.

After removing the body we cut the chassis that would no longer be needed as shown below. A new rear chassis section was fabricated out of straight 3 1/5 inch by 3 1/2 inch box section. We chose the strongest section we could find to ensure that a strong mounting point for the rear bumper, recovery points and back of the body could be achieved. Once welded on with only ˝” over hang at the rear we welded on diamond shaped sections to both sides to provide additional support. These were bent over at the top and bottom of the square sections then welded on. From the looks of the work this is probably the strongest part of the entire chassis now. The other benefit of doing this part first and then attaching the rear body arch section was that we had a built in place to stand the rear body on whilst we measured and aligned it ready for welding. A couple of wooden wedges helped with alignment enormously here.

  

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The above photo shows more fine tuning of our cuts. Note that the cut has been moved back to the end of the wheel arches. We could then weld on the former wheel arch braces that held the mud flaps to he slanted edge of the rear bumper section to provide addition weld contact. The rear cargo area was particularly fiddly as we were joining a straight rear section to the corrugated format of the rear floor area. In the end we through welded each hollow of the floor section to the overlap from the rear panel then pushed down each of the higher corrugated sections. This was then finally filled with a polymer filling and gluing compound normally used to secure metal roofing materials. Using this product allowed us to effectively glue any unattached pieces and fill in the gaps in one process.

The side box sections behind the gutters did not align closely due to the varying side / dimensions of the Discovery shape that continue to expand from front to rear. The next picture shows the Discovery back together save for some final touch up welds, painting and panels. You may also see the fabricated rear chassis adjustments. A new rear bar needs to be made but should keep departure angle to an acceptable 80degrees or so once the larger tires are installed.

             

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The final stage was to fill in the gaps where necessary and fix the external rear quarter body panels.  To preserve the window lines and panel recesses we removed approximately 16 inches from within the rear window sections. Originally we had proposed to cut using the join between the rear arch panel and the side panel as the start of the cut point and move forward 16 inches, however upon review preserving the window recesses seemed a offer a more professional look for the end product, albeit a little more work. This left us with a window gap of approximately 6 inches. Not enough for a replacement window but enough to preserve some semblance of the Discovery’s look and allow for a solid aluminum section to fill the hole. As the Sides are not perfectly straight the window sections did not line up correctly. This meant that some metal work to bend the various sections into place was required. In the end with the assistance of some heating and hammering the window sections lined up almost perfectly.  

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As the rear quarter panels were cut mid panel joining them was to be a problem. We chose to crimp sections to allow them to be joined.

Interior Roof Shot Top of Roof Shot pre sanding & Painting Roof Gutter joining
Rear Driver Side quarter panel being joined Rear Driver Side quarter panel being joined - window shot Rear chassis fabrication

The crimping tool arrived after almost 3 weeks delay and has allowed for the panels to be joined nicely. We have used some filler to help smooth out the joins. These will be painted shortly.

Wheel arches have been cut with an average 3" taken out of each wheel arch to allow for fitment of the larger tires and installation of Wheel arch flares.

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The above picture shows the rear passenger side quarter panel prior to it being finished for painting. Note that the rear panels have been lined up reasonably well considering that they were cut mid section and that the panel lines do not follow easily form front to rear. Also the Top sky light has been filed in using aircraft grade aluminum plate. The rear window will be filled partly by the new fuel filler section and then also using some of the aforementioned aluminum. You can also just see the modified spare wheel carrier used to accommodated the larger tire. Also note the fill tabs on the top ends of the rear bar used to cover the normal panel shape of the Discovery.

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The rear drivers side window is almost complete. Brushed aircraft grade aluminum plate has been used to fill the hole as it was not practical to fabricate and insert such a small regalement window. Note that the edges have now been filled with black sealant window filler [not shown] giving the appearance of an aluminum window insert.

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As everyone is aware, Land Rovers are designed for relatively small tires. As such the rear tire carrier does not leave a lot of room for carrying larger than normal tires. We will be running 35" tires on this vehicle and as such the spare will not fit on the rear door in standard format. We had seriously considered not running the spare on the rear at all. Given the limited internal space of the bobtail we ended up having to compromising and used the rear spare carrier. To allow the larger tire to fit the lug nut position had to be increased by at least 2 inches. We raised them 2 1/5 inches by fabricating a new backing plate with 3 lug nuts recovered from an older Land Rover. This plate was then welded to the existing carrier. The bottom half of the carrier was also chipped away so that the tire would still go on. Overall we are happy with this modification and hopefully the rear door will hold up the the additional weight.

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The rear of the Discovery finished and in it's glory

See below. The left is the Discovery before work, the right is after our endeavors.

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