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Rover L-series engine

MDi vs L-series

The MDi engine is basically a diesel version of Austin-Rover's O-series. It was developed with Peterborough-based Perkins, who make diesel engines for agricultural, marine and industrial applications, and was also sold by Perkins for these purposes as the Perkins Prima. Head gasket failure can occur when coolant changes are neglected as the head gasket actually corrodes, but the engines are capable of high mileages. The L-series is a very underrated engine, launched in 1995 with Bosch fly-by-wire electronic diesel injection (non-intercooled models had a largely mechanical system), it served in the Rover 200, 400, 600, 25, 45 and Freelander, as well as the Honda Civic and Accord, and the MG ZR and MG ZS until 2005. The engine is virtually bulletproof, with extremely few mechanical failures recorded, and most of the few problems being wiring related. All L-series engines are turbocharged, and from 2000 onwards, all are intercooled. The combustion chamber is a similar design to the MDi, but the L-series shares very few, if any, parts with it's predecessor. The engine is very tunable on a budget, particularly the non-intercooled models with the mechanical injection pump. Fitting of an intercooler to one of these models, and adjusting the turbo boost pressure and injection pump settings can raise the standard 84bhp to around 125bhp.

A popular misconception is that the O-series, M-series, T-series, MDi and L-series all use the same block. They are all very similar except the L-series. The O/M/T-series block can be identified by the six bolt holes on each side at the bottom of the cambelt end of the block. The L-series does not have these, and also has a squarer appearance, and coolant holes on each side of the upper block at the cambelt end. There's also a plate for putting an engine number just below the cylinder head on the injector side of the block. Oddly though, the L-series did use T-series engine codes, and there is some T-series heritage, including the similar gearbox adaptor plate and power steering pump/water pump design. I only found this out when I started on the conversion, and realising the L-series didn't seem quite the same as the T-series, I compared the two blocks in more detail to find they were very different. If I had known before I may have done a T-series (petrol) conversion instead!

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Bye bye, MDi

Austin Rover MDi engine

First the radiator is removed, and start disconnecting everything from the engine

Austin Rover MDi engine

Sherpa van engine removal

Sherpa van engine removal

And it's out!

Sherpa van engine removal Sherpa van engine removal

Here's the gearbox adaptor plate. Note the core plug on the end of the block, this has been known to fail if coolant changes are neglected and is a gearbox-off job to replace.

Sherpa van engine removal Sherpa van engine removal

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L-series stripdown

I need to strip down the L-series block to see where to put the engine mounts and gearbox adaptor plate.

Rover L-series engine

Rover L-series engine

Rover L-series engine

Rover L-series engine

This water pump housing bolts onto the side of the block, and mounts the PAS pump, alternator (removed) and alternator belt tensioner. The water pump is driven from the back of the PAS pump- coolant comes out of this hole:

Rover L-series engine water pump

And into this corresponding hole in the engine block:

Rover L-series engine water pump

You can also see in the photo above the four bolt holes in the block (one is just off the bottom, you can see the edge). I think I'll make the engine mount to fit in these holes, put a hole in it and weld a short length of metal pipe so that a rubber hose can be fitted. I'll have to experiment with alternator position to decide. This is the side of the block I was worried about, but it should be ok.

This presents a problem in the Sherpa:

Rover L-series engine

The injection pump is mounted on the rear of the engine, and is driven by a belt from the back of the camshaft. I'm almost certain the bulkhead will need to be modified to accommodate this.

Also, the pump is mounted on the gearbox adaptor plate, which is designed to fit the Rover PG1 gearbox for FWD applications. I am planning to make a plate to fit the LT77 gearbox but with the pump mount on the side. I don't know exactly what this will involve until I get the gearbox off both engines and have a proper look.

Got rid of that rust:

Rover L-series engine

Engine and gearbox separated:

Rover L-series engine

I then took the clutch and flywheel off the engine to find the rear crankshaft oil seal had been leaking, so now is a good time to change it. Here is the gearbox adaptor plate for the PG1 gearbox:

Rover L-series engine

The Sherpa's flywheel is larger than the L-series item. I knew both had six bolts and one locating dowel, but would it fit? The answer is that all the bolt holes are in the right place but the locating dowel is very slightly larger, nothing too much to worry about though.

Rover L-series engine

The L-series flywheel has these slots in the back which is where the crankshaft sensor gets the engine position from, but as well as this, the centre sticks in by 4mm. On the MDi flywheel, the centre sticks out by 9mm, so this presents another problem although I have an idea to get round it.

Rover L-series engine

Another thing to be aware of is how thick to make the gearbox adaptor plate. The L-series item is aluminium and 20mm thick. The MDi is steel and is 10mm thick. The input shaft to the gearbox needs to go through the clutch plate, but not too far so that it hits the crankshaft. The gearbox adaptor plate thickness controls how far away the gearbox input shaft is from the crankshaft so it has to be the right thickness. I took some measurements and found that any thickness between 10mm and 19mm would be ok (there is a bit of leeway, it just means the clutch plate will sit further along the input shaft splines). Here's a photo of the Leyland 77mm gearbox and Rover L-series engine together for the first time. The gearbox clears the pump belt housing which is good!

Rover L-series engine

I put the gearbox in my car to take it the short distance from the van to the barn, not that it fitted very well.

LT77 gearbox

Wiring loom

There's some wiring to do but I think I'll leave this until the engine is in so I know how much slack I need in the loom. When I scrapped the Civic engine donor I just cut the wires off at the bulkead so I've gone through and worked out what they all are, and labelled them. In response to the thousands of emails, the mark on my wrist is an entry stamp to a night club from the night before, not a tattoo, birthmark, open vein, tribal branding, cult mark, prison tattoo, etc.

Sherpa wiring loom

Cambelt kit

It makes sense to fit a new cambelt kit while the engine is out. I've got a new pump belt and tensioner to go on as well.

Rover L-series cambeltRover L-series cambelt

Adaptor plate extension

Injection pump mount

This extension piece needs to be welded onto the Sherpa's adaptor plate to mount the fuel injection pump. To cut the central hole, I drilled a series of holes, then cut through the joins with a die grinder and knocked the middle out. I need to use the die grinder to smooth round the outside of the hole. To cut the threads I turned the pillar drill off at the socket, then put the tap in the chuck and turned it by hand to start the thread. This ensured it was perfectly straight. Below is the new piece clamped onto the front wheel drive adaptor plate.

Injection pump mount

Welded and painted:

Injection pump mount

I had to trim down the injection pump pulley buy about 0.5mm to clear the new adaptor plate.

Injection pump pulley

The injection pump and drive belt can all now be reassembled.

Injection pump mount

Flywheel

As mentioned earlier, the flywheel needs to have the slots cut into it for the crankshaft position sensor. The groove was cut by spinning the flywheel on a milling machine, and a tungsten carbide cutting bit was introduced at the right radius. To cut the slots, he made up a fitting to go in the centre, that allowed him to lock the two together in the same position. He then drilled right through the L-series flywheel (with my permission!) to mark the position of the slots. Then he used a HSS cutting bit to cut the slots in line with the centre.

Sherpa flywheel

Sherpa flywheel

Engine mounts

Here are the planning drawings, and cardboard templates for the engine mounts. I think I will change the design of the manifold side engine mount.

Manifold side:

Engine mount plan

Engine mount plan

Here's the pump side mount coming together, it still needs the coolant elbow welding into the top hole so I can attach a pipe to the water pump.

Engine mount plan

Engine mount plan

Engine mount

Engine mount

Engine mount

Fitting the engine

Triumph TR8 clutch fitted to the Sherpa flywheel:

Sherpa engine

Here is the engine and gearbox together, also showing the engine mounts just awaiting a lick of paint:

Inline L-series

Inline L-series

The fitted engine, showing the modifications to the bulkhead to accomodate it:

Sherpa L-series engine

Sherpa L-series engine

Sherpa L-series engine

Exhaust manifold

Modified exhaust manifold to mount Garret GT1749V turbocharger. It has to be just right for the turbo to fit between the steering box and a coolant outlet in the side of the engine block.

Sherpa turbo

Manifold and turbo fitted.

Sherpa turbo

I bought this joiner to go from the turbo onto the rest of the exhaust, but although both ends fitted, I needed a bend in the middle. I achieved this by cutting a triangle shape out of the side of the pipe, then butting the two pieces together and welding them. Here is the finished result, just waiting for a clamp the right size for the exhaust end.

Sherpa turbo

Programming the keys with Autodiagnos

Sherpa turbo

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Contact me

If you have any questions, feedback or even suggestions, please email me: pete@pimpmysherpa.co.uk

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