Episode 3. Tata Loadbeta/Range Rover Hybrid. B696 HBR. (part 1)

I think about this little truck, I probably think about it on a weekly basis. I built this truck...

Actually, thats a lie, I didn't build it. It was my idea, but due to my complete lack of any mechanical ability I had one of my friends do the building part. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. I needed a van quickly as I had a company van, a hateful Renault Kangoo which I despised with every fibre in my body, and was quite happy to let my employer know how much I hated that van. So, when I accidently crashed it, writing the damn hateful thing off, my employer decided that I had crashed it on purpose. Therefore I would need to supply my own van for work! So I needed a van, and I needed it quickly! What we're are looking at here, in the above photo is a lot of firsts for me. this was the first pick up that I'd ever owned, my first internet purchase of a car, my first Tata wifebeta Loadbeta, and the first time I'd regretted buying a car blind from ebay, and getting it delivered to my door whilst I was at work. It was described in the advert on ebay as being in good running order, the seller also said that for just £1 a mile he could deliver it. I put my bid in and won it! I'd always liked these, and infact continue to like them to this day, so I was chuffed to have won it. The seller was just over 100 miles from BelongaClint, and so I arranged with the seller to drop it off one day whilst I was at work. This I thought would save me from taking a day off from work, and at just an extra £100 for delivery, was probably cheaper in the long run too. I paid the guy, then waited patiently for delivery, two days later, as promised I came home to find this parked on the street outside. The seller had described it to be a bit scruffy, but in good running order, and ready to be put straight to work. This wasn't exactly true, that thing in the bed of the truck should've been up front where the engine normally lives! But worse than that, it wasn't even complete! This irritated me as I was hoping to use in the next day, so I sent the guy a message and told him of my displeasure, and that I wanted my money back as it wasn't a running truck like it was advertised to be. His response was tough titties, it's your truck now! Ebay were no help either as this was before their buyer protection program, they pretty much told me that there was nothing they could do, so it was a case of Caveat Emptor! Cheers then fellas!

Knowing nothing about what engine I would need, but knowing that I needed a vehicle for work pretty damn quickly, the following day I hit the local scrapyards looking for an engine that might work. I figured that it would be damn near impossible to find an original Tata engine. The first scrapyard I went into, there sitting in the line of scrap cars was this red Tata Loadbeta! Fantastic, but better than that, it was still complete! I asked the owner of the scrapyard how much for the engine? His reply was £100, and I'll even deliver it! I thought it a bit steep, but I said will that include the gearbox too? His reply was yerp, and the body, the chassis, the wheels, the truckman top, the interior, infact he said, you'll get the whole thing! Damn I wish I'd seen this first, before buying the white one, the difference in condition was negligable, plus, the red one could be driven! In reality what I should've done was have the guy leave the red one, and take the white one away. But because the white one had an MOT, plus documents, and the red one had neither, I had the engine from the red one put into the white one! Then broke the red one up and used it as spares. The white one then served me well for a couple of years. It wasn't fast, flat out it could do 60mph! Up a hill, down a hill, fully loaded, unladen, across a ploughed muddy field, where ever really! Didn't matter what you did, 60mph was it, top whack!

After a couple of years of use and abuse of the Tata, work decided that they might trust me with another van again, and supplied me with this kinda scruffy little P100. Unlike the previous Renault Kangoo I actually liked the P100, and told them all how happy I was with it! However this meant that my Tata was now surplus to requirements, but I didn't want to get rid of it! A plan was hatched with my friend, and it was decided that I would bring it to his workshop, where it would receive a 2.0 litre Transit diesel engine and transmission, and a three inch roof chop! Following this would be a coat of matte black paint, paint the steel wheels red, and flame up the bodywork in a hotrod stylie! It was then delivered to his workshop, Coltech Classics in Bournmouth, and got in the que to await its turn! So this was the plan, however It needed various suspension components and I was having trouble finding them, infact I was getting to the point where I just thought that I cannot get the bits I needed. The other thing was that at the time I was reading a lot about the antics of the likes of  David Freiburger, Rick Péwé, and even Fred Williams were up to in various magazines like Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road, and frankly as a closet 4x4, and off road enthusiast I liked what I was reading, and thought it might be fun to have a 4x4. Several off-road videos later and a new plan was hatched in my feeble little brain! I called my friend and asked him if the roof had been chopped yet. He told me that it wasn't chopped, but it was going to be done soon! I said, don't do it, I'm going in another direction! I then told him not to touch the Tata, and to leave it with me for a couple of weeks and I'd see him soon with the new plan!

The new plan...

After a week or so of furious browsing of ebay I had found myself a Range Rover that was listed as spares or repair. It had been off the road for about a decade and was a little bit tatty, but over all, not too shabby! I put my bid in, and won the thing! Another couple of firsts here. Despite being a closet 4x4 enthusiast, this was my first 4x4, and my first Range Rover! It was found in Plymouth, about 160 miles away from BelongaClint, and had no MOT. My brother took me to collect it, and asked about drving it without an MOT for over 120 miles to my friends place, his concern was what if the Police stopped us driving an un-MOTd car. No problem I said, I've already phoned ahead, and booked it in for a MOT in Bournemouth! The drive from Plymouth to Bournemouth went without a hitch, with the exception of the front brakes sticking on for the first ten miles or so! But after a good beating with a pair of 18" Stilsons they soon freed off! The Range Rover drove well, and it's 3.5litre V8 engine provided plenty of poke to waft me along the road in comfort! The following day at my friends workshop we discussed the new plans for the Tata. The plan, in simple terms was to remove everything under the Tata, and replace it all with everything from under the Range Rover, the following day...

Range Rover Superleggera! Range Rovers bolt together like a giant Meccano set, and it was soon stripped down. The new plan firmly set in both mine, and my friends mind, I left him to it, and set off back home! Pretty soon the Range Rover, was stripped, and I was called to come and remove all the body panels et cetera! Next for a good stripping was the Tata.

This also bolts together in a Meccano fashion, and was also quickly stripped...

Again, I got the call to remove what wasn't needed! So with the old chassis attached to the back of my P100 with an A-frame, it was time to roll the Range Rover chassis under the Tata body!

That was a chuckle! Three of us trying to lift the Tata cab high enough to roll the Range Rover chassis under it. In the end the method we took probably didn't conform to any health and safety regulations. A scaffold plank was put under the front, and the back of the cab, then we lifted each corner in turn and put a tyre under it, until we had about ten tyres under each corner and the Tata body was perched precariously about six feet in the air so that when we pushed the Range Rover chassis under it, the tata body would clear the height of the engine! It was then let down by reversing the method, and removing one tyre at a time from each corner until the Tata body was resting happily on the Range Rover chassis! To our surprise the cab pretty much mated straight up the the Range Rover body mountings, it was like it was meant to be! The bed however was a different story. This needed to be shortened by about 15", and mountings fabricated for it!

Unfazed by this my friend took his plasma cutter to the bed, and pretty soon new mountings were fabricated, the bed was shortened, and it was mounted on the Range Rover chassis, it looked a little bit dumpy, but also kinda cool I thought!

The next step was to re-connect everything. This took a long time to do, as it was being done when there was no proper paid work being done, and as I wasn't in a real hurry for it, I was ok with the time frame, however it was still done far more quickly than I could've done it, and far more quickly than I was expecting! It really was starting to look like it had come that way from the factory... With the V8!

Before long I was into finding a set of wheels, and choosing the colour! The wheels were a bit of a struggle, intitially I had wanted some sort of Slot-Mag type wheel, but as ever when I'm looking for something there were none available in a Range Rover stud pattern. I decided in the end that I would go for a set of Discovery steelies, as they look a bit like Slot-Mags... If you're a long way away... Erm, and squinting! Paint was easier, it was going to be yellow... Like a Tonka truck! I called up another one of my friends who worked as a sprayer in an industrial coatings factory. I asked him if he could get me some paint, sure he said, what colour would you like? I said that really, it needed to be yellow! Hmm came the reply... We don't paint anything yellow, hold on, I'll just have a look in our stock room. I waited, and about a minute later he came back, we've got something he said. It's an industrial floor coating, and it's really REALLY old! Is it yellow I said? Oh it's yellow alright came the reply! D'ya want it? Does a bear pooh in the woods? Of course I want it! Several days later, and it's going on...

It was as thick like my Grans custard! Infact it was so thick that it couldn't be applied with a regular spray gun that you would usually use to paint a car, this was being applied with a Schutz gun that you would normally use to put stonechip and underseal on the underneath of the car! But no matter, it went on ok, and it was yellow!

It was even a bit shiny, but probably because it was old it took a good long while for the paint to fully harden, it really was a couple of weeks before the paint could be touched without leaving a mark! But once it was done, it looked good!

Damn good! Then it was off to the MOT station, where after a few niggles it was given a clean bill of health for the next twelve months! I got the call from my friend one evening, Tata's ready to go, come and get it!

The following day my Brother took me to collect it, and coming round the corner to see it for the first time in it's new calour I thought it just looked fantastic! It was pretty much exactly how I wanted it to be, it matched the crazy vision for it that I had been carrying around in my head for so long! Climbing in I got one last set of words of wisdom from Paul, remember, he said, this won't handle like some low slung sporty type car, don't go hammering around corners, try to keep it on it's wheels! I told him I'd try!

The drive back to BelongaClint on that chilly Saturday morning was fantastic! I had a grin so big that it must've looked like I'd slept with a coathanger in my mouth! It was just awesome, and as soon as I've found a few more photos of the Tata I shall continue this little tale! Stay tooned!!