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January 2010 Homepage (UK/Europe)

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Working With the 'Birmabright' on a Series Land Rover

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The essential load bearing structures on a Series Land Rover such as the chassis, bulkhead, door frame structures, door pillars and floor support struts are constructed of steel. The bodywork however is made from 'Birmabright' alloy. This is an alloy of magnesium and aluminium, and whilst weaker than steel. it will not normally rust or corrode unless fixed directly to a steel component; corrosion can then occur around the area of contact. The reason it does not rust is because the bare metal surface reacts with oxygen in the air and forms a protective oxide layer, preventing further attack by air and water. So strictly speaking, the bodywork of a Series Land Rover does corrode, but only to the extent of it forming a thin protective layer and then it stops.

'Birmabright' becomes hard and brittle when hammered or bent repeatedly. If it is necessary to beat a panel into shape then it should be done in stages as otherwise it will harden and crack. After beating or re-shaping it a little smear a thin layer of oil onto the metal surface and heat the metal gently from the opposite side until the oil has just evaporated off. The idea of the oil is to given an indication as to when the heat can be removed. You don't want to overheat it. This heat treatment is called annealing and softens the metal, returning it to its original state. It may be necessary to repeat this process several times, depending upon how much the panel needs to be worked on. But if your Series Land Rover has hard won battle scars you might just want to leave them in there!

Painting 'Birmabright' can be problematic due to the protective layer of oxide which paint does not stick to easily. The best appoach is to use an acid etching compound to completely remove the oxide layer. Then thoroughly wash off any of the remaining acid solution, clean and dry the surface and then paint with a metal surface primer paint. Finally, a filler paint and then a final coat of the chosen colour paint. Voila, a smart Series Land Rover :)

Riveting is a common method of fixing 'Birmabright' panels together but it should be noted that only aluminium rivets should be used as any other metal will result in local corrosion and hence the loosening of the rivets.

'Birmabright' can be MIG and TIG welded using the appropriate aluminium wire and shroud gas. It is a skillful procedure and best practised on scrap samples until the necessary degree of proficiency is acquired. It is absolutle essential for both welded surfaces to be clean and the oxide o layer removed before commencing the weld.

Series Land Rover heat shield


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