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  #1  
Old June 8th, 2016, 09:03 PM
sulli270
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sean sullivan
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What is my Defender made out of?

So question to those who know the history of Defenders a bit better than I do. I was under the assumption that my 1984 Defender was made out of Birmabright. I've been doing some research (more for fun than anything technical) and learned that Birmetals went out of business in 1980 so I guess that means it is some other alloy. Does anybody know the history of what alloys were used on different years for Rover production? Are the pros and cons of the different alloys?
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Old June 8th, 2016, 09:32 PM
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As far as I know, nobody knows other than it is probably not as good.
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Old June 8th, 2016, 10:16 PM
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The only reliable non-internet information I have gathered is from the book "Materials for Automobile Bodies" by Geoffrey Davies. The book cites that the body panel sections of the Defender are made of 3000-series aluminum alloy. The specific alloy is not mentioned. Based on this reference , my opinion is that it seems unlikely that the alloy is heat treated after forming. This would place the UTS of the material at roughly 130-150 MPa (somewhere between 3003 and 3105). Possibly in an H14 state at 160Mpa - either way, it is low. Brinnell hardness of 3000-series aluminum is around 20.

"Together with the BMW 328 Roadster (1936–1940) and the Dyna Panhard (1954), Rover and Land Rover were among the first users of aluminium in Europe, the ubiquitous Defender models using the 3xxx series alloys for flatter panels with the Al–Mg 5xxx series being used in other applications, a wealth of experience being gained in pressing, assembly and paint pre-treatment and finishing. Although the chassis was cumbersome it was – and still is – ideal for mounting the extensive range of Land Rover Defender body variants. Until this day the hot rolled grades of steel are used (typically HR 4) but it is easy to see why efforts are being made to downscale these relatively massive ladder frames with consideration being given to using newer material in thinner gauges, e.g. high strength steels up to 300 N/mm2 (TRIP steels up to 590 N/mm2 are now being used for 80 chassis parts on the Mitsubishi Paquera)." - Geoff Davies, "Material for Automobile Bodies", Oxford Press

Birmabright alloys are aluminum-magnesium alloys. The hardness of al-mag alloys increases with the amount of magnesium alloyed into the material. I do not know what the actual magnesium content of "Birmabright" used in Series land rovers is, but basic aluminum magnesium alloys have Brinnell hardnesses in the 50 to 70 range, much harder than the aluminum used in Defenders.

Experimental evidence seems to prove this true.
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Old June 8th, 2016, 10:32 PM
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There was a documentry shown years ago at a metal dash weekend. Bringing to light many of the myths of Land Rover that we took for truths. Such as birmabright, nothing special about it. Birmabright is the name they came up with (or ran with) for the post war surplus airplane aluminum that the UK had in large amounts. Steel was in short supply and to costly. So you find out what grade of aluminum for WW2 warplanes in the UK were and you have your answer for grade it is.
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Old June 8th, 2016, 10:38 PM
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FWIW, whatever it is, it was thicker/better on the early (Ninety & One Ten) models.
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Old June 8th, 2016, 10:56 PM
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Old June 8th, 2016, 11:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by airbornrover View Post
There was a documentry shown years ago at a metal dash weekend. Bringing to light many of the myths of Land Rover that we took for truths. Such as birmabright, nothing special about it. Birmabright is the name they came up with (or ran with) for the post war surplus airplane aluminum that the UK had in large amounts. Steel was in short supply and to costly. So you find out what grade of aluminum for WW2 warplanes in the UK were and you have your answer for grade it is.
?? Birmabright was proprietary name for a group of alloys made by the Birmetals company. It is not a made up name. They were a variety of Mg/Mn Aluminum alloys. 5052 is probably the closer common substitute. Both are a lot better than a plain aluminum alloy and if the Defenders used 3003, a lot better than that.
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Old June 8th, 2016, 11:35 PM
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Mine is reinforced with an extra coat of body paint over original factory.
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Old June 9th, 2016, 09:18 AM
sulli270
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RBBailey View Post
Mine is reinforced with an extra coat of body paint over original factory.
Mine is reinforced with about 6 coats of paint rolled on by some poor mechanic in the Canadian Military. Some day I hope to strip it and give it a proper paint job.
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Old June 9th, 2016, 09:49 AM
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Ok so from what I gather from above Defender panels are made out of a 3000 series aluminium alloy which would mean it would contain iron, silicon, copper, manganese, zinc, and magnesium in small amounts.

Birmabright BB2, used on the earlier Series, would only have magnesium and manganese and if you bought the material today it follows the ISO designation of 5251.

3000 series alloys are the same alloys as beer cans and gutters while 5251 is used for aircraft and boats.I can see why people say the older panels are better.
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Old June 9th, 2016, 10:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sulli270 View Post
3000 series alloys are the same alloys as beer cans and gutters while 5251 is used for aircraft and boats.I can see why people say the older panels are better.
Something of an oversimplification. 3000 series aluminum is used for a lot more than beer cans and gutters.

Virtually every aluminum commercial truck and trailer is made from 3000 series aluminum. It's just very soft on the scale of aluminums. Its huge advantage is formability. If you did aluminum fabrication, you'd understand.
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Old June 9th, 2016, 10:34 AM
sulli270
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sean sullivan
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Originally Posted by sonoronos View Post
It's just very soft on the scale of aluminums. Its huge advantage is formability.
That is good to know, I've got quite a few dents I'll be removing so hopefully that will make the job a bit easier.
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Old June 9th, 2016, 08:32 PM
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correction to my original post - the average brinnell hardness of 3000 series aluminum is 40, not 20.
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Old June 9th, 2016, 10:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sulli270 View Post
3000 series alloys are the same alloys as beer cans and gutters while 5251 is used for aircraft and boats.I can see why people say the older panels are better.
Thanks for that thought ...now I'll probably think about it every time I open one up. At least I'll know what to reach for if I ever need to DIY my own replacements

Love this thread so far keep it up its been interesting
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