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Classic Land Rover steering wheel restoration

Classic Land Rover steering wheel restoration.


Charlesworths have new tooling which now enables us to re-mould your original worn / cracked classic Land rover or vintage spoked (banjo) steering wheel rim in the original ebonite material.

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Ebonite was developed in the early 1800’s and is made from natural rubber. It’s obtained by a process called vulcanisation, which hardens the rubber to make it more durable. The rubber is then cured, becoming rigid and inelastic. This material was originally intended to be a substitute for ebony wood, so it was given the name ebonite. The curing process is exactly how the original steering wheels were moulded, and as a result, slight imperfections will be present in the final moulding.

Early uses for the material were as a replacement for ebony and as a jet replacement for jewellery. As early steering wheels were constructed with wooden rims finished in black, Ebonite was the ideal material to replicate the wood rim but allow for early mass production volumes. Once moulded wheels became standard, ebonite was replaced by more modern materials, such as filled bakelite and celluloid.

The names ebonite, vulcanite and hard rubber are all applied to the hard products obtained by heating a mixture of rubber with about half its weight in sulphur, and are sometimes used interchangeably. However, generally the name ebonite is restricted to black materials of high quality, vulcanite to coloured varieties; and hard rubber is then applied to any other grade of rigid or almost rigid product.

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The two pioneers of the rubber industry, Charles Goodyear in the U.S.A. and Thomas Hancock in Britain, both made ebonite during the 1840’s, the former by heating for a long period a mixture containing sufficient sulphur, and the latter by immersing thin strips of rubber in molten sulphur for some hours. Goodyear’s method proved to be the more convenient in practice, and technical development on these lines followed shortly afterwards in both countries. By the early 1850’s, however, Nelson Goodyear, brother of Charles, had taken a particular interest in hard rubber products, and Meyer had secured the first patents covering technical details of the process. The Goodyears’ also found that by varying the sulphur content it was possible to produce materials having different properties. These products were first classified as `caoutchouc enamel’ or `caoutchouc marble’ (the hardest of all), `caoutchouc ivory’, and `caoutchouc whalebone’ (the most flexible). These specimens were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and included carved book-covers, cameos, furniture, and fretted articles such as fans, besides hair combs, buttons, and many small sundries, some of which were moulded. By contrast, Hancock, confined himself to slabs, bars and sheets for manufacturing purposes and to articles of known utility.

By the 1860’s the ebonite industry had spread to Britain, Germany, France, and elsewhere; most of the machinery required for the manufacture had been developed, and some companies were finding profitable business in supplying the growing demand. The early years of the 20th century saw the foundation of the chemistry of vulcanisation, the establishment of an empirical formula for ebonite, and the start of investigations into its nature. Shortly afterwards the use of certain types of organic substance to accelerate vulcanisation was discovered, although it was not until the 1920’s that these came into general use.

The general trend towards more elaborate moulds and moulding techniques which so profoundly influenced the plastics industry in general during the 1920’s & 30’s was also evident in the moulding of ebonite goods.


Rubber is a natural elastomer obtained by acid coagulation of latex derived from plants, mainly trees of the genus Ilevea. By far the most important is the species indigenous to Brazil; namely Braziliensis. This species is grown on a large scale on plantations in Malaya, Ceylon, and Dutch possessions in the same area. Rubber is essentially a long chain hydrocarbon substance which is a polymer of isoprene. It is exported to the west mainly in the form of dry sheets or as ammonia-preserved latex or latex concentrate. Dry rubber is converted to a more or less plastic state by mastication—a process of kneading between hot rolls to expose a larger surface area to oxidation by air. The rubber is then ready to be vulcanised.


When rubber is heated with an excess of sulphur the degree of unsaturation diminishes, and the sulphur combines and becomes unextractable with boiling acetone. This process when carried to completion yields a hard product which is almost saturated and contains about 32% of combined sulphur.


If your classic 17″ bakelite type steering wheel is cracked, broken or leaches black & sticky when wet or damp we can help to refurbish it.
After removing the existing cracked material (often refered to as bakelite) from your  wheel we can mould a new rim covering in it’s place.
This process allows us to replace all of the old material with new, without the need for fillers.

Our guide for Land rover steering wheel removal 


The small print bit:

Please contact us: Email or phone 01675 470382 for more information & pricing.

We are only able to carry out this on 17 inch outside dia wheels at the current time.
It is up to you to supply us with with a sound rim to re cover. We unfortunately cannot repair any broken or damaged metal work, spokes, splines or bosses

We are not offering an exchange service, you will receive your wheel back with spokes & centre boss in the same condition that we receive it.