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Aeroparts Capstan Winch

Above L to R: 1950 Brochure, 1960's brochure

The first production Aeroparts capstan winch for the Land Rover was the rear-mounted winch available from 1949 and costing £20 in addition to the £25 for the rear PTO. This winch mounted to the rear PTO and was driven by the six-spline output shaft. (The earlier ten-spline output shaft had already been discontinued.) In theory, the rear winch was very versatile, with a wide range of rope speeds between 8ft/min and 34.5ft /min at an engine speed of 600rpm. The rope speed was dependent on the gear selected and whether the gears in the rear PTO had been transposed. The winch could be controlled using the vehicle’s clutch and could be quickly attached or removed, however there was a design flaw. The rear capstan mounted to the rear PTO casing by four studs.These studs and the lugs on the winch casting were inadequate to take the strain the rear winch would exert on them. It was impossible to know when the 2500lb load had been exceeded until the bollard pin gave or more dangerously when the mounting lugs  broke. This was exasperated if the direction of pull was not directly in line with the rear of the vehicle. The rear capstan winch was therefore discontinued in May 1955.  The rear capstan winches were stamped AEH.*** with later examples stamped AEH.A***A.

Above: Rear Capstan Winch

The more familiar front mounted Aeroparts capstan winch arrived in August 1950, costing £35.Its designers probably took inspiration from the Braden or Link Belt capstan winch fitted to the post war civilianized Jeep.

Above: Braden winch for the Jeep

The introduction of front winch coincided with the introduction of the wider and stronger front leaf springs.Power for the front winch came directly from the crankshaft via a complex drive assembly and a dog clutch on the crankshaft pulley that could be engaged using the lever next to the bollard. Some of the drive assembly components were conveniently adapted from the existing Rover parts bins. The winch could be supplied as a self fit kit or could be fitted in the factory. Factory fitted winches fitted to late 80in, 86in and 107in vehicles were fitted to a special chassis that had distance tubes for the mounting bolts already in the crossmember. These distance tubes were also supplied with the early kits until they were replaced with riv-nuts.

The early pre-1956 winches can be easily identified by the presence of four drain grooves on the lip around the bollard. The aluminium gear casing has a rounded front and rear edge and are stamped AEH.V.****. Internally, the first 200 winches had a slightly different sized needle roller bearing supporting the rear of the worm gear. After the first 200, the bearing size was changed and the gear casing was modified to suit.

Above: AEH.V winch. Note four drain holes & curved front & rear.

Just prior to the introduction of the new 2l Diesel engine, Rover extended the wheelbase of the Land Rover Series One from 86in to 88in. This extension in wheelbase resulted in the reduction of the distance between the bumper and the crossmember directly behind it.  The current capstan winch in production would no longer fit and a modification was made c.1956. The winch baseplate was now shallower and the front and rear of the gear casing was cropped parallel to reduce the overall depth of the casing. Another slight modification to the gear casing was the deletion of two of the four drain grooves around the bollard and the lip was now cast with a flat top rather than rounded on the earlier winch. To mate to the new 2l Diesel engine, a revised drive system was introduced, the most obvious difference was the ‘male’ part of the drive dog was now attached to the crankshaft. These winches were stamped AEH.D.**** although a very small number of winches from this period are stamped AEH.P.****.


With the introduction of the Land Rover Series II, the AEH.D.**** type winch remained in production virtually unchanged. The baseplate changed dimensions again to suit the Series II chassis and there were a number of very minor and short-lived design variations to a few of the drive shaft components. The 2l Diesel driveshaft assembly was retained for use with the new 2,286cc petrol engine. There were however, a number of different variations of the driveshaft support brackets, including a universal set for both the 2l IOE and 2,286cc engines and a special bracket for use when an Iso-speedic engine governor was fitted. By the late 60’s, the line pull was increased by 500lb to 3000lb. AEH.D.**** winches are the most common of the Aeroparts capstan winches and remained in production right up to the beginning of the 1970’s.  In 1970, winches were no longer fitted by the factory, but outsourced to Spencer Abbott. I have estimated a total of around15,000 AEH.V.**** and AEH.D.**** winches were manufactured from 1950 to 1971.

Above: AEH.D winch for Series 2a with 2.25l engine


With the introduction of the Series III, came the next significant design change. The most obvious was the introduction of the ‘small bollard’.  The bollard was now a one-piece casting with an exposed single bollard shaft bolt. The top of the bollard was dished and a small drain hole was drilled in the side of it. The other major design change was a critical safety modification that had been lacking in the Aeroparts design since the rear capstan winch. From November 1971, the mills pin used to fix the worm gear to the driveshaft was replaced with a brass shear pin designed to shear when a load of 3000lb was exceeded. This driveshaft pin would sheer before the pin in the bollard, allowing the winch to fail safe rather than the bollard spin uncontrollably on the shaft. This design change may have been a direct response to the Mayflower capstan winch released two years previously. To allow the new shear pin to be changed quickly or a bolt to be inserted for hand cranking the engine, the gear casing and the base plate were cut to allow easy access to the shear pin from above.  In 1973, the attractive aluminium fairlead castings, which had been used since 1950, were replaced with simple folded steel brackets often painted red. The fairlead roller was now hollow and ran on fibre bushes rather than bronze bushes. The first generation of small bollard winches were stamped AEH/FW.*****.3


The final Aeroparts capstan variation, known by its Unipart part number as GLR101, was introduced in 1976 costing £126.60. The dish in the top of the bollard was now covered with a thin metal plate. There was no longer a drainage hole in the bollard and the driveshaft was redesigned to a system similar to the Fairey capstan winch. Very late winches had a modified gear wheel with a steel inner and a bronze outer, unlike the earlier solid bronze gears. The winches were no longer stamped with a serial number but had a small green information plate stuck to them instead.

Above: Late 'small bollard' GLR101 Aeroparts Capstan winch with simplified driveshaft


Aeroparts adapted their design to meet the requirements of the General Post Office (GPO) and later British Telecom (BT). They inserted an extension piece between the bollard cap and the main bollard casting. This resulted in the ‘tall bollard’ winch. The GPO used the capstan winch primarily for pulling cable below ground and the cast alloy fairlead brackets were attached to the bumper so they protruded in front of the vehicle with the rope passing over the top of it. Like the small bollard winch, the cast aluminium fairlead was later replaced with a simpler fairlead unique to the GPO. The tall bollard was required to give the appropriate angle for the rope to naturally pass over the bumper fairlead and towards the ground, it was not for putting more turns of rope on the bollard, as this could easily damage the winch with the increase in leverage on the bollard.  The tall bollard remained in production alongside the small bollard winch eventually adopting the simpler driveshaft mechanism. Another adaptation for the GPO was the conversion of Aeroparts GLR104 hydraulic drum winch into a capstan winch. It used the same bollard design as the mechanical capstan winch, but used the gearbox from the GLR104 hydraulic drum winch as its power source, however this is beyond the scope of this article.


After the war, Aeroparts had to adapt to the new world, just like Rover and began diversifying into new unfamiliar markets. By the late 1960’s Aeroparts were already a part of the RTZ-Pillar Group and were later owned by the mining giant Rio Tinto. Finally in 1986 Aeroparts merged with Peak Engineering. This last merger and increased competition from Fairey was the final chapter for Aeroparts and the Aeroparts factory is now a supermarket car park!

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