For­ever Young

How to make your 21-year-old Tdi De­fender look brand new again

Land Rover Monthly - - Contents - Story: Pa­trick Cruy­wa­gen Pic­tures: Alis­dair Cu­sick

The owner of a 1996 110 300Tdi adds sev­eral more decades to its life with a full restora­tion and up­grade

Ed­ward Wat­son thought he had it all. Liv­ing in the Suf­folk coun­try­side, work­ing in Lon­don and driv­ing a Range Rover Evoque. “I used to love driv­ing the Evoque down to Lon­don and back. It re­ally came into its own when­ever I en­coun­tered potholes or wa­ter. It was much bet­ter than the Audis or BMWS that I’d owned be­fore it.”

In July 2017 Ed­ward’s life changed for the bet­ter when he picked up the lat­est copy of LRM. On the cover of that is­sue was a Ninety that had been taste­fully re­stored by John Brooks of for a client in Ger­many. That story made Ed­ward re­alise that there was some­thing miss­ing in his life. He now wanted a De­fender.

Ed­ward ex­plains the his­tory of Land Rovers in his fam­ily: “I re­mem­ber how as kids we used to go for rides in Se­ries Land Rovers on my great-un­cle’s farm in Som­er­set.

“One of my fond­est Land Rover mem­o­ries in­volved speeding along the A303 South Pether­ton by­pass in the then brand-new Range Rover. That must have been in the sum­mer of 1970 or 1971.”

It’s clear that the love of Land Rovers cer­tainly runs in the Wat­son fam­ily...

Ed­ward has owned a Cater­ham Seven for a decade now and an­other rea­son that he wanted a De­fender was to tow it. As he only lives a few miles from Cult 4x4, that was his next port of call in his De­fender quest. Once there he straight away fell in love with a 1996 110 300Tdi.

Ed­ward is quick to ad­mit that he is no De­fender ex­pert and so he took it Jonathan Rout from Hill­crest Ve­hi­cle So­lu­tions for a sec­ond opin­ion.

Ed­ward de­scribes Jonathan’s ver­dict: “While it may have been over two decades old Jonathan was im­pressed with what he saw. He said it had a sound chas­sis, bulk­head and gear­box. He did iden­tify a hole in one of the cross­mem­bers but that was not too se­ri­ous in the greater scheme of things.” And so Ed­ward was now of­fi­cially a De­fender owner.

Ed­ward ex­plains why he de­cided to go down the De­fender route: “While I do pre­fer the look of a Se­ries Land Rover, a 300Tdi De­fender was a more prac­ti­cal propo­si­tion. I planned on us­ing it ev­ery day and I knew that parts are read­ily avail­able for th­ese ve­hi­cles, though the price of parts has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly since pro­duc­tion ended.

Last year, Auto Ex­press iden­ti­fied the Top 50 Great­est Bri­tish-built cars of all time and Ed­ward has now owned three cars on that list: the De­fender, a Cater­ham Seven and a Tri­umph Her­ald con­vert­ible. It’s a fact he is ex­tremely proud of.

Any­one can own or buy a clas­sic car. Ed­ward wanted more than that. “I de­cided to try and add 20 or 30 years to its life. I love cars and bought this De­fender be­cause I wanted to pre­serve it for the fu­ture.”

Why this path? Al­though he has yet to own one, Ed­ward has a burn­ing passion for Mor­ris Mi­nors. One of the things

that has fu­elled this passion is a book pub­lished in 1982 and writ­ten by Charles Ware (of the Mor­ris Mi­nor Cen­tre in Bath) called Durable Car Own­er­ship which ba­si­cally says that you can buy vir­tu­ally ev­ery com­po­nent or part for a Mor­ris Mi­nor. That means if you keep it me­chan­i­cally sound then you should be able to run it for life by just re­plac­ing the worn or bro­ken bits along the way.

It’s clear that the Mor­ris Mi­nor and Land Rover De­fender cer­tainly do have a lot in com­mon. And this mo­tor­ing out­look cer­tainly played a part in the pur­chase of the slightly tired but very solid De­fender 110.

While Ed­ward planned on do­ing some of the jobs him­self he de­cided to use Jonathan from Hill­crest Ve­hi­cle So­lu­tions and John Brooks from Cult 4x4. Jonathan started by giv­ing the 110 a full ser­vice and at­tend­ing to some of the mi­nor me­chan­i­cal is­sues as­so­ci­ated with a ve­hi­cle of this age. The tim­ing belt and rear half shafts were re­placed; so too the clutch mas­ter and slave cylin­der. It did not take much to sort the me­chan­ics.

While re­plac­ing a mid-chas­sis cross­mem­ber, Jonathan re­alised that the rear floor was in a worse con­di­tion than first an­tic­i­pated. It had to be re­placed in its en­tirety along with the sup­port­ing struc­tures. Only then did he Wax­oyl the chas­sis. The un­der­side was good to go for a few decades.

Be­fore John had put it up for sale at Cult 4x4 he did do a bit of work to it. A rear sa­fari door re­placed the old one, a new shiny black cross­mem­ber, new fuel tank, bat­tery and side steps were all fit­ted as well. They def­i­nitely all made a mas­sive dif­fer­ence to its gen­eral look.

Ed­ward was far from fin­ished though and so he went back to John. As Ed­ward wanted to tow with it, a tow bar, rear step and the nec­es­sary electrics were bolted on.

To make sure his De­fender was safe and se­cure, Ed­ward asked John for a Thatcham Cat 1 alarm sys­tem. The droopy head­lin­ing was also re­placed.

His Dream De­fender was start­ing to take shape but this was just the be­gin­ning. Ed­ward wanted his 21-year-old De­fender to look brand-spank­ing-new – with a few mod­ern up­grades, of course.

Ed­ward asked John to do a cost­ing on four new doors and a full re­spray. He de­cided to go for it. John has a spray booth on site but more im­por­tantly he has a top notch painter and body­work fixer by the name of Ricky Pluck of Cult Clas­sic Restora­tions.

Ricky is orig­i­nally from Rom­ford in Es­sex but has moved to Suf­folk for a qui­eter life.

“While you might think your Land Rover’s paint is in good nick, alu­minium tends to cause loads of cor­ro­sion be­yond the

“Ed­ward wanted his 21-year-old De­fender to look brand-spank­ingnew – with a few mod­ern up­grades, of course”

paint,” says Ricky. “Once you start to peel back the paint you nor­mally find that the dam­age is worse than what you ini­tially thought. Due to the dents, cor­ro­sion and bad re­pairs on Ed­ward’s De­fender we de­cided to sort out the cor­ro­sion on the body­work and then re­paint it.”

As Ed­ward takes us on some of the coun­try lanes around Cult 4x4 we have a chance to in­spect the paint job in the bright, win­ter sun­light. Ricky has in­deed done a top job.

Ed­ward car­ried out some of the work him­self. The old Disco wheels went and were re­placed with stylish white heavy-duty Wolf wheels, but not be­fore they were blasted and repainted.

He then treated him­self to a set of new AT tyres. They look heaps bet­ter than the Dis­cov­ery wheels.

Ed­ward ob­vi­ously loves his mu­sic be­cause the stan­dard Land Rover ra­dio was re­placed with a more mod­ern one along with some de­cent speak­ers and a sub­woofer be­neath the new leather Ex­moor Trim cubby box.

To en­sure that he would not have to re­place the rear door again in his life­time he de­cided to fit a Man­tec Swing­away Spare Wheel Car­rier.

John from Cult 4x4 then set about sort­ing out the in­te­rior. The front wind­screen was changed for a heated one. Sound in­su­la­tion was in­serted into the body pan­els and doors so that Ed­ward could bet­ter hear his sound sys­tem.

A full set of new car­pets and rub­ber mats re­placed the old ones. The front seats were re­placed with new half leather (heated) ones from Ex­moor Trim. The sec­ond row and load area seats were also re­placed with new cloth ones, also from Ex­moor Trim, but not be­fore the frames were pow­der­coated.

A black Moto-lita steer­ing wheel com­pleted the trans­for­ma­tion. The fi­nal job left to do was re­place the orig­i­nal body graph­ics and badg­ing.

What be­gan as just a quest to own a 300Tdi De­fender de­vel­oped into a jour­ney to re­store and up­grade a ve­hi­cle that will last him at least a cou­ple of decades, as long as he ser­vices it reg­u­larly. Which he will, of course.

So, while the Land Rover world waits for the launch of the new De­fender, it’s good to know that en­thu­si­asts like Ed­ward are giv­ing old De­fend­ers a new lease of life.

The De­fender is Ed­ward’s daily drive and is also used to tow his Cater­ham

While it had a sound chas­sis there was a hole in one of the cross­mem­bers and the rear floor plus sup­port struc­ture had to be re­placed

Ed­ward is very im­pressed with the trans­for­ma­tion of his De­fender

You name it, al­most ev­ery part in­side has been re­placed

Hill­crest Ve­hi­cle So­lu­tions and Cult 4x4 have both done a top job

The orig­i­nal 300Tdi is more than ad­e­quate for Ed­ward’s needs

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