Adding a ton of protective cladding to a Defender 110 called for a little extra power and agility – a 430bhp V8 engine ticked the first of several boxes for one discreet owner, as Jérôme André reports
Armoured V8-powered luxury 110
Few Defender owners require their vehicle to be bulletproof. Even fewer specify a 400bhpplus engine. But for one Nene Overland customer, these were essential modifications. It was the armour-plating that necessitated the engine upgrade by Nene, as the standard 2.2-litre Duratorq would have struggled with the added ton of protection and extras, including a Safety Devices integral roll cage.
It all started with a special order from the customer – let’s say his field of work requires protection on a daily basis and he had to replace his previous armoured vehicle.
He contacted Land Rover, which now offers an in-house armoured option in partnership with RMA Automotive, the first participant in the Green Oval’s Approved Vehicle Modifier programme. This arrangement significantly eases the purchase experience, especially when ordering from overseas.
Moreover, the AVM scheme includes a full warranty on the vehicle and on the conversion work, and the Defender may be serviced in any Land Rover workshop worldwide.
Since there is no second chance when it comes to shielding your Defender from the baddies, the customer opted for RMA’S complete ballistic armour protection. It makes the 110 impervious to any military-grade firearms, hand grenades and explosive devices the owner may be faced with in their home country – in this case Nigeria. The Defender is now proofed to NIJ III, EN BR6 and FB6 standards, meaning it can withstand lead core bullets from Dirty Harry’s Magnum .44, SAS’S M16 assault rifles and even the bandit’s favourite, the AK-47.
A similarly armoured Defender had been tested by Qinetiq, one of the biggest players in the armoured vehicle certification world: it concluded that the occupants would have been safe inside, even after 120 rounds had been shot at it and two fragmentation grenades exploded beneath it.
Discretion can be vital (literally) in places where one needs to be protected from bullets. On this Defender, aramid fibre flexi panels (Kevlar or Twaron) replace all the windows and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene protects the floor and smaller areas. Highperformance ballistic steel and aramid composites cover the sides, undercarriage and roof. An armoured firewall protects the front occupants from a head-on assault, while a run-flat tyre system allows a quick getaway, even after sudden loss of tyre pressure.
Despite all these modifications the Defender’s appearance is only slightly different to standard – apart from the flush windows, nothing shouts ‘Bulletproof’. That said, the dynamics are radically modified. With 940kg of additional materials and equipment, the 110 feels quite different.
‘The braking system wasn’t as biting as the customer wanted, the suspension was on the soft side, and the 2.2L didn’t meet his expectations,’ says Andrew Harrison-smith, Nene Overland’s general manager.
The Cambridgeshire-based specialist immediately opted for uprated springs from OME, with dual springs in the back, à la Defender 130, and Koni Raid shocks absorbers. Then the entire braking system was replaced. Nene installed Tarox six-piston alloy calipers, discs and pads. This meant the rims had to be larger than the original 16in steel ones. The owner specified Hawke 18in alloys wrapped with BF Goodrich All Terrains equipped with a Tyron band tyre retention system.
The Puma engine had to go in favour of something much more potent. This is where Nene Overland’s Dan Padmore came into play. He installed a Chevrolet LS3 V8 and made it
‘The braking system wasn’t as biting as the customer wanted. We replaced the lot’
all work thanks to a CAN bus emulator. This lets the stock dash and General Motors ECU communicate. The 6.2-litre American engine offers almost three times the displacement and three-and-a-half times the power of the 2.2-litre four-pot motor. But such a significant upgrade requires a transmission rethink.
Here, Dan installed a GM 6l80e six-speed automatic and an LT230 transfer box, upgraded with an Ashcroft torque-biasing centre differential. Both axles also benefited from similar differential upgrades, along with reinforced Ashcroft internals, making the running gear, ahem, bulletproof.
So, is all this muscle enough to transform the tank? Hell, yeah. The V8 and the reactive six-speed revolutionise the 110. A simple push on the right pedal sees the Defender leap forward as if the ton of extra gear was not there. The all-aluminium LS3 offers both lowdown torque and serious power, beating any diesel block you could think of installing under the Defender bonnet.
The suspension work is also impressive, making this three-ton slab corner better than a stock 110. The only time you notice the increase in vehicle mass is when you have to brake hard in a curve, something you shouldn’t have to do normally.
The weight transfer to the front wheels is obvious, but nothing scary – in fact it shows how well Nene’s alterations have ironed out the armouring’s drawbacks. It almost makes me wish I needed an armoured 110!
‘The suspension work is impressive, making this threeton slab corner better than a stock 110’
The rear has room for cargo but could take two extra jump seats
OME spring, Koni Raid shocks, Tarox Sport six-piston calipers