Bulletproof De­fender

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

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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.

De­cep­tive looks

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.

Detroit power

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

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