LAND ROVER DE­FENDER

ONE DE­VOUT COM­PANY’S MIS­SION TO RES­UR­RECT A VIN­TAGE LAND ROVER

Recoil - - Front Page - BY JOHN SCHWARTZE PHO­TOS BY KENDA LENSEIGNE

There was a time when the words Land Rover brought im­ages to mind of ro­bust s afari ve­hi­cles chas­ing li­ons across the African plains. O ver the years its rep­u­ta­tion has changed con­sid­er­ably. A n ew Dis­cov­ery or Ve­lar would be out of place any­where other than a v alet-at­tended coun­try club. Although the brand has moved more into com­pet­ing with other lux­ury

SUV com­pa­nies, vin­tage L and Rovers have an ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal fol­low­ing. The older ver­sions s till s ee con­sid­er­able use over­seas, and there are a f ew bou­tique com­pa­nies pas­sion­ate about re­tain­ing the b rand’s off-road, util­i­tar­ian roots. Phoenix, A ri­zona-based Method SV is one such out­fit.

First, a lit­tle his­tory on the De­fender. The model be­came part of the com­pany’s lineup in 1983, but was orig­i­nally called the 90 or 110. The De­fender’s sim­plic­ity and ease of fix­ing out in the field if you’re stranded make it highly sought af­ter among afi­ciona­dos. The De­fender moniker didn’t come at­tached to the ve­hi­cle un­til 1991, and Land Rover ceased pro­duc­tion of the model in 2016.

Since Method SV only fo­cuses on restor­ing Land Rover De­fend­ers, it was for­tu­itous that its owner, Brent Fra­zier, be­came the one to carry on the legacy of this par­tic­u­lar ’89 130 model.

Dil­lon Aero, who p re­vi­ously owned the ve­hi­cle, mod­i­fied it to serve as a test mule for their M134D mini­gun. The truck be­gan life as a 110 model, but Dil­lon Aero had the chas­sis ex­tended an ex­tra 17 inches. This is the same process used by Land Rover to cre­ate the 130 model (tech­ni­cally 127 inches) from the 110 in the years prior to pro­duc­ing the chas­sis with the 130 wheel­base.

Af­ter test­ing was com­pleted, Dil­lon Aero de­com­mis­sioned this De­fender and parked it in a w are­house, where it was e ssen­tially for­got­ten. Through a lo­cal club, Fra­zier learned about its avail­abil­ity, came to see it in per­son, and was im­me­di­ately en­am­ored with its unique­ness. “As far as I know, it’s the only one of its kind in the world,” Fra­zier says. And so be­gan the sec­ond phase of its life, which Fra­zier named Project Bron­son, af­ter the in­fa­mous British pris­oner.

Not much left on the ve­hi­cle is still orig­i­nal. Ev­ery­thing from the fire­wall back had essen­tially been mod­i­fied by Dil­lon Aero or a c om­pany they used to build a p ar­tic­u­lar fea­ture they wanted. Although stripped of

its for­mer com­bat ap­point­ments, it did still have a full soft top with cus­tom rollcage, cus­tom re­mov­able doors (the sec­ond row of which are sui­cide doors), cus­tom side pan­els and tub, 55-gal­lon aux­il­iary gas tank, dual fold-down wind­shields, air­craft track­ing in the bed for lock­ing down loads, an ex­ter­nally mounted de­ploy­able weapons bench with ammo can com­part­ments, and a host of other one-off mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

By the time Brent got ahold of it, the truck had seen bet­ter days and much was due for re­place­ment. The driv­e­train was up­graded to a

’96 four-cylin­der 2.5L turbo diesel 300tdi mo­tor with a five-speed R380 trans and LT230 trans­fer case. Brent felt that its 33-inch tires re­minded him of a body­builder who skipped leg day, so he upped the ante to 16x8 Hutchin­son bead­locks with 35-inch tires. An Al­liS­port full-length in­ter­cooler and ra­di­a­tor with in­te­grated Spal fan and new turbo boost pin were in­stalled to off­set the power loss from the larger rolling stock. Ter­rafirma caster-cor­rected ra­dius arms and new bush­ings firmed up the ride on the pre­ex­ist­ing As­fir/Bil­stein long­travel sus­pen­sion.

Re­sid­ing in the in­te­rior are take-out Puma front seats from a ’14 De­fender, a Tuffy 12-inch lock­ing cen­ter con­sole, and Uniden CB and Ken­wood Ham ra­dios. To bring the ve­hi­cle back to ac­tive duty, Brent pro­cured an NOS tur­ret from Crane Tech­nolo­gies and did some mods to the roof to make it work. It’s fit­ted with a Brown­ing M2HB, which un­der­stand­ably gets some dumb­founded looks when cruis­ing the city streets.

Saved from a ques­tion­able fu­ture, Method SV has def­i­nitely put the fight­ing spirit back into this old British bull­dog. Con­sid­er­ing restor­ing one of th­ese your­self? Pro­ceed with cau­tion. The af­ter­mar­ket, while fairly ripe with op­tions, is fraught with poor-qual­ity re­place­ment parts. Think of vin­tage Land Rovers like mail-or­der brides. Since many are sourced from over­seas, what may look ap­peal­ing on the out­side is re­ally hid­ing lots of prob­lems you won’t dis­cover un­til af­ter the money has changed hands. As­sume you may spend over $150,000 on hav­ing one prop­erly re­stored by a rep­utable com­pany, but if you have the min­er­als to pay the full whack or take on the project your­self, you’ll un­doubt­edly have one of the coolest trucks ever made.

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