Autocar

Matt Prior

Let’s turn a Defender into a camper van

- Matt Prior

❝ I quite like the idea of a camper van, particular­ly one made from an old 4x4 ❞

One of the lovely things about an old Land Rover is that it fits in anywhere: shopping, the school run, a photoshoot, the opera, a farm, a fashion show… From the Alps to Kensington, you won’t look out of place in a Defender. Like an original Mini, it’s an automotive lowest common denominato­r: it divides into any company.

However, Defenders do look particular­ly at home in the British countrysid­e. Which is why I took mine on a short break touring around Yorkshire, as pictured above. Nice, yes? Yes. We had fun. Mostly.

Fast forward a few hours from that photograph and, well, it’s a complicate­d story, but let’s just say that an administra­tive error and a minor emergency mean I have to spend the night in the car.

In some cars, even in plenty of Land Rovers, stretching out in the back for a snooze is quite easy. But this is a Defender 90, which is about the length of a new Ford Fiesta, only with much more space given over to the engine.

I get in the back and try a few sleeping positions. Reclining against a seatback with my legs stretched out is fine for snacking and taking in the view but not very good for a nap. Eventually, I settle curled into the foetal position with a rucksack for a pillow and a picnic rug for a duvet. It could be worse.

But, I figure, waiting – hoping – to doze off, it could be better. I quite like the idea of a camper van, particular­ly one made from an old 4x4, so you could drive up a mountain and then stay there on a whim.

I consider various ways of converting the 90 into an overland tourer, then consider how much easier it would be in a long-wheelbase 110, but then I decide that what I really want is a 101 Forward Control. Always have. Probably always will.

The trouble is, if a late-model 90 is quite agricultur­al on a long journey, a 101, developed for the army as a gun tractor in the 1970s, is another matter again. These were made for hardened squaddies, not soft holidaymak­ers.

Every so often, somebody comes up with the idea of a new forwardcon­trol off-roader. Jeep made one in the 1960s and you could get a 4x4

Syncro version of the T3-generation Volkswagen Transporte­r. That’s probably the sensible one to buy today, because there’s unlikely to be another: from emissions and safety perspectiv­es, it’s pretty hard to massproduc­e one, and I’m not convinced a big market exists for one anyway.

But I wonder if a niche market does – and whether there’s a company that could fill it.

Bowler, the Landie modifier and rally car maker, is now wholly owned by Jaguar Land Rover but still runs independen­tly. And the chassis of its new CSP 575 rally-raid car is going to have an old 110 lookalike body.

Its aluminium chassis looks quite complex, but how much work would it be, I wonder, to move the engine down and back a bit and the seats up and forward quite a lot? Then frame above the chassis, clad the whole thing with 101-alike body panels and kit out the inside for adventures.

It would be expensive, no question, given that the CSP 575 is a £200,000 car. But, I wonder, as my knees start to ache and cramp sets into my calf muscles: where do I sign?

 ??  ?? Land Rover Defender looks at home in both town and country…
Land Rover Defender looks at home in both town and country…
 ??  ?? …but a 101 Forward Control might not
…but a 101 Forward Control might not
 ??  ??

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