UN­STOP­PABLE OFF-ROADER

STUN­NING Td5 90

LRO (UK) - - Front Page - WORDS: MARK SAV­ILLE. PHO­TOS: LAU­RENS PAR­SONS

The rain is ham­mer­ing down and the wind chill makes it feel many de­grees be­low hu­mane, but the sight of Rob ’Squid’ Cozens’ su­perb Ford Cos­worth Blue 90 march­ing about the off-road site is enough to warm any De­fender fan’s cock­les. Tak­ing a short break in the cab with Rob, he be­gins to ex­plain how his beau­ti­ful ma­chine came into ex­is­tence.

Crash course

On 9 Jan­uary 2014, Rob was mind­ing his own busi­ness, trundling along the A38 in the De­fender that he’d built up, when some­one else in­volved him in their ac­ci­dent. His 90 truck cab bar­rel-rolled sev­eral times be­fore com­ing to rest, very much the worse for wear – as was Rob. ’I was so gut­ted by this that I de­cided, since it was the De­fender that saved me, I’d get an­other and start again, but this time go big­ger and bet­ter,’ he says.

By the end of Fe­bru­ary, only eight weeks or so af­ter the ac­ci­dent, Rob had bought a cat­e­gory-c write-off Td5 De­fender 90 that had be­longed to a lo­cal far­rier. ’It wasn’t in the best con­di­tion but I could see past the superficial dents and scrapes.’ The in­surer had clas­si­fied it as a cat-c write-off be­cause the bulk­head was fine, and it only had dented body pan­els down the near­side. It al­ready had a new rear cross­mem­ber but it was a bit bent and rusty; Rob changed it later. Even­tu­ally, he’d like to fit a NAS (North Amer­i­can spec) rear bumper to match the Devon 4x4 front one he fit­ted dur­ing the re­build.

Patch­work

Be­fore the ma­jor re­build could be­gin, Rob had to get the for­mer work truck back to road­wor­thy con­di­tion.

’I went through the pa­per­work and dis­cov­ered that, for the DVLA to give me the orig­i­nal log book, I had to re­build the front end and doors and get rid of all the sharp edges ready to go through a VIC [the now-with­drawn Ve­hi­cle Iden­tity Check – scheme op­er­ated by VOSA] down in Ex­eter,’ ex­plains Rob.

His first step was to find all the bits he needed, ini­tially search­ing ebay. But he quickly de­cided to get his orig­i­nal De­fender back from his in­surer to strip her for parts – both body­work and in­te­rior items. ’Af­ter a heated ar­gu­ment with the in­sur­ance com­pany, who wanted my old De­fender for parts it­self, I won and be­gan tak­ing it apart,’ he says.

’I used the front wing and pas­sen­ger door and then an old County back in­stead of a truck cab this time around. I also had to re­build the hubs, be­cause smash­ing into the ditch and then a wall had made this go very funny.’

By April 2014, Rob was ready for VOSA to take a look; it passed the VIC, open­ing the way for the mon­u­men­tal re­build and mod­i­fi­ca­tion ses­sion that he had planned. But Rob works in the Bri­tish armed forces and was called away for six months, de­lay­ing the start un­til Novem­ber. Then things moved quickly.

The big jig­saw puz­zle

Once Rob got back from his tour of duty and into the work­shop, he com­pletely stripped the De­fender, prep­ping the body pan­els for an epic re­spray in Ford Cos­worth Blue with a pur­ple pearl fin­ish. Next came the run­ning gear; Ter­rafirma springs and dampers all­round. ’They’re +5in but give about +3in of lift,

’Af­ter a heated ar­gu­ment with the in­surer, who also wanted my old De­fender for parts, I won’

plus I’ve got an inch body lift,’ ex­plains Rob. The body lift is achieved by us­ing eight spe­cial alu­minium body mount spac­ers, and longer bolts, from Gwyn Lewis. There are two at the front, two at the rear and four in the cen­tre sec­tion of the chas­sis on each out­rig­ger.

The 3+1 op­tion al­lows Rob to fit big­ger wheels and tyres, in this case 35in x 12.50in wide, on 15in rims. He could have gone larger but he ’didn’t want to go mad’. He’s also fit­ted Gwyn Lewis dis­lo­ca­tion cones at the back and yel­low polyurethane ev­ery­where.

As well as lift­ing the De­fender, Rob has swapped the trail­ing and ra­dius arms. ’I had cheaper arms on my pre­vi­ous truck, and they bent. Okay, it was in a ma­jor shunt with a Tran­sit van, but they never seemed that sturdy. These are mas­sive.’ The new arms are from Adrenalin 4x4, front and rear; all four have a six-de­gree crank to cor­rect caster an­gles.

Adding a three-inch sus­pen­sion lift and one inch-body lift meant that Rob needed to change the prop­shafts to Gwyn Lewis wideyoke shafts at around £400 each, to cope with the in­creased an­gles. Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced a stan­dard-spec £150 front prop­shaft fail at 60mph, Rob feels it was money well-spent. The lift also re­quired +3-inch Goodridge ex­tended brake hoses. While he was at it, he fit­ted axle and trans­mis­sion breathers too. Talk­ing of brakes, he fit­ted drilled and vented front discs, and sim­i­lar solid ones at the rear, via Coun­try Rovers.

Given his ter­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the crash, it’s not sur­pris­ing that Rob opted for a six­point full roll-cage – and it’s prop­erly bolted to the chas­sis for max­i­mum strength.

With the cage now in­stalled, Rob cut out open­ings in the hard top to fit sta­tion wagon side win­dows. He also found an old rear door, although it needed work to smarten it up.

Fin­ish­ing touches

’In the end, I found an ex-mil­i­tary rear wing that needed a bit of patch­work but was oth­er­wise ideal,’ he says. With all the body work prepped and com­plete, Rob sent off the De­fender – look­ing very multi-coloured – to SC Per­for­mance in Taun­ton for its su­perb paint job. He con­sid­ered many colours, in­clud­ing go­ing back to the orig­i­nal Kawasaki Green his truck cab had been prior to the smash.

’We con­sid­ered Candy Red but you see loads that colour. Then we found Ford Cos­worth Blue and for a twist we added a pur­ple pearl to it. In the sun­light it looks epic,’ says Rob.

To re­ally bring out the high­lights and add a lit­tle con­trast, Rob chose to have the cage, winch bumper, cheque plat­ing and a few other bits and bobs sprayed metal­lic black with pearl.

To make sure every­one sees him com­ing, Rob has in­stalled some se­ri­ously ef­fec­tive lights – Lazer Lamps light­bar on the roof, plus a Wi­pac LED light­ing set and halo­gen An­gel Eyes head­lights. Up­grad­ing all the lights also helps give the De­fender a mod­ern but time­less look.

’Wi­pac LED light­ing sets are also much bet­ter than the stan­dard side­lights and they’re bet­ter qual­ity than cheaper al­ter­na­tives I’ve tried be­fore,’ he says.

One of the big-ticket items that Rob trans­ferred from his smashed-up truck cab was the seats. These are gen­uine Svx-style Re­caro G4 Chal­lenge De­fender seats; £800 from Devon 4x4 when he bought them brand­new sev­eral years ago. ’These helped pro­tect me in the roll-over crash, so I wanted them in the new truck too,’ he ex­plains, and with that sort of in­vest­ment you can see why he’d want to re-use them on this build.

The re­build took the best part of 18 months, from buy­ing the De­fender to get­ting it back on the road, but when you look at all the de­tailed work that Rob and his friends have done, it’s no sur­prise.

Ver­dict

Ac­tions speak louder than words – and rid­ing shot­gun in Rob’s 90 as he pushes it ef­fort­lessly any­where and ev­ery­where around this tough off-road site speaks vol­umes about this 90. It’s cer­tainly not all show and no go; it does ev­ery­thing su­perbly well and looks a mil­lion dol­lars into

the bar­gain.

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