What's the story?
‘We started it in 2012,’ says Chris Gillis, ‘so it’s given us time to pick up parts and wait until things came along at the right price.’
Interesting. We’ve already learned a couple of things: what would seem a very short time for some rebuilders is a lot of time for Chris, and there’s an element of cost-consciousness in this rebuild. ‘That’s right,’ Chris says proudly. ‘This isn’t one of those open-chequebook jobs. The idea was to do it without spending a lot of money. On this, I’ve re-used everything I could, used secondhand parts, made things myself – that roll cage, for instance. I’m a tight Yorkshireman, me!’
In 1990 he was just a lad, watching television. ‘Jeremy Clarkson was somewhere in Switzerland, driving a red NAS (North American-spec) soft-top Defender. I just fell in love with it. And I never forgot it…’
The build project didn’t start with a Defender, though. ‘We were looking for a Discovery 1 to rip to bits,’ he tells us. ‘I found one with a good chassis – a 1996 V8 auto S. It had Freestyle alloys – I wanted them so it’d look like USA-spec.’ That ‘rip-to-bits’ Discovery yielded another essential item – a 3.9-badged V8. By the time the Discovery was dismembered, it had been joined by a 1983 ex-military One Ten – so more stripping was in order. One chassis was sorted out, the other scrapped and underside work started.
The back-body bulkhead came out, and the cab bulkhead and replacement footwells were sent away to Chris’s dad’s workplace for top-class TIG-welding. The Defender tub’s scabby rear floor was replaced with aluminium cut from its roof panel. More roof aluminium created a side-hinged rear door, based on the original door-frame that had been cut down.
Now the project was on to the finishing straight – bodywork stiffening, doors... The rollcage and rear wheel support were made by Chris, as was the wood-and-chipboard centre console housing the gear-selector.
Then there’s an engine remap, instruments from a Td5, an aftermarket rev counter and blue lighting. There’s even an alarm system that’ll track this vehicle to within a few metres via Chris’s mobile phone, which also allows you to turn off the engine with a text message.
Our favourite bit?
The Land Rover oval badges are now black and yellow, which is very smart. Chris has even had his own internal trim fabric printed. Neat stuff, Chris – but there’s so much neat stuff in this 100-inch, we simply don’t have space to list it all.
And the verdict from LRO writer Peter Galilee?
It’s the kind of car you’d like to drive all day, just for the pleasure of driving. Which is what Chris does – drive for the fun of it. Now he is fulfilling his plan for a NAS-inspired Defender, the young lad’s dream is reality at last.
Model: Discovery/Defender hybrid
Engine: Rover V8 4.0-litre fuel-injected high-compression US-specification engine, remap by Monster Tuning
Transmission: ZF 4-speed auto gearbox, Discovery transfer box
Suspension: Stiffened anti-roll bars, Defender axles with Discovery differentials (24-spline), standard height Britpart springs, Britpart dampers
Tyres: 225/75 R16 Goodyear Wrangler Mud Terrain