What’s the story?
If you were at the LRO Billing Show, you won’t have failed to notice Robert Kranz’s mighty, portal-axled Defender. Standing head and shoulders above the other vehicles (except for the tracked Series IIA Cuthbertson) on the LRO stand it gained plenty of attention – even if some people weren’t quite sure what it was.
‘Nice 110,’ remarked more than one visitor, showing that Robert has kept the proportions of the 130 right – it just looks like a Defender.
Born in Liberia, west Africa, Robert now lives in Germany and travels the world by Land Rover, visiting places and following events. And this has formed the way the Defender has evolved.
‘I had two Defenders before this, but they didn’t do what I needed them to,’
he says. ‘Even with a lift kit and taller tyres I still wasn’t able to get to the places I wanted to get to – the ground clearance under the axles just wasn’t sufficient.
‘I went to the Trans-Siberia Rally in 2007 and one of the trucks was on portal axles – I decided that was the way to go.
‘I had already decided that the 130 was the right vehicle and set about getting my project rolling.
Our Favourite Bit
Given that this is a full-blown expedition truck that’s also used for following cross-country rallies, Robert needed roll-over protection and got the first civilian 130 cage from Safety Devices.
The company had previously built the roll cages for the military 130 fleet as it converted battlefield ambulances into troop carriers, so the step to civilian cages wasn’t too great.
And the dimensions of Robert’s 130 made it slightly easier. As the portal axles increase the track of the Defender by eight inches, the roll cage can sit outside the hi-cap rear tub without falling outside the line of the wheelarches, allowing a greater carrying capacity. And Robert has made the most of that. The front area of the load bay will eventually be filled with a huge fuel tank to complement the standard tank and a secondary one under the rear bench seats. Don’t get stuck in a queue for the pumps behind this one – the capacity is 340 litres, giving a range of between 1550 and 1850 miles.
And the verdict from Neil Watterson?
‘I’d come out to the Land Rover in the morning and the speedo would have reset to zero,’ says Robert. His local dealer couldn’t book it in for weeks, so he called a friend and travelled halfway across Germany to check the problem out.
‘My friend plugged the diagnostic machine in, and said, “There’s no car in the workshop”. The vehicle wasn’t recognised at all. So, we started to look for the fault and eventually traced it to the main connector on the back of the dash – it hadn’t been clipped in properly, so was making intermittent contact and eventually just fell off.
Although the Land Rover is supremely capable now, it’s not finished yet. Some of the work will have the aim of improving the ability even further, while others will be just for fun.
‘My Garmin GPS unit has video input, so I fancy fitting an infra-red camera up front and driving off-road at night with the lights off.’ What could go wrong?
One thing’s for sure, this vehicle will continue to stand out wherever it goes, whether or not it’s barreling along in the dark with no lights.
Vehicle: 2009 Defender 130
Engine: 2401cc TDCi
Gearbox: 6-speed manual with 1.003:1 transfer box
Axles: standard Land Rover with Tibus five-inch portal ends, 1.6:1 gear ratio
Wheels: Hutchinson 6.5x16 double beadlock
Tyres: 315/75 R16 Cooper Discoverer STT, fitted with on-board tyre pressure adjustment system
Engine mods: Allisport remap and intercooler
Suspension: +45mm (1.8in) progressive springs and remote reservoir dampers
Other improvements: Safety Devices full external roll cage, Frontrunner drawer and long-range fuel tank, Recaro Pole Position racing seats, Eezi-Awn roof tent, twin-motor winch, LED light bars, Booby water carrier.
This feature appeared in the September 2011 issue of LRO. Current and Back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Please note, we only hold stocks of the the last three back issues.