What's the Story?
Looking at this picture of Jason Lawlor’s Defender 90, it’s hard to believe it’s the result of a driveway rebuild. But that’s where the work was done to bring it up to its current condition – on Jason’s front drive and in his single garage, including the fitting of a new galvanised chassis.
The 90’s story begins back in 2013, at which point Jason was wondering whether to rebuild it or splash out on replacing it with a brand-new Defender. Although he’d owned two previous Land Rovers, he particularly liked this one – a ’97 300Tdi with a full canvas tilt. During his eight years of ownership, he had upgraded it, kept up the service history and generally looked after it. It was his everyday car and his hobby all rolled into one, used for commuting to work, towing the family caravan, off-roading and going greenlaning.
‘It had pretty much all I wanted,’ he says. ‘And the dog liked it too.’ After checking the coffers, Jason decided he hadn’t quite got enough cash to replace it – but he’d pretty much made his mind up anyway. He’d talked himself into a full rebuild.
Our Favourite Bit
Once the 90 had reached rolling-chassis stage, Jason, along with a few good mates, removed everything from the original chassis over a single weekend. The bulkhead came off complete, followed by the engine and gearbox. The engine and bulkhead were cleaned and dropped into the new chassis. The axles were cleaned and painted ready for re-use. Jason remembers having to roll the chassis out of the garage using a mechanic’s crawler board to fit the rear axle: ‘One of those sweating and swearing moments.’
A replacement gearbox with a quick shift kit was slipped in, followed by the front axle, so completing the fresh chassis assembly. With the rest of the chassis details (such as brake lines) in place and after a dry-build to check everything fitted, the end was in sight. It wasn’t all plain sailing, though – some new parts weren’t straightforward to fit. The steering box bolts were too long and the fuel tank’s breather pipe was two inches too low – sortable but time-consuming stuff.
Then, disaster; it took 36 hours to paint the bulkhead due to the cold weather. So Jason had the other panels painted professionally. Den from G&D Paints in Cheltenham came to assess the job; he planned to paint it piecemeal but, realising stuff could be damaged in transit, he did it in one lump.
And the Verdict from LRO?
Tested to the max, the Defender revelled in the off-road course – the sections that I thought would stop it dead, didn’t. It’s great on-road too – a 500-mile round trip to Anglesey last summer, towing a caravan, passed without incident, proving its worth as a true dual-purpose vehicle. Prison officer Jason met me with a huge grin and a hearty breakfast, all ready in the kitchen. Along for the day’s fun were the mates who had made sure he didn’t waver in his task and lent a hand whenever and wherever it was needed. Jason’s the first to admit ‘I couldn’t have done it without them’.
It may have been a driveway build that took only five months, but the details have been considered and good decisions were made. The result is that it drives as if it has been put together by a raft of professionals in a swanky workshop. Good job, guys. Muddy brilliant!
This feature appeared in the April 2016 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.