I usually drive an Audi and this was my first Land Rover, so it took a while to get used to finding drips of oil on my driveway. But of course Land Rovers don’t leak – they ‘sweat’.
I bought this one as a Defender 130 and sent it to Foley Specialist Vehicles, which stretched the chassis to 170 inches and fitted an extra axle. MMB in Macclesfield built the bodyshell and I fitted the interior myself, using local specialists for tricky bits such as the windows.
The pop-up roof comes from Hymer, the big motorhome and caravan manufacturer. I went to the company’s factory in Germany, but it wouldn’t sell a roof to me because I didn’t want to fit it to a Hymer vehicle. Fortunately, the UK distributor was more accommodating and supplied the parts to me for me to put together myself.
I drove to southern Spain for my first test run and spent six weeks camping in the desert. I followed that with a cold test, driving to the Arctic Circle via Sweden, where I was caught in a snowstorm. There were 6ft drifts up to the windows, and I had to just sit it out for 36 hours.
Finally, I drove to the Hungarian Grand Prix and came back the pretty way through Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Testing is really important – you learn things you could never predict. For example, in Sweden my boots and clothes were covered in snow, and I just dumped them in the area behind the driver’s seat. But as the snow melted, the water ran and seeped into some plywood units and distorted them. So now I have a separate welded steel tray for wet items, with pluggable holes that drain to the outside world.
Now I’m ready for the big trip to kick off my retirement: a round-the-world expedition. The Defender has 35,000 miles on the clock now, but it will have 200,000 by the time I’m finished.
Originally featured in the December 2013 issue of Land Rover Owner International. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.
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