I have been building my own custom Land Rovers for over a decade. I always aim for top-notch finish inside and out, and do almost everything myself – with help from my son, Danny. I try to use as many Land Rover parts as possible, repurposing them and mixing parts from both Defenders and Range Rovers.
I’d been looking forward to creating a luxurious, utilitarian Defender for a while. It all started when I was offered a brand-new 2011 TDCi 110 station wagon. But it wasn’t exactly in perfect condition – the lorry that had been transporting it from the factory had crashed and the Land Rover had rolled, ruining the hard top, windows and bulkhead. Luckily, the rest was intact.
I started by removing the damaged panels – the roof, sides and doors – before completely unbolting the rest of the body.
I already had a double-cab tub and canopy in the garage in my back yard where I do all my work, so the dry build was simple to carry out. I then sprayed the bare chassis in industrial-grade grey paint, followed by both axles, before refitting it all with Polybush silentblocs. I opted for Bilstein dampers, but kept the original springs, all painted up
in Indus Grey.
I didn’t have any off-tarmac intentions besides occasional summer greenlaning for the 110 – I have other Defenders for off-roading – so I went for 22in L405 Range Rover alloys fitted with 275/45 R22 Cooper Zeon LTZ tyres. I also painted the wheels in Nara Bronze before getting them diamond-cut and lacquered, and sprayed the brake calipers in Vesuvius Orange, although apart from that they’re stock items.
The 2.4-litre TDCi engine was treated to a lovely 160bhp remap from IRB, with a PWR intercooler and K&N air filter helping to boost performance and a superb Griffin stainless steel exhaust giving it a fine roar.
I then decided to break the piggy bank by ordering genuine SVX headlight surrounds and super-bright Speaker LED headlights. These are kept clean by Defender windscreen washer jets that I modified. Then I completed the painting – the skidplate, mirror housing, SVX side steps, NAS rear bumper, trailing arms, shock absorber turrets, anti-roll bars and other bits and bobs were finished in either Nara Bronze or Indus Grey.
The canopy was the next job, along with the spare wheel carrier, modified to take the L405 bolt pattern. I added two Defender 90 pick-up cab rear windows, station wagon rear quarter lights and a Range Rover Classic handle for opening the tilting upper tailgate.
I wanted Range Rover levels of finish for the interior – and, coincidentally, this was around the time Land Rover was considering its Autobiography Limited Edition Defender! I asked All Wheel Trim to produce a complete Alcantara and leather interior, based on my designs and mock-ups, from the lower part of the doors to the headliner. The reproduction Series lower doors also got custom-made door cards.
I ordered four Recaro seats, as fitted to SVX Defenders, and painted the backs while the leather covers were being replaced. As a finishing touch, I modified a Range Rover Sport steering wheel – covered with perforated leather and a piano black oak finish – to go with the TDCi steering column.
It took me seven busy months to build my 110 – and it only cost me about a third of what Land Rover charges for an Autobiography Defender 90 (without counting the hours of labour). It’s all possible if you’re willing to spend a good few weekends in the shed.
I don’t regret any of it
This owner review appeared in the March 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.