Having been a Land Rover fan for years, Stephen Tunley couldn’t believe it when he found the Land Rover of his dreams for sale.
There was very little that was standard about the 1964 Series IIA when Stephen bought it from a businessman in Sydney, Australia in early 2010 – but he fell for it all the same.
Whether the Land Rover can really be considered a Series IIA any more is open to debate. Stephen refers to it simply as The Beast and it’s easy to see why. The donor vehicle, which provided nothing more than the cab, gives only a small hint to the Land Rover’s origins.
The body has been transplanted on to a Defender 110 chassis by the previous owner, with a dropside trayback fitted – very neatly – behind the cab.
As with the rear body, nearly everything on the Land Rover has been custom-made. The Tough Dog suspension, with coil springs all round, provides a three-inch lift plus dislocation for when it needs maximum articulation.
Inside, the Series IIA cab has been rebuilt in order to accommodate the much-larger Range Rover ZF 4HP2 gearbox and LT230 transfer box.
Power steering – another modification taken from a Range Rover – makes driving the beast much easier. In the cab, a top-spec sound system to rival that of any boy racer parked outside Halfords on a Sunday night has been fitted.
The Land Rover also benefits from air-conditioning – using an aftermarket system more commonly fitted to trucks, with the condenser fitted to the roof.
The vehicle has been repainted in Australian military green with most of the details finished in black, including the custom-made front A-bar and winch bumper. The front Warn winch is controlled via switches in the cab, which allows Stephen to operate it easily from behind the wheel. Not that he uses the winch much, mind: the uncompromising, 35-inch Mickey Thomson MTZ tyres get Stephen out of nearly every situation.
Despite the vehicle’s striking looks, the best part of this Land Rover is, for the most part, completely out of sight.
Tucked away underneath the IIA’s small bonnet is a 5.0-litre V8, with a monumental (or should that just be ‘mental’?) 400bhp power output.
When Stephen bought the Land Rover, the 3.5 V8 seemed underpowered and tired – and the head gasket blew soon after.
Having looked initially at a 5.7-litre Chevrolet unit, Stephen settled for a 4.6-litre Range Rover P38 engine (uprated to 5.0 litres), simply because of the ease of mating the powerhouse to the existing drivetrain.
Luckily, Stephens’s brother-in-law, David Alexander of Silverwater Automotive in Sydney, is a locally renowned engine builder and knew exactly how to get the most out of this particular power unit.
With help from TRS in Adelaide, David worked tirelessly to ensure the engine was built perfectly.
It was rebuilt to 5.0 litres using step liners, forged pistons, a high-lift cam and high-flow performance heads.
As you can imagine, the larger engine took some squeezing into the small Series engine bay, calling for a number of modifications to be made.
The cooling system was too small to cool such a high- performance engine, so a much larger radiator from an Australian-built Holden sports car was modified and fitted. A full-length, custom-made, stainless steel exhaust runs underneath.
So, a lot’s been done – but Stephen’s not finished yet. He’s acquired some Defender seats, which he’s having covered in canvas to make them more comfortable in the sweltering Australian summer.
Stephen admits that his striking Land Rover causes a stir wherever he takes it – but at quite a cost. He’s spent nearly AUS $52,000 (about £34,000) on it; and when you add the work carried out by the previous owner, here’s a Land Rover that’s had $100,000 (about £65,000) lavished on it.
This owner review appeared in the November 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.