When I first saw that Land Rover had upgraded the Defender’s dash and fitted a new 2.4-litre TDCi engine in 2007, I decided to try doing this myself. So, I scoured eBay and spent just £1500 buying the engine, manual gearbox, bulkhead, doors and wings, plus lots of other bits to bling up the final result! These were packed in a container and shipped back to Zimbabwe.
Back home I bought two cheap donor Defenders – one a station wagon and the other a truck cab – and had a good think about what my Land Rover should look like.
I always liked shorties, so I cut one of the chassis in half to fit the new body design I had in mind. A short double-cab was my goal, for its combination of added security and storage space. I find that one of the Defender’s shortcomings is the small size of the cab, so I lengthened it by two inches, which involved lengthening the front of the roof. The rear doors are modified from 110 station wagon doors.
The TDCi engine went in okay, but getting it to run was a nightmare. I couldn’t find any companies in the UK who could help, so I downloaded manuals and tracked down all the information I could find, and discovered that the problem was because the engine and bulkhead were from two different Land Rovers. I turned
to South Africa and bought a new ECU and security electronics, plus a key and barrel from a crashed Defender. As I had never worked on computer-controlled engines this was a major challenge for me.
Having fitted these, I then had to work out how to prime the engine – again a first for me – so I tried using a bilge pump from an outboard boat engine. It started on the first kick. What a relief!
Painting the vehicle in Tomb Raider Grey was done at home, and I kept the suspension, engine and brakes all standard. The whole project took me about two years.
I’ve used it for three years as a working vehicle on the Cecil Kop game park in Mutare, where we’re rebuilding an education centre to teach kids about our flora and fauna. You can read all about it at facebook.com/CecilKopFriends.
This owner review 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.