old ex-Military Defender 90
by Bill Nicholson
In the Sahara, low dunes
This is a 1991 ex-Army Defender originally with 2.5 normally aspirated diesel.
It was grossly underpowered and had an engine transplant when I acquired her in 2000 as was common at that time (but became unnecessary once Land Rover started fitting their TDI engines).
It ended up with a Daihatsu Fourtrak 2.8 TDI engine. All engine transplants bring a host of problems and it probably took 10 years of sorting out and debugging until it was completely reliable.
I would never contemplate a radical engine transplant like this again however having got it right I wouldn't change it now. There's a lot of merit in having an older, reliable diesel with no electronics for an overland vehicle, as stated elsewhere on this site.
It has a host of mods which one would expect on any overland vehicle (e.g. roof top tent; dual battery system; long range tanks; built in water tank; inverter; multiple comms and navigation systems; upgrated suspension) - I won't bore you with the details because many of the users of this site will have much fancier equipment.
It has been on numerous trips around the wilder areas of Europe (the Pyrenees, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Romania) and into north Africa. There have been a few iffy moments but we have always come back in one piece (Land Rovers can break but are easy to fix and will get you home). I carry a carefully selected set of parts and tools which combined with the other key ingredients (attitude and mechanical knowledge) gets one through most situations.
The attached picture shows the old beast in the Sahara where she coped admirably.
For my next trip I am looking very seriously at shipping her to Oz for a 4 month tour. I have to weigh up the pros and cons of hiring locally but there are huge advantages in doing a big trip in one's own vehicle which has been adapted to one's own requirements. I may need to get in contact with other users of this site for advice on overlanding in the outback :-)
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