Expedition Portal Classifieds :: Custom LR Defender Turbo Diesel Pop-top

Here is a unique expedition vehicle with an impressive amount of custom work and upgrades. It recently showed up in the Expedition Portal forum, and we immediately knew we had to give it a feature. It’s a custom pop-top Defender titled as a 1972 Series-88 diesel, but the original frame was rotted and replaced with a galvanized 100-inch Discovery frame. The tub was swapped for a 110 tub/sides/roof (which was shortened), and the doors were replaced with Defender doors. Craig, the owner, likes to refer to it as a Defender/100 Series hybrid.

In addition to the standout body configuration, a substantial amount of time and effort went into further customizing this one-of-a-kind rig. Under the hood, you’ll find something a little bit different: an International Powerstroke 2.8L HS TDI engine with variable-vane turbo, all-mechanical Bosch fuel injection, and a full-width front-mounted Allard UK intercooler. This engine is basically new with 505 miles on it, and the installation was performed by Scott Oncken at Eco OffRoad in Sisters, Oregon. Craig says this configuration is capable of 20+ mpg when driven at speeds of 75+ mph on the highway, and that mileage can be improved if you are a more conservative motorist.

This vehicle has full-time 4WD, with a center differential and high/low transfer case (Land Rover LT230 w/1.2 high range) and an R-380 5-speed manual transmission that was rebuilt.


The Camper

The custom pop-top on this Landy is quite clever in its design, and the entirety of the habitat, including the bed, shower, and sink have never been used. When you want to make camp for the evening, a simple flick of the switch (it’s electric) and the roof pivots open from one side, revealing a double bed which slides out. With the tent opened, there is enough room created to stand inside the vehicle and climb up onto the bed.

Dual Fuel

Possibly the most interesting upgrade is the dual fuel system in this vehicle that allows it to run on used (or new) vegetable oil in addition to diesel fuel. And this is not some half-baked hack. Craig was the previous owner of a company called PlantDrive US, a company specializing in converting vehicles to run on used fryer oil. He has another vehicle, an HDJ80 Land Cruiser with a 1HD-FT engine, which he has driven over 40,000 miles running used fryer oil.

“I’d never have considered running that very expensive and wonderful engine on used fryer oil if I had any concern about the long-term health of the engine. And you can run this Land Rover on nothing but pump diesel or pump biodiesel if that’s your preference.”

From Craig:

“A diesel was already on my radar due to a story about the Border to Border Expeditions in 2001 and 2002, which you may know about. It consisted of all Land Rovers, all with the 3.9L V8 gasoline engines, driving from the Mexican border to the Canadian border (or vice-versa) off-highway. I heard this story in 2001 or so, and some of the “facts” I mention may be a bit fuzzy, but the basic story is essentially true.

One morning, a couple who’d driven their new Discovery from Vermont were surprised to find that their truck wouldn’t start. David, a Land Rover factory-trained tech who went along (who I had wheeled with in the past), spent all morning replacing the usual suspects: oxygen sensors, the ECU, checking everything with his OBD-II scanner, but couldn’t get it to start. The unlucky Disco owners then paid $2,200 (and this was in 2001, that’s like $5,000+ today) for a 200-mile off-road tow to Land Rover of Las Vegas. After a day or so with no luck from the dealer, they flew back to Vermont. Land Rover of Las Vegas had the vehicle for two weeks before they figured out the problem (having to do with the less-than-optimal reliability of the 3.9L V8 engine).

Additionally, my wife and I explored La Ruta Maya with the Houston Land Rover club around 2001, back when I had a ’95 D90. The whole trip was 9,000 miles round trip, from Berkeley, California, to Belize and back, and the truck got 10-12 mpg, which clinched my decision to go diesel. (Total fuel costs for the trip were about $2,400, approximately $5,000-6,000 at today’s fuel cost. Not to mention the climate implications.)”



To read about the very extensive work that has been put into this unique Land Rover, have a look at Craig’s original post in the Expedition Portal forum classified section. This vehicle is currently listed at $69,000. Please contact Craig via email (craigreece@gmail.com) with any questions or offers.

When he's not publishing campervan content or gear reviews on ExPo, Matt Swartz is honing his paragliding skills, hiking a 14er, or exploring the backroads of Colorado. His love of travel has seen him bike across the United States, as well as explore more exotic destinations like the Amazon basin and Patagonia. Matt spent three years living in a 1964 RV with his partner, Amanda. He's worked as an Interpretive Ranger and Wildland Firefighter and his photography and writing has been published in Rova Magazine, the Leatherman blog, 'Hit The Road' by Gestalten Publishing, and Forbes.