My Defender 110 build up for South American travels


This is the build up of my Land Rover Defender 110. I will be leaving from New Hampshire and will travel down to Ushuaia. I will be traveling with one other person. We will be roughly following the Pan American highway. The goal departure date is the beginning of August. Once in Ushuaia, my co-pilot will fly home and my wife will fly in to meet me. We will then spend somewhere around 6 months in Chile and Argentina, possibly Columbia as well. There are so many places that we want to spend time, but 6 months just isn't enough to see them all.

(9 April 2011)

I left yesterday morning at 2:30am and flew into Jacksonville, North Carolina (Boy are my arms tired, har har har) to pick up my new, used, 1985 Defender 110 3 door. I was then supposed to go pick up a sweet 1980 VW Rabbit for a friend, but after a series of unfortunate events and some mis-representation by the seller of said Rabbit, I left beautiful, 80 degree, NC at around 9pm and headed home, without Mr. bunny.

With a top speed of 62MPH (GPS verified), I crept towards home for the next 19 hours, getting passed by many 18 wheelers, and I think I even saw a dude on a Rascal pass me, stop for a recharge, then pass me again. This trip normally takes me <14 hours, but my plans were trashed by the dude with the Rabbit and mother Nature. The Rabbit situation put me leaving at 9pm at night, which made it possible to hit all the nice rush hour traffic in New York and New Jersey on my way home the next day. I like to plan rush hour to be in places like West Virginia, where rush hour doesn't really exist, and then scoot through NY and especially Jersey, as fast as humanly possible, for obvious reasons to anyone that has been to these places. It rained, it snowed, I laughed, I cried (when the tape deck, complete with a 1980s mix tape stuck in it, stopped working at mile #101). Seriously though, it rained HARD, all night. Speed was slow, and I had to stop and pick up new wipers almost immediately. The ones on the truck had failed a long time ago. Today, it snowed, not all that hard, but enough to make people drive more like idiots than they normally do.

I was very happy with the 500 mile fuel tank range (only stopped for gas twice), and I think I averaged around 28mpg for the trip (2.5L turbo diesel). The trip meter would get stuck occasionally (odometer still worked fine) and I didn't notice this until about 700 miles into the trip, making my previously calculated 25mpg figure seem a bit questionable. Total fuel consumption figures and initial odometer mileage compared to ending mileage seem to indicate around 28mpg.

It was a fun, long ride, and I just walked through the door after a 900 mile trip in a new-to-me truck. Not a single issue with the truck the entire way home. The truck was in better condition than I thought it would be, and I think the seller neglected to mention about 50% of the work he had done to the truck. All the important stuff is in great shape, and obviously, it runs very well. The body work leaves a little to be desired, but the price reflected that, and I don't mind the few dents and dings.

Plans for it: This is a replacement for the Discovery I was building. If I lift it at all, it will be a 2" OME, but I might keep it stock height. Eventually, I might do a full restoration on it, but not for a few years.

Took it out in stock form to see what kind of flex it had. (14 April 2011)

Took apart everything to add some sound dampening. Unfortunately, no pictures of the finished product behind the dash.

Just a quick pic of the vapor barrier installed on top of everything else. I just undercoated the wheelwells and I needed to get out of the garage before I passed out.

That one strip of roofing waterseal or whatever it is in the middle of the picture was not put there by me. I was not about to spend an hour trying to tear it off.

The skin of the door is dynamatted, then the dampening mat was applied in selective areas, pretty much where it would fit. The door has a much more solid sound and feel to it now.

When I picked it up the passenger window would only go down about 3/4 of the way. Through a series of door openings, closings, and punches to the door card, it would go down the rest of the way. When I took everything apart I found out why. I don't think the regulators have been cleaned or greased since new. I could barely get them apart. I cleaned them up real well, re-greased, and now they are buttery smooth.

I wanted to replace the leaky windshield seal, but in doing so, I cracked the glass. Oh well, new glass was but and installed.

Offroading (28 April 2011):

My plans at this point consisted of custom fabricating a pop-top roof, Westy style. Unfortunately, the truck sat for 5 weeks at a welding shop and they didnt touch it. I would have done it myself, but I dont have the tools or expertise to weld aluminum. I pulled the truck out of the shop and bought a roof top tent. No time to wait.

These were the sketches of the interior designed for use with a pop-top. I built these cabinets and the functionality is somewhat limited by my low, stock, roof height. In the future, I may pursue the pop-top idea again, but for now, we need to hit the road, so it will have to wait.

Welded on some light tabs:

I added a floor right before it went into the welding shop. Oak laminate with foam board insulation underneath. So far it has held up well, although it is pretty scratched up at this point. Lugging around a transmission and various other parts dont help either.

I tossed on the tires. (25 May 2011) TreadWright Guard Dog in 285/75/16. So far,t hey are working great. I have about 500 miles on them with about 50 of those miles offroad. They are a little loud going down the road, but I can barely hear them over the Defender and 200tdi.

(June 20 2011) This is where the good work starts. I was too busy working to take pictures, but I managed to get a few. I met with a friend at his woodshop and we got everything completed over a few nights after work.

Big table saw.

The cut pieces then get sent through the edge bander to get a strip of wood added to the front. This makes the front of the cabinets look a lot nicer. End grain isn't very pretty.

Then things get nailed together just to hold the shape.

After it is nailed, holes are pre-drilled and then screwed. We used lots of screws so that it will hold up to the vibration and bumps of the road.

These are the top cabinets for the right hand side of the truck. There is another small cabinet that goes underneath these that is level with the tops of the wheel wells in the back.

So much sanding. Arms are tired.

Bring out the clamps. Here we are clamping the front of my slide out table.

Yum. Biscuits.

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Drilling for hinges. There is a machine that does this step automatically, but the hinges that I bought were different and it wouldn't work with them. I was sad.

Adjusting hinges.

Door closed.

Door open. This is the cabinet that sits next to the fridge.

(June 26 2011) Today I finished install of the cabinets. They are bolted through the wheel wells and through the supports in the sides of the truck. They aren't going anywhere. All of this stainless steel hardware is getting expensive, but I can't use regular stuff for fear of electrolysis with the aluminum body. Whoever installed the bench seats in the back (probably 15+ years ago) used regular bolts. They were corroded up pretty fierce and I broke 4 out of the 8 when removing them. The seat that I kept was re-installed with stainless and I shouldn't have any issues.

I also took some time today and replaced all the rear wheel bearings and seals. I had a leaky seal on one side, so I went ahead and did everything while I was in there. I still would like to do the pinion bearings and seals, but they aren't a high priority right now, since there is nothing wrong with them. The front axle was overhauled about 1500 miles ago. Now all that is left on my list is the suspension bushings in the rear which should be completed late this week.

Having friends with their own shops is a huge benefit for me. I couldn't do this myself without the use of their expertise and facilities, especially the woodworking shop. Today I went to my friend Steve's place and got to use his facility and tools.

Up on the lift. I should have done an alignment too, but I didn't have enough time.

I didn't get pictures of any of the steps, but really, it was simple. Take off the wheels. Take off the 5 hub bolts. Pull out axle shaft. Take off the big axle nut and then the hub. Pound out the old bearings, races, and seals. Here it is all removed.

All put back together. I originally planned to replace the wheel cylinders, shoes, and hardware, but once I got in there I decided not to. The wheel cylinders had some age to them, but they weren't leaking, seized, or sticky. With the failure rate of today's cylinders, I didn't want to chance putting new ones in. I would say that about 50% of new cylinders are leaky after 15k miles. The shoes weren't bad, so I left them. Drum brakes in the rear don't see much wear anyway.

Cabinets installed. here you can see my little mistake. The cabinets are deeper on the right hand side than the left. I made the bottom cabinets the same. Whoops. I just have a few inch gap behind the bottom cabinet. I will probably redo this, but I havent decided yet. It is a simple piece to fix.

The bottom cabinet on the right has to be inset about an inch to clear the strut for the door (not installed right now. I have a new door to put on. Mine is all rusted out on the inside). The bench is factory Land Rover and will stay where it is. This will provide a place to sit and use the computer inside the truck. The table can also be used to eat off of, write on, or do all the things that a table can be used for. I should have gotten a photo of it pulled out. Maybe tomorrow.

From the front you can see the fridge.

The gap between this cabinet and the truck will be filled with insulation. A combination of foam board and fiberglass insulation will be used. Ill then install a filler piece made out of the same wood used for the cabinets to cover up the gap. You can see the start of the foam board insulation behind the seat and behind the cabinet. It is the shiny silver stuff.

One little roadblock that has not been resolved yet is that my planned co-driver might not be able to make the trip. He was injured not too long ago and probably won't be healed enough to join me. I might have to do some recruiting.

(29 June 2011) Well, I cut the sides off of a pretty expensive roofrack today with a sawzall. I have mixed feelings about that. :sombrero: It needed to be done. The tent was too large to fit between the side rails. I had to grind down the cut off bars so that nothing was sticking up. Grinding in this heat is a lot of fun.

I had to re-mount my awning since it was mounted to the pieces that I cut off. I love re-doing work. It has been a long few days of hard work, but I am at a spot now where I can take a day off and do little stuff that isn't as demanding.

Some pictures:



So that brings us up to date. I know that was a quick run through, but feel free to ask questions and I will answer.

I still have a lot to do on this build, but I will be updating this thread as I go.



That looks great! And what a trip you have planned!
Thanks, Jay. It is a bit different than what I am used to with the 4Runner but I love it. I still look back at it as I am walking away from it in a parking lot.

I think it will look even better once I get the lift in. 2" OME HD to compensate for all the extra weight. The stock springs and self-leveling rear suspension are holding up pretty well, but I will feel better with all new stuff underneath it.


Hi Ryan
Nice to see another 110 for long range travel. Nice work. I did not realize the time frame of your heading south. You are a couple years ahead of our trip. Sorry we could not get the lockers for you. Good luck, and have a safe trip.


I got to stop by and see this truck first hand, and Ryan has done a really great job in a short time frame. Congrats man, its been a blast helping you source parts and such. I know your going to have an epic trip.


Thanks for the kind words everyone.

Not much of an update today, but something is better than nothing I suppose. This weekend was supposed to be an "off" weekend for me, but I couldn't help it.

I also have official news that I will need a new co-driver. My original co-driver isn't going to heal up in time and wont be able to join me. Submit your resume now for review :biggrin5. Hopefully I can find someone to go with me. I don't know what I will do if I can't find someone. The trip will go on, but I will either ship from here to Columbia or drive it all solo.

In the past few days, I have replaced almost every suspension bushing under the truck. A lot of them were factory originals. The truck drives a lot nicer now and really feels like a new Defender would feel. At this point, I think we are near 100% mechanically restored and the only original rubber on the truck is the rear window seals. I still have to do the front, axle side, radius arm bushings. I was sent the wrong ones and while they press in fine, they are too wide to fit the ears on the axle. I could make them work, but it wouldn't be right. If I am going this far with it, I should do it correctly. I have new ones on the way and they will be going in on Tuesday along with new swaybar end links for the rear swaybar (one is broken) and new bumpstops.

The only picture I got of the whole process was taken with my phone while the (wrong) radius arm bushings were being pressed in.

I started work today on the platform for the top/front of my roof. I needed a place to mount my second spare, and while I really dont want the extra weight up top, I dont have much of a choice. Putting it on the hood where it is supposed to go blocks too much of my view.

With the help of a friend, I milled down a huge chunk of mahogany into 1.5"x.5" strips. These will be the "floor" of the platform. They will essentially bolt to the ribs on the factory roof and the spare tire will bolt through the platform and the roof itself.

The mahogany:

Then I routed the edges. I haven't decided if I want to route the ends yet or not. I can do that after it is put together though. I don't have to decide now.

The end goal is to have a rack with a similar look to the teak decking on sailboats. I have always loved that look and have always wanted a roofrack made in the same style. I had to "settle" for mahogany instead of teak, but I think it will be fine. :)

Hi Ryan
Nice to see another 110 for long range travel. Nice work. I did not realize the time frame of your heading south. You are a couple years ahead of our trip. Sorry we could not get the lockers for you. Good luck, and have a safe trip.
The boxes aren't completely off the table yet. They are a great way to get a bunch of weight down low. I just need to figure out a way to afford them. :sombrero:

Hey, that center seat looks familiar.:) like the build, keep the updates coming. With pics.
The seat matches the others perfectly. :elkgrin:
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