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1994 Land Rover Defender 300TDI long-term review part 4: 4x4 shed

By Dean Mellor, 19 Oct 2018 Reviews

1994 Land Rover Defender 300TDI long-term review part 4 4x4 shed feature

Dean is back with an update on his Defender, after plenty of tinkering and driving.

I haven’t written a ‘Shed’ update on my Defender since November last year, and a lot has happened in that time. I’ve tinkered, I’ve driven, I’ve fixed, I’ve driven, I’ve spent, I’ve driven and I’ve spent some more.

Tinkering

I FITTED a new rear seat manufactured by a company in England called Exmoor Trim. It provides a far more solid base and proper bucket seat comfort for my rear-seat passenger, who deserves something much safer than the rattly, old standard pew.

The Exmoor Trim seat wasn’t cheap (just over $1000) but it’s superbly engineered and nicely made. The old roof lining has gone back in, but not until I stripped it of its saggy, stained material covering. I cleaned off all the old foam, spraypainted it grey, and voila; it looks great and it’ll never sag again.

I’ve upgraded the sound system by fitting a Sony head unit with Apple CarPlay. I initially enlisted the services of a local car audio mob to do this job, but the result was so shoddy I ripped it all out and started again from scratch. I’ve retained the front speakers, fitted some rear speakers in boxes, built a subwoofer box and wired up an old sub and amplifier I used to have fitted in a previous vehicle.

There’s now enough sound to hear a tune at freeway speeds, which is really saying something in an old Defender.

4x4 opinion: Catching and scratching the Land Rover bug

To match the flash new subwoofer box, I decided to tidy up the rear cargo area. To do this I screwed down some marine ply behind the rear seat and attached another piece using hinges; this gives me an under-floor area to stow gear and a nice, flat floor area. It’s all working quite well so far, but I’ll probably fit a drawer down the track.

The rear sliding windows were missing a few rivets and were rattling like nothing else, so I drilled out the old rivets and started again. I’d like to eventually flick these sliding windows and replace them with a pair of gull-wings for better access to the cargo area. There are a couple of viable options on the market, including from CSW and Front Runner.

I’ve now wired up a pair of Lightforce Genesis LED driving lights bolted to my second-hand ARB bullbar. These Aussie-made lights are simply awesome, providing a huge throw of light as well as a good spread. They also have a Daytime Running Light (DRL) function, which improves vehicle visibility.

I had to flick the original ‘wombat bar’ when I fitted the ARB bullbar, so I’ve since equipped the Defender with a far more substantial APT alloy steering guard. It looks great and provides much more protection at the front of the Defender. I’ve also fitted a pair of additional rated recovery points.

Fixing

WHEN I bought the Defender I knew it needed a fair bit of work to make it mechanically sound, but I may have underestimated much. So far the crew at Roving Mechanical in Sydney’s south have fitted an Xtreme Outback heavy-duty clutch and replaced or fixed the water pump, brake fluid reservoir, intercooler hoses, inlet manifold gasket, rear disc shields, rear wheel bearings, rear axle ball joint, front radius rod bushes, Panhard bushes, steering damper, rear main seal, hub seal, timing belts, wiper switch, air cleaner mounts, wiper stalk, dipstick and more.

The air-conditioner still doesn’t work, but the fault was located by my local air-con specialist – the bonnet catch has worn a hole through the condenser because, apparently, early model 300Tdi Defenders didn’t have the necessary shield in place to prevent this from happening. It’s an easy enough fix, but I just haven’t got around to it yet.

Of much higher priority is to fix the injector pump, which is leaking a small amount of diesel. At this stage it’s just leaving its mark on my driveway, however, I’ve already booked it in at a diesel specialist for repair.

Driving

NOW TO the good bit: I just bloody love driving my Defender. It’s noisy, it’s slow, it’s hot in summer and it’s cold in winter; but when I’m behind the wheel, I’m in my happy place.

Since the last update the Defender has done about 12,000km, including a bit of off-roading around the NSW Southern Highlands, a trip out to Eldee Station in outback NSW, a couple of trips down to the Snowy Mountains, and several runs up to Sydney from Wollongong.

The BFGoodrich All Terrain KO2s have covered 10,000km and they’ve performed faultlessly. At this stage they show little in the way of tread wear and there are no visible nicks or cuts in the tread blocks or on the sidewalls, despite a fair bit of off-road work including some rocky tracks in the Barrier Ranges. For the record, I’ve been running 35psi front and rear on the road, dropping to as low as 26psi on dirt.

Off-road, the Defender is probably the most capable vehicle I’ve owned. It has fantastic low-range gearing, excellent axle articulation and, thanks to front and rear ARB air lockers, constant drive to all four wheels.

The only problem with all this off-road capability is the temptation to go farther, which I’ve so far resisted to avoid mechanical breakages.

What's next?

WINCH, roof rack, drawer system, new suspension and a Cummins crate engine ... like any four-wheeler, my ultimate wish-list is way bigger than my budget, but you never know your luck. See you off the road.

Follow the journey of 4x4 Shed's 1994 Land Rover Defender 300TDI 
Part 1
- Part 2
Part 3

4x4 Shed Log: 1994 Land Rover Defender 300TDI 
Current mileage: 242,500km
Date acquired: Feb 2017
Price: $7700
Mileage this month: 12,000km
Average fuel consumption: 10.2L/100km