IT WAS love at first sight for Jamie, the owner of this beautiful 2012 Firenze Red Land Rover Defender.
After deciding to sell up and travel the world in 2017, he couldn’t help but notice how popular Defenders were overseas, especially in Iceland where they love to jack them up and bolt on huge balloon tyres. It was decided that on his return to Australia, he would buy a Defender and build it up.
Problem was, though, Jamie had never owned a 4x4 before, let alone a modified one, but he was keen to go camping and get out in the bush more, focusing on his passion of photography and videography. So it was time to do some research to work out what he wanted to achieve, and find the right people to help achieve his vision.
The vehicle you see before you was purchased second-hand and sight unseen, then shipped to Jamie while he crossed all his fingers and toes. “I actually got a great deal,” said Jamie. “It was in really solid condition and had a few more accessories fitted, like a long-range fuel tank, that I didn’t notice in the for-sale ad.”
That said, we’ll get the big question out of the way first – Jamie tells us his Land Rover has been nothing but reliable, and doesn’t even leak any oil … yes, it seems like he is getting sick of people asking.
CUSTOM: Land Rover Defender 90
When we say that Jamie’s Defender has been reliable, there is one elephant in the room we need to address. “I broke the front diff on a 4WD trip,” he tells us. “I don’t blame the vehicle, though, as I was pushing it really hard and once it started bouncing looking for traction, well, something had to give.”
Other than that learning experience, Jamie has been blessed with smooth sailing, something he attributes to leaving key areas unmodified, like the 2.2L turbo-diesel engine, as well as finding the right people to handle specialised tasks when required.
SPRINGS AND THINGS
JAMIE tells us that, interestingly, one of the more challenging parts of the build was sourcing parts that fit his brief. Suspension and wheels being the two trickiest areas, with not as much available for the Defender locally compared to a Patrol or Cruiser.
Jamie eventually narrowed his choice of suspension down to a set of Superior Engineering custom-valved remote res shocks front and rear, with Dobinson coil springs to give a 2.5-inch lift over stock.
One suspension component Jamie was really keen on was the fitting of a custom rear swaybar from Kingpin, including chromoly heim joints and aluminium links. This offers more rear roll stiffness to assist in even suspension travel off-road, while improving handling on-road.
A Fox steering damper was given the nod, as well as 35mm bump stop spacers, Superior Engineering Superflex arms, Gywn Lewis cranked trailing arms and a custom front Panhard rod made by Rampt Customs using alloy rod (common in the competition scene) and heim joints for a greater range of movement. Kingpin front-shock turrets, rear shock mounts, spring retainers, lower spring retainers and chromoly track rod were also used, and Jamie rates them as being a great company to deal with, as well as providing quality gear.
A beefy Maxi-Drive drag link has also been installed, and Jamie undertook a pitman arm conversion at the same time using parts from an early model Discovery. Interestingly, a front custom-made Gwyn Lewis double-cardon propshaft was required, thanks to the increase in ride height and suspension travel. Solid stuff indeed!
While Jamie had his heart set on a set of Method wheels, he couldn’t find anything similar available to suit the Land Rover stud pattern. So 17x9 -30 offset Dynamic steel wheels were decided on, and Jamie had them powder-coated in a custom bronze colour, which looks awesome on the red Defender.
A 4x4 is only as good as its tyres, so Jamie decided to run a set of Goodyear Wrangler mud terrains, in a 315x70r17 (just under 35 inches) size to get power to the ground and fill the wheel arches out nicely.
JAMIE has undertaken a few changes over the years of ownership, all in the name of better weight distribution. “I originally had a rooftop tent on the Defender, and my 75L fridge with drop-slide and toolbox was mounted up really high as well. I was still running the stock-width wheels with the lift kit, and I ended up tipping it on its side while out at Janowen Hills (Qld),”Jamie recounts. “After that incident, I put my rooftop tent on to an ex-army trailer, moved the internal weight as low as possible, and fitted up the wider wheels with bigger rubber. It’s a different beast now.”
The 75L fridge is a Waeco dual-zone unit, mounted on an MSA Slide. An ARB compressor has also been installed for inflation duties, and the stock rear seats have been put in the shed to make room for everything inside the wagon. Two internal gullwing boxes are a neat addition, with the driver’s side carrying recovery gear and the passenger’s side taking care of cooking equipment and power switches.
Comms is important, so Jamie shelled out on a GME UHF. But when he doesn’t feel like talking to anyone, an Alpine head unit with a Cadence amp powering a 12-inch Kicker sub drones out any rattles or dad jokes over the UHF.
THERE’S no denying this is a tough Defender visually, with Jamie wanting it to look cool while being able to tackle any track he deemed a challenge. Some 30mm extended Devon flares certainly add to the aggressive stance and were necessary after fitting the larger tyres.
Kingpin deluxe rock sliders add to the visual enhancements and protect the sills from damage. A tubular front bar houses the 12,000lb TJM winch and protects the front end from potential impacts while looking stylish at the same time.
Both rear windows have been replaced with Front Runner gullwings, that have transformed the practicality of the Defender tenfold. A Mulgo fold-down table and Maxtrax holder is mounted to the passenger-side gullwing, further adding to the practicality, with a Darche Eclipse awning bolted to a Tracklander roof rack to round out what is a really quality touring package.
EVEN though Jamie is stoked with his current setup, there are a few big-ticket items he would like to add or improve on in the future. “I’d really love to upgrade to a Red Winch Explorer 2 winch, which is one of the best on the market, and do some extra driveline modifications to strengthen any weak points,” Jamie tells us.
These driveline mods include installing Ashcroft diff locks, changing the diff ratios at the same time to improve on- and off-road performance with the larger tyres and pegging the front diff (a common Land Rover trick). Ashcroft CV joints are on the wish list, as well as Maxi-Drive flanges and axles which will remove any potential weak links in the Defender’s driveline.
Even though this is Jamie’s first 4x4 build, you can’t help but admire his choice in top-quality accessories, and the obvious amount of research he has undertaken to get this red rocket where it is today.