Work in progress: 1990 Defender 90 Pick-up


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07 July 2024
Ken's completed 90 project looking 'the business' : credit: © Ken MacLean
Ken MacLean, from Edinburgh, talks us through his project...

How long have you owned your 90? Since February 2024

What made you want to buy this particular Land Rover? Drink and sentimentality: a dreadful combination! The number on the plate of the car is the same as the house number my recently departed Mum lived in. I was looking for a project (V8 Series of some sort), and this appeared in a general Google search. Apparently, it had been on sale in the garage for quite some time. As soon as I saw it in the flesh, I thought, “oh no, I’m going to buy this…” If it wasn’t for the number plate, I would have passed it by as it wasn’t what I was looking for. Before I knew it, there was a flatbed parked outside the house and the 90 was on it. The bloke who brought it to me was very helpful, but after dropping it off and helping me up the drive with it, he came back and asked for a brush and shovel, so he could, “give you the rest of it that was still on the trailer…”

Previous to this, I had a 1994 M-reg Defender 110 for around 18 years. I brought that one back from on the edge of being scrapped, I can do it again with this one.

Chassis work was needed

What’s the story so far? It spent a couple of days festering on the drive as I wondered how big a mistake I’d made. Then I made a space for it at the bottom of the garden and rolled it in. I started to strip it down and have the wings, cab and tub removed, and I’m now taking off the rear A-frame and trailing arms, and about to do some welding. On recent welding experiments however, I seem able to do more damage with the MIG than Obi-Wan Kenobi can do with his light sabre.

What has the biggest challenge been? Keeping momentum up with the project when it feels like it’s been raining constantly since it arrived. I’m doing it outside without shelter, so I’ve not had consistent time working on it. I think the uncertainty as to what the engine and gearbox was (gearstick and transfer lever are the wrong way around), also made me stop and ponder what I was actually working on. Turns out it would have been a 200Tdi originally, but now has Discovery running gear.

New rear crossmember in place

Any other areas that needed a lot of attention? The chassis has a few issues, but has had a rear quarter put on it already. Almost all of the nuts and bolts, if they haven’t sheared, have needed to be ground off or drilled out. It’s got a 2in lift on it, and all the shocks and springs need to be changed. I suspect I might bring it back to normal height or bring it down to just a 1in lift. The gearbox needs a lot of TLC (it was very vague and wouldn’t go in reverse). I’m going to strip down the transfer ’box too, and fit a new timing belt and clutch when everything is out. Also needs discs and pads all the way around and a new interior. It appears to have been a home for mice in the not-too-distant past, as all the air vents were full of newspaper and string and other bedding material. All the seats and plastic on dash have been chewed. Oh, and a complete respray, as the V5 said it was green.

How long has it taken? Only since February, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a year-long-plus job.

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What jobs are next on the list? I’m going to take on the gearbox next, to try sorting out the poor selection, and overhaul the transfer ’box. Then I’ll service the engine and change the belts.

What are your plans with it? I’ve had a few soft top cars in my time, (MX-5, Z3, etc.) I want a soft top that I know I’m going to be able to get in and out of now I’m the wrong side of 50. Also, I shoot and fish, so it’s going to be of practical use, too.

Who has helped with the project? So far, I’ve been doing it on my own. My dog has offered to help, but that’s mainly been in the form of bringing me tennis balls to throw for him.

Any advice for anyone doing something similar? Don’t drink and surf the internet… Any budget you set, have in your mind 20 per cent more at least. If you set your heart on doing a build in a particular way, and run out of cash, wait a while and save up for what you really want. Don’t spend hundreds of hours building a car that’s not what you wanted because you scrimped.

How can readers follow what you’re doing next? I’m @landyman on Instagram.



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