Work in Progress: 1991 Defender 90


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Oliver always wanted a red Defender : credit: © Oliver Goodgrove
Oliver Goodgrove, of Staffordshire, talks us through his project...

How long have you owned it? I bought the Defender in October 2022.

What made you want to buy this particular Land Rover? I have always wanted a red Defender 90 since I was a kid because my grandad had one on the farm. One of my favourite memories ever is when Grandad let me drive and we got stuck in a field when we hit a wet patch. It’s always been a desire to own a red Defender 90 with a white roof and panel sides, just like my grandad’s one.

What’s the story so far? When I bought it, I said to myself I’ll run it for a year and then rebuild it. Obviously that was before realising how bad the chassis and bulkhead were… I used it for a year, for camping and going to shows until the MoT ran out. In October 2023 I bought a Richards galvanised chassis and bulkhead and got straight into the rebuild, having never done one before.

Mum and I started with preparing and painting the new chassis, then began removing the front axle, which we repaired and painted then fitted with new suspension onto the new chassis. We then pulled the engine and gearbox out, fitted a new LOF Powerspec clutch, fork and release bearing.

The original 200Tdi got a new timing belt, rear crank seal and all the gaskets replaced. We fitted new mounts and put the engine and gearbox in the new chassis. Having had the bulkhead sprayed in Portofino Red I then fitted that, then went back to the old chassis and removed the roof, sides, tub and rear axle. Having refurbished the rear axle I then fitted that to the new chassis. I made and fitted all new brake lines and braided flexible lines, new Powerspec brake kit and new brake calipers.

I then transferred the wiring looms over and got it running. We repaired the tub and fitted it to the new chassis along with the roof, sides and front window. Having left it running for an hour, we then realised that frustratingly the new rear crank seal was leaking more now than it did before! So we quickly removed the gearbox, fitted a spare crank seal I had ordered just in case, then refitted the gearbox and ran it for an hour, to test we had cured it for good.  Next, we fitted a new seat box, tidied the wiring and fitted the dashboard along with the doors, front wings, grille and bonnet. We then decided to book in for an MoT the next week – so until then we were working on it every night and every spare minute to finish it off and get it through. Luckily, all the hard work paid off and it passed with no advisories.

What has the biggest challenge been? That’s an easy one – the biggest challenge by far has been parting with my hard-earned cash every time I needed parts.

Any other areas that needed a lot of attention? The tub and the axles needed a lot of repairing. I spent a day on each axle welding and preparing the casings, and Mum spent a night painting each one. With the tub, we cut what was left out of the front of the tub and got some folded aluminium and riveted it into place. Once the tub was repaired, we were really on the final stretch.

How long has it taken? So, since October 2023 to February 2024, so it has only really taken roughly four and a half months.

The finished job? Well, not quite...

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What jobs are next on the list? The next jobs are to set it up for off-grid camping and long-haul trips. So, a winch bumper, winch, leisure battery set-up, roof rack
and roof tent. Also, I still need to refit my rock sliders.

What are your plans with it? My plans with it are to take it off-grid camping, go to a lot of shows and have some fun days off-roading. Having fitted heated seats, I won’t be shy about using it in the winter. This Defender has also been known to help on a couple of repair jobs on tractors; it works well as a service van.

Who has helped with the project? My Mum has helped hugely, painting the chassis and the axles. Also, Mum is now known in all the local Land Rover stores for being the best mum and fetching a lot of the parts I have needed. She says she could rebuild one herself now, because she knows all the parts!

My Dad helped me with the rear crank seal the second time around, and fitting the gearbox on a Sunday morning.

My work colleagues have helped a lot, doing Saturday mornings for the price of a bacon butty each week. The old saying is true – teamwork really does make the dream work.

Finally, my friend Oli helped me remove the gearbox on his birthday and has helped me most nights leading up to MoT day.

Any advice for anyone doing something similar? Don’t be shy to ask anyone who has more experience – it will save a lot of frustration with the difficult bits.

How can readers follow what you’re doing next? My instagram is @ogoodgrove – I do occasionally post what I’ve been up to with it.


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