12 September 2022
Alisdair Cusick meets one Defender with good reason to fit into the Yorkshire countryside: that’s exactly what inspired its build
We’ve arranged to meet in a picture-postcard pretty village on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. I’m uncharacteristically late, thanks to a five-car crash on the busy A1. As I roll down the village main street, past tourists busy taking selfies or nosily peering in stone-built cottage windows, I half acknowledge what looks like a Series Land Rover quietly parked far in the distance. It looks so at home in the scene, I barely notice it at first.
So it should, for the car that catches my eye, yet blends in so well, is my subject for today. Belonging to Yorkshireman, Scott Davies, his inspiration stemmed from little more than simply combining his love of the Yorkshire landscape, local businesses and a principal interest in field sports. Little wonder his Landy looks at home around here.
Owner Scott Davies built the car to reflect his interest in field sports
Scott bought the 90 in 2018. Having owned a number of Defenders previously and improved each of them on the way, he sought another one for his wife. The Tonga Green 90 was little more than a 70k-mile farmer’s pick-up complete with obligatory Ifor Williams, but it ticked a number of boxes for Scott. “It was in average condition, but I wanted metallic paint, and there aren’t that many in Tonga Green,” he says.
“My best mate Barry McWilliams owns BMC garage in Malton and I’m lucky enough to have space there and his expertise,” reveals Scott. “I wouldn’t call myself a mechanic, I’m a labourer, basically, but I’ve become familiar with working on Defenders from my previous cars.” That experience has given Scott a proven method for each build. “I work from the tyres up, sorting everything underneath first, before coming on to bodywork. If you take it right back, that’s where you find the issues.”
Carbon engine covers also a Yorkshire one-off
With that in mind, the pair began a process that ended up taking just a couple of months or so. The 2.4 Puma engine was stripped and checked, with a new injector loom fitted for good measure, then rebuilt with a clean bill of health. Here is where the first of his local businesses made an appearance. “Next to Barry’s is Custom Carbon, a specialist carbonfibre manufacturer,” recalls Scott. “One day, as a surprise, in walked John from Custom Carbons with some bespoke Defender engine covers, saying ‘there you go, put those on your truck’.” The fan shroud and matching rocker cover certainly tidied up things under the bonnet.
At a glance, it could be a regular Series
The plan for the 2007 90 always stemmed from being a soft top, so a canvas hood from Exmoor Trim was sourced, along with a set of heavy duty hood sticks from Purely Metal. Before those could go on the car, the interior was stripped and seam sealed together with the load bay, and sprayed in black Raptor paint, which makes it hard-wearing and waterproof. Seat boxes were covered in Dynamat sound-deadening, along with the interior of the bonnet, to add a little refinement. On top of that went a pair of standard seats, reupholstered by Scott then covered with Melvin and Moon canvas seat covers, which he’d used before and rates highly.
Interior a lesson in restrained taste and quality materials
Melvill and Moon canvas seat covers are both practical and stylish
Threshhold strip and Raptor protective coating as practical as they are smart
Momo Prototipo wheel has custom leather trim
Extra interior detailing ran to a Momo Prototipo steering wheel recovered in tan leather, along with the binnacle, passenger grab-handle and dash-top. Keen for some extra local flavour, Scott commissioned Malton leather firm Croots to make some small touches for the interior. Famous for their leather field sport luggage, they produced a pair of interior door handles in thick dark brown hide, matching rear grab loops, and a cover for the front face of the passenger bulkhead.
Luxury materials on interior touch-points
Croots leather handles bespoke for the car
Scott’s coordinated accessories for a day out in his beloved Yorkshire
While these are lovely little thought-out details, it is the rear of the 90 which stands out as strikingly different. Rather than a simple load bay liner or humble Ifor Williams canopy, Scott had other ideas, and went instead for wood. With no design for that, he had to come up with one from scratch, himself. “I templated the entire rear load bay first in cardboard, then repeated that in thin wood to see if it fitted in the tub,” explained Scott. “Once happy, I worked with a local woodworker to make another up using Iroko hardwood, with tie-down tracks each side.” Underneath that is a hidden drawer made by Cheshire-based field sports outfitter Thewlis Gregson, featuring leather trim and more Tonga Green detailing to the drawer face. Referred to as an ‘event drawer’ by Scott, the inside can be customised with fitted foam inserts to encompass any desired use.
Wooden tailgate a flash of inspiration
Covering that drawer is something we’ve never seen before on LRM, even after shooting Land Rovers for over two decades; a wooden tailgate. “It came about initially just to stand out from the crowd. Doing the floor, we suddenly thought why not do the tailgate in wood?” Admitting he was first thought mad for having the idea, they based it on the factory design, keeping the centre support strut and using original side hinges. Even then it took a lot of thinking out. Notably for where the damper needed to go in order to hold the tailgate open. “Not having built such a door before, no-one knew where the damper needed to fix to, and you can only drill the holes in the wood once!”
Custom Iroko hardwood tub was designed by Scott himself
Adjustable tie-down racks in the rear load area
All that beautiful wood needed protecting, so for that Scott got some inspiration from the finish used on gun stocks. Gun wood typically uses Tung oil or similar, but that can build up after many applications and be hard to remove if needed, so Scott instead chose Osmo Polyx. Osmo gives the same satin visual finish as traditional oils, but is much more user-friendly. Scratches or damage that inevitably occur from use can simply be erased by little more than a quick rub down and reapplication of Osmo, restoring a rich satin finish to the wood once more.
Elsewhere outside, a Nakatenga grille has been fitted up front with Series-style headlight surrounds, and the Wolf steel wheels all carry the Tonga Green theme, as does the crossmember. Keen to follow his mantra of doing things properly, the latter was stripped back to bare metal, then primed, painted (rubbing down between coats) and lacquered. Other non-standard parts include test hinges for the door and bonnet under development by Thewlis Gregson, which Scott is trialling for them.
Chassis-wise, it rides on Britpart Heavy Duty springs, which combined with shedding in weight of the bodywork means the car rides slightly higher than a comparable 90.
The dream drive for one man’s dream Defender
Any great Defender build relies on great foundations. Without a strong purpose and set of aims, you’ll never have a satisfying result. That is where Scott has been clever with his car. In reflecting his interests in field sports, his choice of materials and colour palette had already been narrowed down for him. All he had to do was to pick and choose what to go where. Scott’s 90 has an air of craftsmanship and heritage, together with tasteful material choices. It might drive like a Defender, but feels and looks that bit more luxurious. “We get more smiles per mile in this than any other car,” reveals Scott. He admits that he and mate Barry aren’t reinventing the wheel, but simply paying attention to detail and concentrating on getting things right – a bit of an obsession for Scott.
Come summer, off comes the canvas, and that’s when any soft top Land Rover becomes even more fun. “My wife uses it mainly, and loves it. She regularly gets business cards left under the wipers asking if it’s for sale,” says Scott. This Defender may have been built in Solihull, but it was proudly made in Yorkshire, and that's where it will stay, for it will take a hell of a lot of convincing for Scott to part with it.
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