14 January 2023
Chris McCormack takes a battered, base-spec ex-utility 110 and turns it into his idea of Defender perfection. Alisdair Cusick witnesses its first test drive
It is five o’clock on a Friday, and an immaculate-looking 110 is backing out of the workshop of IRB Developments. If you’ve just planned and built the Land Rover you’ve always dreamed of, in almost record time, where is the first drive of that new car going to be? For Chris McCormack, whose car this is, that first drive isn’t a tentative tootle around the block. Instead, he barely gets time to walk around the finished car before he has me jumping in the passenger seat, and we head 50 miles away into the countryside for this LRM cover shoot.
If you’re a social media user or recent show attendee, you’ll recognise Chris as the bubbly chap proudly demonstrating his latest products from ORE 4x4. He’s the man behind the Midlands-based Land Rover accessories company and its products, as well as ORE’s unusual resilience tests, like sitting on the wheel carrier, or hitting headlights with increasing sizes of hammer.
ORE Adventure grille gives a modern slant to this Defender restomod.
ORE started after Chris, messing around with Land Rovers, got frustrated with parts he’d bought being poorly made, arriving with no instructions, and with no point of contact to speak to. Having a background in engineering, Chris began designing and making the products he wanted, made in the way he thought they should be. What began with a few steering guards rapidly grew, notably after he developed what he calls the OREsome coating system. “Powder coat in the market seemed to be very poor, almost an afterthought,” he explains. “I got some funding, went to a local university and looked into powder coat, developing the OREsome coating system, tested to withstand 1000 hours of salt spray.” The Midlands-made products range from steering guards, wheel carriers – “the strongest wheel carrier, by design,” asserts Chris – lighting, bumpers and more.
A key element of ORE is its Britishness. “To my knowledge we were the first company in the aftermarket sector to have a ‘Made in Britain’ approval,” boasts Chris. A full audit accreditation that verifies a British supply chain and manufacture, with a proven corrosion-resistance coating: what better for a Defender parts company?
Side profile the only hint to its utility origins
He’s a happy man as we weave though the Staffordshire countryside in what is to all intents and purposes a new car, but today is a rebirth for the 2008 Defender. Found online to replace a mint 300Tdi 90 he couldn’t bring himself to modify, the 110 was really cheap says Chris, who was drawn to it despite being offered with a known engine knock. Originally built for United Utilites by Land Rover Special Vehicles, then used by a quarrying college and a tree surgeon, the 110 may have had just 86,000 miles with a thick history file, but was in a sorry state. Battered panels, faded white paint, base specification and with holes cut in the body for a space heater, it was decidedly a project rather than showpiece.
Brand new 2.4 Puma engine; surprisingly affordable and has a two-year warranty
McCormack took the car to Ian Baughan of IRB Developments, who tried a number of things to cure the engine knock. New timing chain, tensioners, injectors and more failed to rid the engine of the death rattle. After two weeks’ work, Chris was thinking about a Td5 transplant but a suggestion from Ian took them down a different path; a new crate Puma engine, from Britpart, which was surprisingly affordable. Coming as a Transit application with the Ford logos ground off, the short engine needed ancillaries transferring and a Defender sump fitting, then it was good to go. Many of the ancillaries were vapour-blasted by JS Vapour and Media blasting, meaning the newly-built engine looked like new. “To future proof the car, we fitted a new turbo and feed pipe, and I’ve now got a new engine with a two-year warranty,” he explains.
ORE prototype wing protectors feature military grade surface for grip
Chris had a clear vision for the look of the rebuild
No plan survives the first contact with the enemy, as the saying goes, and the bodywork then decided to play a part in decisions. Chris tried to machine polish the Alaska white bodywork with initial success, but that stopped when he reached the passenger side, where it looked as though it had been painted three variations of white. “So I decided to paint the whole car Fuji White with black arches,” explains Chris. But that decision quickly moved on after his partner, Jen, pointed out that if he was building his dream Defender and painting it anyway, why not have his dream colour: Corris Grey. “I had a vision, after seeing a photograph online of a Corris Grey 110, with a roof rack, spotlights, etc, so decided to plough on, and build that exact car,” he reveals. Creating a pinboard, he traced more shots of that muse, and drew up a spec list: NAS lights on the back, 60th Anniversary roll cage, VBS Nemesis wheels, Camel Trophy-style lights, roof rack, Optimill hinges and a winch bumper.
Clean rear: no step, but does have NAS lights with red stop/sidelight lenses
Prototype ORE cargo system; immensely practical, with echoes of the car’s grille
While the exterior majors on show, the interior is about practicality. “I didn’t have a desire to put a full leather interior in, as we have a dog,” he explains. Instead, Chris went with retrimming the seats – converting them to sports seats in the process – and added plenty of soundproofing around the bodywork. Windows became electrically operated, and the windscreen was replaced with a heated one. The car wasn’t intended as a full-on business showpiece, but a few of ORE’s products found their way onto the car; the winch bumper, DRLs and Warrior winch, rear wheel carrier, prototype non-slip wing protectors and prototype rear cargo system.
Gwyn Lewis steering bars, Koni shocks and new springs transform the old quarry wagon
IRB Development’s Ian Baughan helped advise on optimum handling setup
For performance, Chris took advice from IRB’s Ian, opting for an IRB500 tuning package with IRB/PWR intercooler, a three inch stainless exhaust from Demand Engineering, Gwyn Lewis steering bars, drop arm conversion and steering damper, Superpro bushes and Koni shocks, along with an uprated Eibach rear anti-roll bar to give a sweet ride. The chassis was in good shape, needing no repairs, so was simply cleaned back and treated at Buzzweld.
How long has it taken to go from base car to dream car? “I’d say it took a couple of weeks of planning, deciding on spec, but I think we’ve done the whole car in about five weeks,” reckons Chris. A project manager by trade, a schedule was drawn up, but didn’t quite go as planned, meaning Chris himself had to get on the spanners with Ian, and put in some long hours around his day job running ORE.
Deep gloss at sunset looking every bit the new car it (almost) is
Schedules are quickly forgotten once you get behind the wheel, though, so what are his impressions? “It wasn’t going to be a Land Rover I had to be tinkering with every weekend, I’ve made it so you just get in and drive it,” he states. “I wanted to make sure it would last. I’ll use it for work, but it is also my daily driver. There isn’t a nut and bolt I haven’t touched on the car now; I know it intimately. It is exactly the car I want it to be, and exactly as I pictured it – I could show you a photo, and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” enthuses Chris.
Exploring the scenic roads of our photoshoot, the 110 looks every inch the new car it is. There’s a hint of modern Defender about it, Camel Trophy, and of the utility 110 it started life as. The use of an Adventure grille gives it a distinctive, special-edition face compared with many modified Defenders, especially grey ones, and the lattice of the grille is echoed in the ORE cargo system in the rear. What runs through the car, however, is an engineer’s focus and attention to detail, exactly like the products he develops at ORE.
Chris is a happy man as he pedals back and forth for my camera, delighted to be enjoying his idea of the perfect Defender, in impressive scenery. What began as a rather sorry, worn-out workhorse has become an enviable car many would relish owning. A brief pause to show him some of my action shots has him become very animated, pointing excitedly – or ‘chimping’ as photographers call it. “That’s it!” he exclaims. “That’s the car I saw online; that’s the vision I had in my mind to build,” he gushes. I suppose that means his job is done, then, because that is his car.
“Security on a Defender is all about layers,” says Ian Baughan of IRB Developments. The Optimill detachable steering wheel (and lock) are a brilliant deterrent, and easy to use.
“The alarm is upgraded on Chris’ Defender to remove some of the weak spots – and in this case with an all-in-one key from IRB,” he adds. However, taking a broader view, you’ll never stop the most determined thief, which is where a tracking device is an essential layer of security.
“Chris’s Defender has a S5+ iMOB device from Global Telemetrics,” explains Ian. “The device is linked to the factory alarm, so will alert GT and the owner to alarm activity. Being the higher spec S5+ the vehicle won’t start without the relevant card, even if the one-piece key is stolen.
If towed away, as per Thatcham rules for S5 and S7 (the new Cat 1 and Cat 2) the device alerts the tracking company and owner within a set distance that the vehicle is moving. Should it be stolen, the S5+ iMOB device and Global Telemetrics combo boasts one of the highest recovery rates in the industry.
Chris’s Spec list
• IRB Developments PWR intercooler
• IRB remap
• IRB tow socket mount
• IRB all-in-one key
• Seat retrim
• Optimill door and bonnet hinges
• Optimill washer jet
• Optimill steering wheel boss and lock
• Frontrunner roof rack with custom mounts for 60th Anniversary cage by ORE
• Pioneer brake lines and breathers
• Mobile Centre NAS rear lights and wiring harness for heated screen, seats, USB-C chargers, interior roof lights, front, side, and indicator lights.
• Mobile Centre waterproof roof mount socket for lighting
• Buzzweld underbody treatment and underbody tinted grey
• VBS Nemesis 9x18" wheels
• BF Goodrich All-Terrain 265/65 R18
• YRM repair panels and one-piece sills
• Britpart genuine engine and ancillary components
• Ltprtz UK headlights
• Ltprtz roof light bars, TRX 13in combo x2
• Ltprtz grille light bar DLX 20in slimline
• Ltprtz driving lights pencil beam
• LtprtzReverse lights RL006 x2
• ORE 4x4 wheel carrier
• ORE 4x4 steering guard
• ORE 4x4 winch bumper
• ORE 4x4 prototype rear cargo system
• ORE 4x4 wingtops with military-spec anti-slip coating
• ORE 4x4 Warrier Winch military-spec T1000 14500
• Koni shocks
• Gwyn Lewis Sumo bars with greasable track rod ends
• Gwyn Lewis steering damper
• Gwyn Lewis drop arm conversion kit
• Superpro bushes
• Eibach uprated rear anti-roll bar
• Demand Engineering exhaust
• Vehicle Glass Company tinted glass, heated screen
• Driver Detection security
• M J Fahy paint
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