Work in progress: 1997 Defender 110 ‘Frank’


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25 April 2024
Rolling Chassis, Bulkhead and Tray in place : credit: © Steve Bridgland
Steve Bridgland from Sevenoaks talks us through his project...

How long have you owned it? After an abortive attempt to buy a Disco 2 for my son who wanted a 4x4 with overlander potential but had a limited budget, I saw the advert for a 1997 Defender 110
ex-Water Board van with 204,000 miles in Southampton for £4500. I rang the guy, got in the car and went straight down there. Two days later it was on the drive. I bought the vehicle early May 2023.

The project begins...

What made you want to buy this particular Land Rover? We chose this for the 300Tdi and its simplicity. We wanted a two-door rather than a four-door as restoring that could put another £5k onto the bill.

What’s the story so far? I had previously rebuilt a 90 many years ago from a new chassis up, but that had been stolen from the drive one Christmas to use for a ram-raid on a turkey farm, and then kindly burnt out. Gutted, I never replaced it... Until now.

All the work was done on my driveway in the absence of any garage space, due to the vehicle being too high to get it in. Fortunately, the bulk of the project has taken place over the better months of the year. I’ve fitted a new Richards chassis, Gwyn Lewis suspension, new hubs and driveshafts, rebuilt the engine myself, painted the body panels in Raptor coating with a combination of roller and schutz gun and changed any parts nearing the end of their lives that I thought could cause an issue on long trips.

Many months and a lot of hard graft later, it is now MoT’d and ready for plenty of adventures.

Straight-forward 300Tdi: A good choice

What has the biggest challenge been? No real major issues were encountered during the build, but the amount of work is huge, as is the cost to do it properly. As usual with these projects, the purchase price was just the tip of the iceberg.

Any other areas that needed a lot of attention? The main focus on top of the restoration work is optimising it for camping. It has a fantastic electric roof tent and 270-degree Ostrich wing awning, which we were lucky enough to source secondhand with barely any use, and have added an additional awning and enclosed small room below for dry stair access to the tent.

As with a lot of other things, I have tried to keep the mounting costs down by sourcing as much as possible from anywhere I can find it.

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On to the interior. Soundproofing goes in...

How long has it taken? The majority of the work took around four months from the initial stripdown to having it built back up as a running, driving vehicle.

What jobs are next on the list? There are still a few small things to finish off, including organising storage inside and out to best suit our needs. As with anything like this, we will continue to tweak and change things as we go. Going out and using it will highlight what needs to be improved first.

What are your plans with it? We intend to use it regularly, particularly in the Alps and all over Europe, plus some other short breaks in Blighty, and we intend to plan one or two longer-distance trips in the future.

The finished article

Who has helped with the project? I must give a very big thanks to the team at Gigglepin 4x4 who have been invaluable for their advice, support and supply of parts, and also taking the vehicle at short notice to fault-find and fix one or two difficult matters beyond my knowledge. Also, Harry Naismith from UK Defenders Ltd for invaluable advice and support.

Rooftop tent is set to get plenty of use

Any advice for anyone doing something similar? My advice for anyone going down this route is to allow a bigger budget than you first think. Guesstimate what you think it might cost, then double it and add some more! Don’t scrimp on things that matter; if anything is worn halfway through, then renew it.

How can readers follow what you’re doing next? I don’t have an Instagram account, but keep an eye out for us on the road. And finally – just to explain – the reg number is KOW so we named the Landy ‘Frank’ after the red combine harvester in the Pixar movie Cars. I hope no royalties will be required.


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