Project Defender, final part: Doors, lights and interior


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Finishing touches: Trevor completes the final jobs in his long-running project : credit: © Trevor Cuthbert
Trevor completes the rebuild of his classic pick-up truck, looks back over the project, and decides to put the new wagon to work

Need to know

Time: 6 hours
Cost: £474.12
Difficulty: 3 out of 5
Models: Defender 90, 110, 130.
Tools needed: Drill and drill bits, trolley jack, circuit tester, wire strippers, terminal crimpers, spanners and socket wrenches, mallet.
Parts & costs: LED halo headlight units, £40 per pair, numerous online retailers; stainless steel door fitting kit, £15.18, YRM Metal Solutions Ltd; galvanised Series-style front door conversion kit (bottom half), £407.94, SP Panels Ltd; single-sided adhesive foam tape, £11, YRM Metal Solutions Ltd.
Work safely:
• Wear protective gloves and safety boots when handling heavy objects.
• Wear eye protection when drilling and using power tools.
• Wear protection and gloves when cutting metals with angle grinder.
Contacts: SP Panels,, email: [email protected],
Tel: 01514 867636.
YRM Metal Solutions Ltd, Tel: 01388 488150.


The build up of this 110 Td5 High Capacity Pick Up (HCPU) from a Defender that was once close to being dismantled for parts, plus body panels from a long-gone early One Ten, has been an interesting and eventful journey. Rebuilding a Land Rover from the ground up is a time-consuming  and costly job, at times frustrating and exhausting – but ultimately a satisfying experience.

I mentioned that it is costly, and there is no doubt that it is. However, these days a well-sorted Land Rover is a valuable commodity. So, while a lot of effort and money has gone into the build of this HCPU, I feel it has been worth it all and I’m very much looking forward to using this pick-up truck on a daily basis. That time is close now, but first, there are plenty of finishing jobs to be done, not least hanging the doors. 


Front end electrics

I’m a fan of the military-type side lights and indicators, often referred to as ‘bug eye’ lights – and since I had an old set on the shelf, I decided to fit these too. The wiring harness – for the lights, to all four corners of Defenders, from the 300Tdi model onwards – has very convenient sockets to plug the light units into. The military lights do have the appropriate plug for these sockets, leaving a choice of whether to cut the sockets off, or to add the plugs instead. By retaining the factory socket, it will be easy to change the military lights to conventional ones in the future, should the need arise.

You’ll notice I have also fitted LED headlights to this truck –
another easy modification that adds more efficient lighting, together with giving the truck some style. I have not covered the installation of these because we’ve recently shown LED light installation here.

Keep factory wiring spec: To keep the Land Rover wiring harness intact, the ex-military side lights and indicator lights are being fitted with an appropriate male end, to plug into the loom.

Avoid making new holes: The metal military light fitting mount was re-drilled so that the two original fixing holes in the wing panel could be utilised, instead of creating additional holes.

Ease it through: By design, the rubber light unit is a tight fit though the mount – a little silicone spray or similar helps get it pulled through into position.

Bright and waterproof: With the ‘bug eye’ lens screwed onto the light fitting, the unit is now complete and creates a distinctive look for the front of the Defender.

Screen washers: The electrical feed for the windscreen washer has been modified to have two plugs instead of one, to use this truck cab’s redundant rear window wash pump.

Doubled up: The two plugs power both of the washer pumps simultaneously by one push on the wiper stalk. The two hoses supply fluid to twin windscreen washer jets.


Fitting the doors

There is good availability of new replacement doors from numerous manufacturers and suppliers. Early One Ten models had split doors, as per Series Land Rovers, and this type of door was chosen for the HCPU for a number of reasons. Firstly, I already owned a pair of early aluminium One Ten door tops, which are not easy to come by. Secondly, I had decided on the early-type paint scheme too – in this case, Limestone over red. A final factor in the choice is that split doors cost much less than one-piece push-button doors.

The doors selected are fully galvanised units supplied by SP Panels, which manufactures the doors especially for fitting to Defenders, accepting the Defender-type door check strap. They are supplied as a kit that includes all of the parts needed to replace Defender doors. Because the SP Panel door bottoms are galvanised, this means that they will have a very long lifespan, while the door tops in aluminium also have excellent longevity. Fitting split doors in kit form is an easy one-person operation because the individual components are manageable, compared to a heavier, fully built one-piece door.

Two per hinge: The bulkhead is fitted with eight new metric nut plates for the door hinges – after first filing out excess galvanisation zinc and paint, to ensure the correct spacing.

New old stock hinges: In this instance, the door hinges were fitted in place on the bulkhead first, rather than to the doors. A new gasket and stainless steel bolts are used on each.

Correct order: A rear view door mirror arm must be fitted to the top hinge on both sides before door is mounted. Then a single bolt is inserted in each hinge to set the door on.

Corrosion-free: The galvanised Series-type door bottom, supplied as a complete kit, is now offered up to the hinges and secured with stainless steel bolts, top and bottom.

Defender fitting: The doors from SP Panels are made with welded brackets to accept the original Defender door check-straps, so the original parts can be retained.

Traditional look: A pair of galvanised door cappings were purchased with the doors. These are carefully tapped on and then permanently held by three pop rivets on each side.

Early 110 parts: The doors tops are now fitted over the galvanised cappings, with a rubber seal in place and secured by two M10 nuts on the inside of the door.

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Anti-burst locks: The Series door bottoms kit from SP Panels comes complete with new door lock and striker plates, as well as a pair of door key barrels.

Finding the right spot: The door is carefully closed over the new striker plate (held from inside cab) to mark the position where it will be attached to the door frame.

Oversize for 6mm bolts: Pilot holes, drilled for the striker plate, will be enlarged to 8mm to allow adjustment and subsequent filing, which may be required for a good door shut-line.

Fine tuning: With the supplied captive nut plate on the inside, the striker plate is bolted up using a 10mm socket wrench on the M6 fixings.


Sealing the body joints 

Keep water out: There are gaps along the weather seal flanges where the truck cab roof meets the rear and main bulkheads. Land Rover supplies pads for these.

DIY option: A non-setting butyl rubber putty material is ideal to fill the gaps initially, similar to the sealing compound used in early Defender safari doors.

Gaffer tape: The sealing compound and a section of the weather seal flange on either side is covered with a strip of robust adhesive tape, which the door seal will be fitted over.

Every gap: Additional gaps, such as the roof to screen frame, can be treated in the same fashion to minimise the occurrence of water ingress into the truck cab.

Thump it on: With all the gaps sealed, a new door seal/weather strip is fitted by initially pressing it into the corners and tapping into place all-round using a mallet.


Finishing the interior

Additional sealing: Single-sided adhesive foam tape is attached along the footwell, inner sill and lower edge of the seat box before fitting the floor panels, reducing draughts and moisture ingress.

Four instead of two: The floor panels are secured using stainless steel screws and fixings, with two additional screws added along the sill for additional strength and sealing.

Old, torn, but firm: Budget constraints mean reusing the original seats. They’re tatty, but the foam and shape are good. These aftermarket seat covers conceal them until replacements
are acquired.


That’s the job completed

When I was planning this project I found a photograph on the internet of an early One Ten High Capacity Pickup. It showed a Limestone over Rutland Red colour scheme – exactly the look that I would aim for. I therefore modelled the build to closely resemble the photograph, right down to the rear mud flaps. The resulting Land Rover looks exactly as I intended and makes me smile every time I walk past it.

The Td5 engine and transmission (from a low-mileage Discovery 2) are excellent, with easy start-up and good power and torque. The Hi Cap will be a useful and versatile addition to my fleet for hauling materials to the metal recycling yard, carrying parts from the storage barn to the workshop, plus towing jobs. I also have a hood frame and vinyl hood for jobs that require cover. The first job for the truck, after the MoT test, is to haul newly processed firewood from the house to the woodshed at the yard to dry out for next winter.

Further refinements and improvements will be carried out in the future, after a little experience of using the Land Rover to determine exactly what is needed. The financial budget is also well depleted, another reason the extras will have to wait.

Owning and living with a Land Rover you have rebuilt yourself is a great experience and I would encourage anyone who is considering undertaking such a venture to go right ahead – there is a vast amount of help available in the pages of LRM and on its website, online forums and helpful online videos.

See all of Trevor's Project Defender features in our how to section or search 'Project Defender' on this site.


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