Happy camper


06 February 2023
Rooftop living... well, camping : credit: © Steve Miller
LRM's Steve Miller shows his Defender 90 a bit of love and makes it fit for camping

Like many owners of Classic Land Rovers, I have always been keen on retaining my 2002 Defender 90 Td5's original character – that of a 20-year-old, farm-look Defender, and not too bling – but ver the last six months, subtle improvements have crept in.

Replacement (road legal) LED headlights

First to be addressed was the headlights; the originals being a tad dim, especially for the rural roads I mostly drive on. I was keen to replace them with LEDs, but that said, an awful lot of them on the market appear too modern for my taste – often sporting daytime running lights, or a halo-type light. I was also keen to ensure compliance on the road by fitting e-marked lights rather than some of the suspiciously cheap lights often frequenting eBay. In the end I decided on a pair of Britpart’s Lynx Eye lights, which come ready to fit. The difference between the originals and these is, well, like night and day – great for picking out Mr Muntjac and Mr Fox on rural Lincolnshire roads.

Steve's very sensible security upgrade...

...with new Moto-Lita steering wheel to match

Whilst my other Land Rover project sits in the garage – untouched, I’ll admit – the new Exmoor Trim seats which had been removed for the rebuild were gathering dust. So I removed the existing old seats from the 90 and replaced them with the newer Exmoor Trim ones, instantly transforming the interior. Then, with security in mind, I also dug out my redundant Optimill swivel lock which required a new Optimill 48-spline boss to fit the later 90 steering column – and then replaced the tired steering wheel with a new Moto-Lita one. The new rim is a little smaller than the original, which helps with cabin room, but not as small as a Momo wheel (which I have in my project Ninety), as I find that a tad too small. The cabin is feeling a lot fresher now, and a more comfortable place to be.

Front Runner rack, as recommended by the former Editor, Pat

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Since selling our old caravan in 2021, which I used mainly for Land Rover shows, I needed to think about the upcoming show season. I fancied a go at camping again, but not like before, crawling in and out of a ground tent; that really doesn’t make me a happy bunny… So taking advice from former editor Pat – as you know, a seasoned Land Rover camper – I considered a rooftop tent. Firstly though, I would need to replace the old galvanised roof rack, which we’d be unable to use because of the high sides. I needed a flatter rack, and as Pat speaks so highly of Front Runner products – and they look so cool (check out the ad on the inside front cover of this mag) this was the way I decided to go. But, before committing my hard-earned on a new tent, Pat lent me his existing Front Runner tent as it’s temporarily redundant as he’s testing a new Tentbox tent. My wife Louise and I assembled the new rack, which arrived flat-packed but with comprehensive instructions and, once assembled with a lot of stretching upwards, we managed to fit the rack to the 90, followed by Pat’s tent to the new rack.

Old galvanised ladder wouldn’t fit on the new rack

New Front Runner ladder very unobtrusive​​​​​

The revamp didn’t stop there. As our old rear ladder formed part of the galvanised roof rack which was sold on Marketplace, we needed to obtain a new ladder, as access to the roof rack is needed when removing and fitting the rooftent cover. Sure, you can stand on the top of the wheels and hold onto the rack with one hand and try to un-zip the cover with the other, but it’s fairly tricky. Ideally you need to be up there, on top. Fortunately, we bumped into Andrew Watkins of Overland Gear UK at the Landy show at Newark – he had limited stock with him, but he did have a Front Runner rear ladder, which we duly purchased. Within an hour or two of returning home from the show, we had that fitted, too.

The Millers’ first rooftop camping experience at this year’s Billing Off Road Show

At the time of writing, I have just returned from another excellent and thoroughly enjoyable Billing Off-Road show. The show was our first trial of rooftop tent camping. Unlike my previous camping experiences, or the relative luxury of a caravan, I must say, with a few creature comforts you can making camping more enjoyable and comfortable, especially by sourcing and fitting the right gear. I’m sure Pat will want his tent back soon, but I might not be around to give it back. Sorry Pat…


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