Adventure Special, part 1: Mr Worldwide

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Many more miles left in this Defender : credit: © Tom Critchell
Over the next week, we'll be celebrating the many facets of Land Rover adventures, from weekends away to worldwide touring. First up, it's a Defender 110 just returned from a world tour...

Often when we at Land Rover Monthly go to photograph a Land Rover for an article, we turn up to find it freshly washed and polished, with the glass gleaming, seats and floors vacuumed and cleaned and any items inside taken out or tucked away in the cubby box. When we arrived to get the lowdown on this very special 110, however, that was not the case – far from it. Sure, it’s been pressure-washed and the tyres have had a bit of slick sprayed on, but open the doors and there’s a coating of red dust under the mats, the side lockers have dirty tow straps in, and there’s all sorts of bits and pieces floating around the cabin that would normally be taken out before a camera goes near a feature car. But, given the incredible adventure this Defender has just returned from, it’s more than excused.

One word – Built!

You see, most people build a vehicle with a certain trip, or trips in mind. They might have their sights set on Africa, touring Europe, or even book the long boat and ship their Land Rover over to America or Australia for weeks or months of adventure. But not the owner of this Defender, oh no. He had his sights set even higher – he was going to go as many places as possible, and collect the stickers to prove it.

Bespoke mounts for Honda bike and spare wheel free up space elsewhere

“I actually didn’t meet the guy until he came to pick it up,” chuckles Andrew Harrison-Smith, owner of specialist Nene Overland in Cambridgeshire. “He’s a proper adventure addict. He rang up one day and told us what he wanted to do, then disappeared back into the wilderness for five months, leaving us to get on with building the Land Rover, which started off as a completely standard Orkney Grey XS Utility. That wasn’t because he didn’t care or didn’t have any idea of the kit, but because he’d never geared up a vehicle for this sort of trip before, and we could use our combined knowledge here to give him what he needed. One thing he did ask for was an adventure bike.”

Small locker in rear quarter holds tools and tyre repair gear. Bike is held in a custom cradle

It’s not hard to miss the Honda CRF 250 Rally that’s strapped on the back of the Defender, in a bespoke cradle. “You can get mounts that just bolt to your towbar off the shelf,” explains Andrew, “but given the terrain this was going to be travelling over, it needed more. This cradle is an extension of the chassis; it picks up on the jacking tubes, tie-down points and towbar holes.”

Storage box doubles as a kitchen area and work bench

​​​​​​The addition of the requested adventure bike allows instant freedom when camp has been pitched for the night, as well as giving a nimbler mode of transport for even more technical off-road exploring. One downside to the fitment, however, is that you can’t get into the back of the Defender when it’s in place. But is that actually such a bad thing?

Drawer opens into load area, and gives a step up into...

“We built the cabin around access through one of the rear side doors,” Andrew explains. The second-row seats have been removed, and on the nearside in their place sits a generous SnoMaster Expedition fridge-freezer, which has been solid-mounted. Tucked beneath the fridge is an Eberspächer diesel-fired heater for cold nights, and a compact water pump for washing up and running a shower, which simply sucks from basic plastic water cans – there’s no fancy built-in tank on the 110.

...the comfy Alu-Cab Icarus pop-top’s sleeping area

​​​​​​The somewhat unique layout means the lockable storage drawer in the Defender’s loadspace opens in the opposite direction to what you’d expect, with the non-opening side butted up to the inside of the taildoor. The backwards drawer provides secure space for travel provisions and a handy step up to the bed, which is up inside the Alu-Cab Icarus pop-top, and is a real game-changer for long distance travel. It gives even more off-ground sleeping space than a roof tent, doesn’t eat up any of the roof rack, stows all your bedding and lets you stand up full-height in the back of the Defender, which makes simple activities such as getting changed so much easier. 

270-degree batwing awning gives shelter from the elements

Alu-Cab is a brand that features heavily on this 110, and for good reason. The quality of everything, from the pop-top to the shower cubicle and the batwing awning, is second to none, and there have been no breakages to report during 45,000 miles of driving. You can certainly tell that the supplies have been removed from the rack, however, as it now takes two people to pull the roof closed again because of the super-strong gas struts.

It takes two: Gas strut requires some effort to close

Keeping maximum space on the Hannibal roof rack has been a priority, which explains the cleverly-optimised storage around the Land Rover. The spare wheel is bolted Wolf-style to the side of the rear panel on the driver’s side, and the door mirrors perch on extended arms to make up for the extra width. “There was another spare on the roof rack, but I think that must have got left behind when the Defender was shipped back to the UK. Something about height restrictions in the container,” laughs Andrew.

Ladder and lower step are side-mounted for access to the rack

​​​​​​Access to the roof rack is via a side-mounted ladder, while cargo netting on the bonnet and a small locker built into the nearside rear quarter panel house recovery and tie-down equipment as well as inner tubes for the bike, and the big silver cabinet on the side quickly transforms into a kitchen area with added stowage. You may be surprised to hear that as well as relying on simple jerrycans for water, the Defender also doesn’t have a built-in cooker, with the owner preferring the flexibility of a portable stove and bottle.

Auxiliary diesel tank and rock sliders. Powdercoat is flaking in places from being blasted with sand

Despite not carrying extra water in a built-in tank, diesel is a different matter. Driving around the world means the standard rear-mounted fuel tank becomes just a small part of the fuel system, with a massive torpedo-style auxiliary tank nestling between the chassis rail and the sill, so the Defender is self-sufficient for far longer between fill-ups. And you get through a fair amount of diesel in 45,000 miles.

A closer look under the Land Rover reveals some more choice touches, to help keep things moving when the going gets rough. The rear axle houses an ARB air-locking diff which spins uprated halfshalfs and drive flanges, and each differential housing is protected from unseen rocks and stumps by a sturdy Terrafirma guard. Also tucked safely behind armour is the standard plastic fuel tank at the back, and the steering drag link and damper peek from inside the aluminium bash plate that tucks neatly into the Devon 4x4 front bumper, which has the additional jobs of housing the ubiquitous Hi-Lift jack and a Warn Zeon 10s electric winch – peace of mind for self-recovery in the wilderness.

Steering, diff and tank guards ward off unseen dangers. Emu +40mm springs provide lift.

Obviously, the weight of a dedicated overlanding vehicle is hefty before you add extras such as a pop-top and winch and hang a motorbike off the back, so what’s been done to made the Defender drive well again? Quite a lot, actually. “We fitted Old Man Emu +40mm coil springs all-round, and they’re not only heavier duty but actually for a 130 model, which means even more capacity,” Andrew explains. These are damped by a pair of Old Man Emu Nitrocharger shock absorbers on the front, and Koni Heavy Track Raids on the back. Combined with Britpart yellow polyurethane bushes throughout and a significantly thicker rear anti-roll bar fitted on custom drop brackets, this Defender’s handling is surprisingly well-mannered given the extra weight.

Wheels are larger diameter than normally chosen for overlanding

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Also helping handling by pushing the track width out by a few all-important centimetres are steel D-mod wheels, painted black to fit the rest of the monochromatic colour scheme. The wheel diameter may raise a few eyebrows – they run a 17-inch tyre instead of the 16-inch that’s far more commonly found on overland trucks, due to the size availability in remote locations. But, while all five of the 285/70 R17 BF Goodrich All-Terrains show signs of tread wear and rock rash in places, none have failed badly enough to need replacing in five years of on- and off-road travelling. Obviously, we can’t comment of the condition of the sixth, as it’s presumably sat in a dockyard somewhere.

Engine is standard TDCi unit

With handling brought as closely back in line as possible, surely this 110 has something a bit special under the bonnet, or an older engine that’s more able to put up with moody fuel found in less-developed countries? Nope. Despite the 2.4TDCi’s reputation for relative fragility compared with some of its predecessors under hard use, there are no issues at all to report on this engine during all its overseas travels, and it remains standard aside from an uprated intercooler, silicone boost hoses and an ECU remap to help shift the 110’s extra bulk.

The engine’s standard alternator runs power to a National Luna split-charge system, which prioritises the vehicle’s primary starter battery and keeps an additional leisure battery topped up to run the various extra lights and discreet charging points when the Defender is parked up for the night. Both batteries are housed in the standard location under the passenger seat, with an auxiliary fuse box and the ARB air compressor for the rear locker housed on the driver’s side. Battery levels are easily monitored at a glance on the touchpad to the left of the Momo flat-bottomed steering wheel, and an alarm alerts the driver should the voltage on either battery dip too low for comfort.

Lighting is boosted up front. The 110 carries both hi-lift and inflatable exhaust jacks. Straps for missing extra spare still in place on bonnet

Lighting is another area that hasn’t been skimped on – there are numerous LED strip lights mounted strategically inside the cabin and below the awning when folded out, which make life tons easier than having to carry a torch by hand or remembering to strap a head torch on before moving around. Externally, the Land Rover still sports the headlamps it left the factory with, but these are backed up by no less than five Lazer LED lamps; two in the winch bumper, two in the back mesh grille and a monster full-width light bar across the front of the roof rack. No matter the road or terrain that lies ahead, it’s a small wonder this Defender can’t see into the future with the amount of candlepower it has at its disposal.

The standard rear lamps have been replaced with pork pie-style units, with extra tail and indicator lights mounted up high for much-needed visibility when the Honda bike is on the back, and to help keep the Defender in sight in severe dust and sand storms – another example of adding small touches that really make a significant difference.

The 110 survived it's travels surprisingly well

So, what’s the Defender actually needed maintenance-wise since returning from its tour? “The transfer ’box was becoming noisy, so a reconditioned one has been fitted, and the suspension bushes have been refreshed. Other than those items, and a full service, not a great deal,” enthuses Andrew.

With these small points addressed, the Defender is waiting for its next big trip – and it could be you behind the wheel. “The owner has done all he set out to do with the 110, so he asked if he could ship it back to us while he carries on travelling,” Andrew explains. “We’re advertising it for sale for him, and aside from adding personal items and general camping gear, it’s good to go and do it all again.” Where will this nomadic Land Rover’s next 45,000 miles take it? Who knows. But if you fancy getting out there and seeing what the world has to offer, you’ll struggle to find a more well-proven overlander.

 

Where’s it been, then?

The Defender's route around the World – so far

Since leaving the UK after being built at Nene Overland five years ago, the Defender has been all over the world, racking up just over 45,000 miles in the process. Bear in mind that for some of that period of time it was used as a home-from-home for extended periods, or parked up safely while the adventure continued on two wheels, but the map here shows just the extent of the travel this fantastic Defender and its owner have achieved. Why’s the owner not here, telling us all about the Land Rover himself? Simple – he’s already off exploring somewhere else.

This 110 has 45,000 miles of world travel under its wheels

If you think this 110 might fit your needs as an overlander, check it out on the Nene Overland website: tinyurl.com/2msaj6m5.

You’d save an absolute packet over building one up yourself from a standard vehicle, and maybe you can add to the already extensive collection of stickers. You just might want to blow the sand out of the interior first…

 

Spec List

2011 Defender 110 XS utility

Body and chassis
• Extended mirror arms
• Steel mesh front grille
• NAS rear step
• Custom motorcycle cradle
• Long-range fuel tank
• Auxiliary fuel tank
• Steering and tank guards
• Terrafirma diff guards
• Tree sliders
• Devon 4x4 winch bumper
• Hannibal roof rack
• Side-mounted spare wheel
• Storage lockers
• Side-mounted ladder
• Alu-Cab Icarus pop-top
• Alu-Cab 270-degree awning
• Alu-Cab shower cubicle

Engine
• 2.4TDCi
• Silicone boost hoses
• Uprated intercooler
• Stage 2 ECU remap

Driveline
• Rear ARB locking diff
• Hardened halfshafts
• HD drive flanges
• Recon transfer ’box

Suspension and brakes
• Standard brakes
• Britpart polyurethane bushes
• Old Man Emu +40mm 130 springs
• OME Nitrocharger front dampers
• Koni Heavy Track Raid rear dampers
• Uprated rear anti-roll bar
• Custom rear ARB brackets

Electrics
• National Luna split-charge
• SnoMaster fridge- freezer
• Warn Zeon 10S winch
• Four Lazer RS-4 driving lights
• Full-width Lazer light bar
• Eberspächer diesel heater
• Water pump
• ARB air compressor
• Auxiliary fusebox

Interior
• Momo flat-bottomed steering wheel
• Blunt Force cargo netting
• Safe built into floor
• Storage drawers
• USB charging points
• Garmin GPS unit
• MUD UK visor mirrors
• Overhead storage shelf
• Security window grids

Wheels and tyres
• 17x8 D-Mod steel wheels
• 285/70 R17 BF Goodrich All-Terrain KO2 tyres

 

See all other five parts of our Adventure Special here.

 

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