Work in progress: 1990 Land Rover 90


14 November 2023
BMW M57 powerplant nestles nicely in the 90's engine bay : credit: © Andy Hoile
Andy Hoile, Owner of CNC Performance in Kent, tells us about his project...

How long have you owned your 90? I’ve owned it for seven years now.

What made you want to buy this particular Land Rover? I owned a Nissan Navara for a few years which I loved – it had lots of toys and electronics. But it started going very wrong at 120,000 miles with new injectors – twice – turbo, etc So I had a complete change of tack and thought I’d go for something very basic and utilitarian, and this Land Rover came up. I actually hated it for the first month. It was noisy, slow, and very hard work to drive. Then one day I clicked with it, and just started chuckling every time I got in it.

Andy rebuilt the heavy-duty transfer box with LSD and 1:1 final drive

What’s the story so far? It was a standard 19J-powered 90 when I got it apart from 2 inch lift springs and very large offset awful Weller wheels. I quickly blew the engine up trying to make decent progress, so this was changed for a 300Tdi; standard springs were fitted, as well as Boost alloys. After a sale fell through during the Covid lockdown, I decided to give it a light refresh. I got a bit carried away with this and three years later it has an M57 BMW engine and six-speed gearbox, rebuilt heavy-duty transfer box with LSD and 1:1 final drive, self-levelling air suspension and a full leather interior with new Ministry of Defender dashboard, heated front and rear screens, mirrors and seats, electric windows, central locking and over 100kg of soundproofing. The doors are all Steve Parker galvanised steel items, while the wings and bonnet are new genuine panels.

A new wiring loom led to a few headaches

What has been the biggest challenge? The biggest challenge was the wiring loom. I kept the original for the existing lights etc, but made up a new one with a new fuse and relay box under the passenger seat next to the battery, for all the new gadgets and engine wiring.

Any other areas that needed a lot of attention? The air suspension was time-consuming. It is an Air Lift Performance 3H self-levelling control, with Discovery 2 airbags in each corner, and electronic sensors to control the height. The plumbing and wiring are all mounted to the chassis using rubber insulated stainless steel P-clips, to ensure nothing comes loose and gets damaged.

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The build prior to fitting air suspension

How long has it taken? All in all, the build has taken around three years of evenings, weekends and odd bits of spare time. I’ve just put the Defender through an MoT and it drives well, but there are still a few jobs left to finish off.

What jobs are next on the list? I need to do a bit more work to the interior to get that right, including tweaking the gear lever position.

What are your plans with it? Sadly, I’m probably going to sell it when completely finished. My lifestyle has changed in the last three years, and I’m going to build a VW camper as my next project. It will be much more practical for us to go away in and see the UK and Europe.

Who has helped with the project? I must thank my good friend Paul Boxell for spending over 200 hours getting the body prepared and painted. Also, Goldsmith’s Garage for some of the mechanical aspects, and Max Wiseman, who supplied the engine and gearbox conversion parts. I interrupted many of his weekends messaging him with countless questions about the install.

Any advice for anyone doing something similar? If I can offer any advice, it is don’t underestimate the cost of a project like this. It’s easy to price up the large parts and think you are close, but when you add up the price of all of the small fixings, seals, gaskets, new stainless bolts etc, the cost goes up exponentially!


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