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A Community for Fanatics of Land Rovers

I bought my 1997 Land Rover Defender 110 Tdi in 2005, the vehicle was 8 years old and had 120 000 km on, I was to be the third owner. It served me well for the next 7 years but it was starting to show the signs of ware and tare. After spending most of its life at the coast there were tell tale signs of rust on the firewall, the paint work was looking tired and the headlining had all sagged down. The vehicles was in great condition actually so I was reluctant to replace it just to cure some cosmetic issues. After seeing the result of a friends Defender being re-sprayed I decided that it would be a good idea to do a Defender rebuild.

At first I thought that I'd just wheel it into the body shop, have it sprayed and that would be that. However after thinking about it and doing a bit of research I realised that to do the job properly it would be better to disassemble many of the panels. Then once I started this process I realised that there were many items that I should attend too while the vehicle was apart. So what followed was infact a complete Defender rennovation and rebuild that was painstaking but it yielded a beautiful almost new Defender Tdi.

Once I got started I soon realised that the Defender restoration was not that different from some of the earlier Series vehicles that I had rebuilt. Once you take away some of the plastic cladding, its just bolts and nuts that hold everything together. The disassembly was relatively quick, I tried to make a point of labelling, marking and sorting all the parts and bolts that I removed so that reassembly would be a bit easier. The main objective was to get the panels back to their individual sepparate parts without any fittings connected. This would make the spray painting easier and more thorough, thereby yielding a neat professional finished product.

The process followed was removing the roof and rear top sides, taking the doors off and disassembling them completely, removing the seats, removing the front wings, removing lights and body fittings, wheel arches and all the window glass and rubbers. Then everything had to be cleaned and repaired or replaced where necessary.

Disassembling

Roof off

Removed parts

Cleaning
The cleaning was quite a task because it included the locks, door mechanisms, window winders and all the upholstery. The plastic cladding and dashboard were surprisingly dirty, and once they had been scrubbed with soap and water they looked like new again, just another example of how robust the materials are that are used in these vehicles. The seats were also taken apart, with the material cover being removed from the frame and foam pieces. This was so that the material covers could be washed, and it made a massive difference. With the seats in pieces the frames could be cleaned and repainted. Removing everything from inside and with the sides off, the interior of the vehicle could also be hosed down and scrubbed clean, getting into all the corners and nooks.

Painting
Once everything had been cleaned it was possible to take all the bits and pieces together with what was left of the main vehicle to the spray painter, luckily they were nearby so we could drive the vehicle there and back. They did some final disassembly, all the preparation work and the final painting. I decided to stick with a similar coulour as this made the whole job easier and it meant that if some difficult to reach spots on the body were not painted you would not be able to notice.

Fixing bits and extras
Once back from the painters, one of the main tasks was to redo the roof lining, having the roof off and upside down made this job so much easier. It was at this point that extra items started kreeping in like fitting additional sound proofing on the body, roof, transmission tunnel and firewall, fitting new door handles, fitting new brake and indicator lights as the old ones had faded and replacing the window channeling, and then fixing all the little niggles that had built up over time. The opportunity to do it all was there and it became clear that fitting old worn pieces to new shinny panels was going to detract from the overall finish.

The whole job took about 3-4 months but the end result was spectacular. This Defender rebuild gave the vehicle a new lease of life, it was as if I now had a brand new vehicle because it looked and felt like new. Everything was clean and worked properly. The Defender was also much quieter, not only due to the additional sound proofing but also because all the panels and parts had been refitted and tightened so there were no rattles or squeaks anymore.

Before

After

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