Heres a you beaut Defender that may change your mind about Land Rovers! Words by Brendan Batty Photography by Tim Munro What is it about Land Rovers? On one side of the camp (maybe the bigger side), there is almost an uncountable gaggle of 4WDers who are ready and waiting to badmouth the British icon. However, amid comments like ‘If your Land Rover isn’t leaking, then it has run out of oil’ and ‘One sniff of water and electrics will be cooked’, you sometimes come across a rare gem that makes you wonder if everyone has it all wrong.
Wesley Baker’s Defender 130 is one such vehicle. A self-confessed Land Rover fan, when it came time for Wes to get rid of the V8 ’85 County 110 in April of 2000, the deal on a second-hand Defender with canvas canopy was too hard to pass up.
Being a Victorian, one of Wes’s favourite haunts is the High Country – home to mud, rivers, snow, and wicked hill climbs. It made sense, then, that he should make some changes to prepare properly for the challenges this sort of terrain can throw up.
After about five different sets of suspension, a few quiet ‘discussions’ with his better half, countless trips to Tyre Power and 4x4 Obsession in Melton and some ‘research’ style trips to the High Country, Wes has ended up with one helluva sweet Landy.
Don’t think that the job is finished, though. Wesley still has more grand plans for Defender, including a front ARB Air Locker, an upgrade of his GPS system to something bigger and better, and possibly a new tray and canopy for the back.
No matter what camp you sit in, there is no doubting that a little bit of Aussie ingenuity and some quality aftermarket accessories can transform almost any 4WD into something anyone would be proud of!
If you had to get a diesel Landy, there is no doubt that the 2.5L 300Tdi turbo-diesel is one of the better oilers Land Rover ever produced. While not the quickest out of the blocks, the 300Tdi is a steady and reliable engine that is hard to fault.
To give it a little more poke on those hill climbs, Wes has ditched the standard peashooter for a 3in mandrel-bent exhaust with straight-through muffler. Air intake has been raised to roof height courtesy of an Airtec snorkel.
Wes reckons the standard five-speed gearbox and transfer case are tough enough, so he has kept them. The rear diff has happily welcomed an ARB Air Locker, which is powered by an ARB compressor.
The rear end has also been lifted 40mm to improve clearance and aid in fitting the bigger rubber, and some Old Man Emu shocks have replaced the originals.
Up front, Wes trialled five different spring and shocks combos until he finally found something that gave him the ride quality and travel he was happy with. At the moment, a 50mm lift and EFS shocks are doing the job perfectly.
Although he tows a camper trailer, and loads it and the tray up with plenty of camping goodies, the standard vented discs front and rear are doing the job of stopping the old ship. To relieve the stress of all the lights and accessories, Wes has fitted a triple-battery system monitored by a Rotronics controller, which he fitted himself.
Wes is the kind of guy who likes to be prepared when he takes his family out into the scrub. Part of that preparation is ensuring everyone is comfortable.
With that in mind, Wes has picked up two seats from a 2002 Defender and swapped them for the standard front seats. Certain that there are no surprises on the way, he has ditched the rear bench and installed the original front buckets in the back for his two girls.
Tunes are taken care of via a Pioneer six-stacker CD player with tape deck (tapes don’t skip on rough Victorian tracks), which feeds some Pioneer speakers. Wes handles car-to-car communication through a Uniden 27MHz AM CB, but also uses a Uniden UHF with an aerial for long-distance communication.
Both of these are mounted in the roof console. A Magellan 315 GPS fixed to the dash aids navigation.
In the tray, Wes has built his own shelf system to store his two 40L Engel fridges and all the storage boxes he picked up at the local camping store. The system accommodates his spare tyre, a bunch of jerry cans, water containers and a 40L water tank he got from Opposite Lock.
Also along for the ride is a full recovery kit that includes all the standard gear, a chainsaw and an EPIRB.
Each corner of the truck is fitted with a 33x12.5in Cooper STT tyre wrapped around a 15x8in steel rim. Paired with the rear locker, the combination makes the 130 almost unstoppable.
In case it is stopped, or more likely in case someone else is stopped, Wes has installed a 12000lb Warn winch that he found in the Trading Post and fitted himself in the shed. An ARB steel bar houses the winch.
A steel bash plate he bought from an ex-army 110 Defender further protects the front. He reckons that if they are good enough for the army, they are good enough for him. There’s also a diff pumpkin protector guarding the front diff.
For easy access in a recovery situation, Wes has secured a shovel and axe to the front guards, which are protected by 2mm aluminium checkerplate. Up top, a steel tradesman’s roof rack from a Disco, which has been modified to fit the 130, houses a spare tyre and any other light gear that needs carrying.
The Defender is the light of Wes’s life – quite literally. On the bullbar, he has two Hella Rally 2000, four Hella 160s on the roof rack, two more Hella 140s side mounted to the rack and another two Hellas at the back for reversing.
For longer trips, a LRA sub tank has been fitted to supplement the standard 80L tank.
Mounted to the side of the canopy, Wes has also added an Open Sky Awning for some welcome respite from the rain and weather.
Vehicle: ’95 Land Rover Defender 130
Engine: 300Tdi 2.5L turbo diesel
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
4WD activation: Full-time 4WD, auto-locking hubs
Suspension: Front – solid axle, 50mm lifted coils, EFS Shocks. Rear – solid axle, 40mm lifted coils, Old Man Emu shocks
Tyres: 33x12.5 Cooper STT
Wheels: 15x8in steel rims
Other good gear: Rear air locker, 3in mandrel exhaust, 12000lb winch, Hella spotties, triple-battery system, custom-made shelves, two 40L Engels