Yep – I’ve owned a couple of different 4WDs over the years,” laughs Aaron when we asked about how he came to own this beast of a Defender. “Everything from a couple of Navaras, right through to my current project – a twin-locked, roll-caged FJ40 on 40in tyres, coilovers, oh and running a 351 Cleveland V8.”
With a rig like that in the yard, you know a bloke’s as passionate as they come about turning all four wheels on the dirt. So, there begs the question; when you’ve owned such an eclectic array of tough 4WDs, where do you turn when you want a tough, solid axle 4WD that’s fit for longer distance trips? “With a duo of young kids and a wife, we wanted to start doing some longer distance, touring style trips so we started looking for the right vehicle,” explains Aaron. “It had to be solid axle, with plenty of space and had to be a proven performer when it came to the tortures of long-distance travel and be able to tow our soft-floor camper.”
Well, in June 2013 the family welcomed their newest addition – the immaculate 2013 Land Rover Defender you see before you. Of course it didn’t roll off the production line in the same fashion you see it now – no. That part took a lot of nights in the shed, research and passion to sculpt!
- 1000km fuel range from twin tanks
- Aftermarket intercooler, EGR delete and 3inch exhaust
- ECU remapping
- Twin Optima batteries with Redarc controller
Storage encompasses more than just the gear inside, if you can’t carry more than a few hundred kays worth of fuel you’re not going to make it as a remote tourer. “On top of the standard 75lt fuel tank, I’ve fitted a Brown Davis auxiliary fuel tank which together with the main tank gives me a 1000km range no matter what terrain I’m driving,” Aaron says.
All that fuel heads to the standard 2.2l Puma diesel motor, which has retained the standard turbocharger, but now carries an aftermarket intercooler courtesy of Davis Performance. “I’ve fitted the engine with an EGR delete, custom 3in exhaust and had the ECU remapped to suit,” Aaron says.
From the motor the power is fed through the standard Land Rover clutch to the two diffs that are filled with Harrop’s finest – twin E-Lockers! “The lockers are sensational and are probably the best addition I’ve made to the Defender, I can crawl any obstacle without the Landy even breaking a sweat!”
Keeping the engine fed with fuel is much the same as keeping all your 12V needs fed with power. For this, Aaron has fitted a pair of Optima D34 55Ah batteries – one for starting duties, one for auxiliary power needs. The two batteries are kept charged, conditioned and separated by a Redarc SB112 dual battery isolator which makes sure the Landy fires up the batteries of a morning.
- Rovercraft and APT Fabrications steel barwork
- 235/85R16 BF-Goodrich KM2s on aftermarket alloys
- 2inch all-rounder suspension setup
- 9000lb winch
- LED driving and camp lights
Speaking of copping a beating, the last thing you want on any 4WD, but especially a brand new one is panel damage from errant wildlife, rocks or track obstacles. So, before the Landy ventured too far off the beaten track, some barwork was in order! “Up the front, I’ve fitted a Rover Craft steel, tubular bullbar which houses the Warn XD9000 winch – a lifesaver if we’re on our own,” says Aaron. “Down the sides are a set of APT Fabrication steel rock sliders and bringing up the rear is the standard Land Rover steel rear bar – for now.” Also from APT is a front diff guard and up on the roof is a Wind Cheetah alloy roof rack for additional bulk storage. It’s no secret; barwork makes the perfect platform for mounting lights and other gear, and in this case Aaron has mounted a 9000 lumen Narva light bar to the front bar and a Jaycar LED floodlight for setting up camp after dark.
“I wanted to build a touring vehicle that was not only reliable on remote trips, but could also tackle tougher obstacles without the risk of leaving us stranded in the middle of nowhere,” Aaron says.
It was with this build philosophy that Aaron got stuck into sorting the Landy for a long life of incredible adventures ahead. One of the first cabs off the rank was getting the suspension sorted so Aaron could get some meatier tyres under the guards. “Having used Tough Dog gear in my 4WDs previously, I had no issue giving them the nod for the Defender. I’ve gone for 2in, heavy-duty coils, backed up with 41mm bore foam-cell shocks in both the front and rear,” Aaron explains.
“The lads at Opposite Lock Narellan fitted the gear and I must say I’m very happy with the results, although some swaybar disconnects are on the cards to free up the articulation somewhat – but that’s down the line.” With the newfound space under those guards Aaron was able to fit a quality set of tyres, in the form of 235/85R16 BF Goodrich KM2s wrapped around the factory 16x7in Boost alloys, which are more than capable of copping a beating.
- ORS drawer system
- 40L and 80L fridges
- ICOM UHF setup
Having all the right gear on the outside is great, but having the right stuff on the inside is just as important for a long-range touring vehicle. What might seem like gadgets to the uninitiated, are absolutely essential once you get beyond the black stump.
Aaron realised pretty early in the piece that there were certain bits of kit that would not be lacking in his 4WD. Inside the cabin there’s an ICOM IC-440N UHF that keeps Aaron in contact with the convoy or nearby 4WDs while out in the bush. “I’ve also fitted an ORS drawer system in the back, which is a lifesaver for organising a family worth of gear on long trips and on top of these is a 40L Engel used as a freezer and an 80L Engel used as a fridge,” explains Aaron.
ENGINE: 2.2l turbo diesel Puma motor
GEARBOX: 5-speed manual
4WD ACTIVATION: Part time with manual locking hubs
SUSPENSION: 2in Tough Dog coils and 41mm TD foam cell shocks
TYRES: BF Goodrich KM2 – 235/85R16
OTHER GOOD GEAR: ICOM UHF, HEMA HN-5 GPS, APT diff guard and side rails, Brown Davis aux fuel tank, Harrop E-Lockers front and rear, Hurricane exhaust system.
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