LS in a Landy: A Study in Anglo-American Relations
Revo Model Summary
An icon of British motoring, Land Rover Defender 110 was the successor to the Land Rover Series trucks. The "110" designation refers to the length of the wheelbase, and although there are other configurations, they were primarily 5 door trucks. The shorter wheel based 90 designation trucks were 3 doors with hard and soft tops. The 110 was sold one year only in North America, while the 90 enjoyed several years in North American Specification ("NAS"). Gas and diesel (ROW only) engines were offered, and while some were robust, none were exciting. However, drop an LS V8 under the Bonnet and presto-chango...
The relationship between Britain and the United States has long been described as a “Special Relationship.” But not unlike having a sibling, although bound by common origins, there have been differences of opinion along the way. The Brits insist on driving on the wrong side, they mispronounce dozens of words in the American language,* and stubbornly resist celebrating the Fourth of July (who doesn’t want a chance to blow up nothing-in-particular with friends and family on a hot summer day?). But like a sibling, when the chips are down the British and Americans put aside trivial differences and come together to make a formidable team. The 1988 Land Rover Defender 110 featured here is the epitome of that Special Relationship. It mates a legendary Defender 110 chassis, with reliable and torquey GM V8 power.
From the Anglo side of the family: The Land Rover is a staple of British farms, cities, and battlefields. Relied on for generations to carry food to the table, navigate jungles both real and perceived, and generally keep the Commonwealth’s citizens safe. Is there any other brand, ever, that is as equally at home wading up to its grill in a muddy swamp, as navigating the valet circle at the country club?
And from the American side: The V8, and in particular the Small Block Chevy (or SBC, which is so revered it’s capitalized), is an icon of Yank culture. It inspired a generation to take to the American highway, to hotrod, and make elevens-ees on every quiet rural road from L.A. to Boston. And the modern GM LS engines are the spiritual successor to the SBC. Everyone oohs and ahhs at a 427 big block, but when work needs to get done, or a race needs to get won, it’s often the trusty small block that carries the day.
Like the Anglo-American Relationship, these icons of British and American culture have come together to make a whole which is stronger, more reliable, and all around better than its individual parts. Speaking of parts, this Landy has almost too much to describe in one brief article. But we’ll try.
*How do you get “Al-you-min-eeum” out of aluminum? “Shas-see” out of chassis? “Whot” out of what? Preposterous, as the Brits might say.
Originally a right hand drive truck, this example would have been named a “Land Rover 110” when it was purchased (Land Rover did not adopt the “Defender” name until the Discovery was introduced a few years later). It was imported by the prior owner who performed the restoration, including conversion to left hand drive. It has 16,000 miles post restoration, and the engine and transmission have traveled 42,000 miles. The restoration started with disassembly down to the frame. The body features a repaint in the original “Alaska White.” The paint shows beautifully but is not perfect, with some minor wear, most notably a scratch above the rear door. A North American Specification (NAS) style Defender rear bumper with a Mantec tire carrier, and unused matching spare wheel, are fitted to the back.
Body panels from a later ‘98-’07 Defender (referred to as a “TD5”), are fitted including: hood (or bonnet, if you prefer), front doors and cards, front wings/fenders, the bulkhead, windshield frame, front seat boxes, and rear cargo door. The front bezel and grill, roof, and rear windows are from a post 2007 Defender (referred to as a “Puma”). Series Defender Outfitters provided stainless steel external hardware and bolts. Clean, TD5 Defender hinges are utilized (see pics in gallery for detailed shots of hardware and hinges).
Under the body the frame was fully galvanized before reassembly. An aluminum rear tub floor with aluminum cross supports from Geared Restoration is fitted for reduction in galvanic corrosion. There is a larger 23.4 gallon gas tank from a Land Rover Discovery I.
The interior received front seats from a donor Defender. They are in overall good condition with some wear on the driver's bolster, and the seat rails show some wear and surface rust. The seller also has a pair of new Exmoor heated front seats for Defenders, available for purchase separately. The rear bench seat is a new unit from Exmoor covered in black leather. A new headliner was fitted in black. For added interior comfort Dynamat was added under the front floor, seatbox, rear load area, and to the doors and roof. Closed cell foam was also added to the roof and rear load area. Heat reducing material was added to the bulkhead and and transmission tunnel.
The external and internal roll cage is from Safety Devices. An Ashcroft Centre Console , designed for the auto transmission on the NAS Defender, sits between the front seats. New floor boards are covered with purposeful rubber matting from a TD5 Defender. The dash is also from a TD5, and is fitted with Webasto air conditioning, a bluetooth compatible head unit, and a Dakota Digital CAN bus driven gauge cluster. The cluster can read engine coolant temp, oil temp, air intake temp and trans temp. The head unit powers Focal front and rear speakers, tweeters, and there is a powered 8” subwoofer in the passenger seat box. The front windows are electric, and the rear are roll-up. A Lokar electronic accelerator pedal is fitted (the electronic unit has the added benefit of creating additional room in the pedal box), and a Speartech wiring harness communicates between it all.
But it’s not just the show, there’s also plenty of go. That Speartech harness connects the controls inside to the Heartbeat of America, a 5.3L GM “LS” V8. This one is a Gen IV LC9 aluminum block and head out of a 2013 Silverado, along with the matching 6L80 6 speed automatic transmission. The motor and trans were coupled to the chassis and other drivetrain components using RW Engineering’s LS conversion components. Drivetrain install also included a new exhaust with California compliant Y pipe and catalytic converters. The transmission is selected through a Lokar Sport Shifter with tap shifting capability (not presently hooked up). The transmission runs to the wheels through a center locking differential, and a rebuilt 2 speed Ashcroft LT230 transfer case with the 1.2 gear set. The transfer case runs power out through Tom Wood’s double cardan drive shafts, front and rear. The rear is fitted with a Truetrac limited slip diff. And finally, the power runs to the ground through wheels from Stockton Wheel (7.5x16) with custom offsets, and BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s in 285/75 16. The KO2s are one of the few robust off road capable tires that also feature the three peaked snow rating, and perform admirably on pavement.
The tires are a fitting way to finish off what may be the best Defender 110 build we've ever seen.
See the gallery below for detailed pictures, including pictures during the restoration. Note that a custom shift boot was added over the gear selector after the bulk of the gallery pictures were taken. Shots of the new shifter boot can been seen at the end of the gallery.