When it comes to adopting a vintage Land Rover Defender, there will always be a general sense of anxiety – especially for first-time buyers. While everyone wants a good deal, sometimes it’s more important to think about the mechanical elements beneath the body rather than the fancy bling on the outside. Your Defender’s provenance should be easy to trace.
We talk about the subject of ‘aesthetics vs. mechanics’ a lot in our guides because we continue to see Defenders come into the Bishop+Rook workshop that have been tarted up to look nice, but hide so many expensive and safety issues beneath.
Just the other day we and a customer bring his recently purchased Defender 90 into the shop for us to take a look at a few issues and advise him on what he should do to fix his vehicle and extend the life of his investment. He had purchased it last year from a local Minneapolis hobbyist importer who buys his trucks from a rather questionable operation in England. They’re known for putting a quick paint job on MOT expired Defenders, while undertaking zero mechanical work or refurbishment.
We knew right away when he pulled into the shop we were going to find issues, as it was the third truck from this particular seller and probably the sixth truck from the UK seller we had seen in the past year. All of them featured the same tell-tale signs of mechanical fraud and misrepresentation:
- Quick paint job with zero prep (paint peals off with a power washer)
- Chassis sealed to conceal rotten chassis
- Poor rust repairs, including silicone and expanding foam to cover issues
- Fresh carpet covering rusty foot wells
- Updated sawtwooth rims with weather cracked tyres
- County wagon stickers on trucks that were poorly converted from panel back Defenders
- Old batteries, clogged cooling systems, leaky seals, rotten bearings, and more
If someone claims they’ve recently done a refurbishment or restoration, they should be able to prove it with receipts and/or photos and videos. If they sell Defenders from their apartment parking garage, you should probably suspect they haven’t done the work themselves – so always question where the work has been done.
Our build process goes from light mechanical refresh to full nut-and-bolt restoration. No matter what approach we take, we document all the work for our customers to enjoy. It’s not only fun to watch along as we complete the work, but it also gives you a nice collection of photos and videos to use should you ever need to sell your Defender (to buy another one, obviously). I don’t fully understand the language of young folks these days, but I think the proper term is “receipts.”
Here are a few examples of things to look for when evaluating a Defender.
Project Talisker – Bishop+Rook Sample Re-Assembly Process
Below are a few sample photos from a recent build. It included a 3/4 Chassis replacement, complete motor rebuild, gearbox/transfer case rebuild, On-Air air ride adjustable suspension, brake upgrades, and more. Not only will the exterior look great, but the interior mechanical elements will ensure decades of low-maintenance adventures.