Building a Land Rover Defender to fit the needs of your lifestyle takes time. We’ve developed an effective process that puts you at the center of the design and build process.
Bishop+Rook Heritage Build Process
PRE-BUILD – DREAM + DESIGN
Getting Started / Learning + Inspiration
One of our favorite parts of the build/refresh process is getting to know our customers and how they’re planning on using their new Defender. We’ve built enough vehicles over the years where we’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what types of builds will work for each person. We ask some simple questions such as: Will this be a second vehicle, your level of mechanical ability, family size, location where the vehicle is going to be driven, etc.
The first step could be over email, a phone call, or a visit to our design studio (that’s a fancy way of pretending our shop has polished floors and chill-out music pumping through the shop).
To help keep us a little more organized and dedicated the proper resources to the design process, we ask for a small deposit up-front, which is 100% refundable if you decide not to move forward.
NOTE: We’re never offended if you simply send us photos of vehicles – even if we didn’t build them – and say, “This, this is what I would like.” We’re more than happy to use inspiration from other places.
PHASE ONE – SOURCING
Moving Forward / Sourcing + Budgeting
Once we decide on an overall design and build direction, we select from our inventory of base vehicles we have in stock. We generally keep between 25-30 vehicles between our shops in the US, UK, and Spain. We inventory a combination of right hand drive (RHD) and left hand drive (LHD) Defenders, as Defender 90s, Defender 110s, and sometimes (if we’re lucky) a Defender 130.
Often times, one of our base vehicles could be close to what you’re already looking for and we simply need to determine what mechanical and cosmetic refreshes are necessary for it to fit your expectations.
During the design phase we will set up an inspiration mood board where we collect images and details of each unique build. This could be as simple as selecting the wheels and tires package, or soft-top vs hard top features. This helps us both be on the same page for the build and gives us a better idea on your ultimate style and preference for the final Defender product.
PHASE TWO – DISASSEMBLY
The Work Begins / Disassembly + Bodywork
Our goal is always to create a mechanically sound vehicle with very little cosmetic issues. A finely aged Defender will often times come with a great patina – that only exists once in its life. Depending on the build, we may simply try to slow the aging process and protect the vehicle for another generation.
Sometimes we can get away with minor tactical repairs on vehicles – welding up floor pans, replacing doors, replacing components, sealing the chassis, etc. Other times we find it is more efficient to disassemble the entire vehicle down to the chassis. This helps expose hidden corrosion and problem areas other builders might not see (or care to take care of). This also gives us full access to repair hard-to-reach mechanical issues that would become expensive as a one-off repair further down the road.
It makes us sad when we see beautiful trucks come into our shop that have hidden rust on the bulkhead behind fresh paint, or chassis that have been crudely painted and sealed with the mud still in place (it happens, sadly, a lot).
We fight a lot of crusted and old bolts during this stage of the build. We generally replace any old bolts with new (and correct) fasteners. It’s amazing what qualifies as a replacement bolt, screw, nail, bubble gum, on old Defenders.
Based on the disassembly process we then evaluate if we need new panels, if we need to repair any rust, or if anything is out of spec. Body work is completed and paint is applied, as necessary. A full re-spray typically involves painting each panel separately to ensure complete coverage and protection.
PHASE THREE – RE-ASSEMBLY
Back Together / Build + Style
By this point in the process we generally have a big stack of parts laying around – both old and new ones. If something can be saved, we do our best to retain and preserve those elements. Factory parts not only fit better, but they help maintain the history of each project. Fitting new parts for the sake of fitting new parts doesn’t always serve a practical purpose. Refreshing old brackets and parts to protect them for another 25 years makes much more sense than trying to use an aftermarket component that may or may not be to Land Rover standards.
Final decisions are made for aesthetic elements – internal and external. We re-work the wiring system, re-assemble panels, double check mechanical elements, and the Defender begins the rebirth process.
A few important decisions that are confirmed at this stage are:
Wheels and Tyre Package
Grills and Light Surriounds
Roof Racks + Accessories
Final Upholstery Finishing Element
PHASE FOUR – REFINEMENT
Coming To Life / Electronics + Mechanical
Now that the panels have all been put in place the Defender starts to come to the shape we recognized at the beginning – except only looking better than ever. Imagine if you sent your Defender on a spa vacation and it came back looking 20 years younger. That’s where we are at in the process.
Any final work will be done to the braking system, fuel system, cooling system, and electronics. All wiring components will be tested and connectors refreshed or renewed. We go through each fuse box and eliminate 25 years of dodgy patch work, bush fixes, and general mayhem that has occurred under the dash by well-intending previous owners and keepers.
Once the Defender has been re-assembled, all wiring back in place, mechanical elements properly refreshed/restored, the vehicle can now we driven.
PHASE FIVE – TEST DRIVE
On The Road / Testing + Tweaking
One of our favorite parts of the process is when we fire up the engine for the first time after a long refresh process. We’re able to pull the Defender out of the shop into the daylight, where we start to perform our extensive process of checking all our work. Cooling hoses, brake lines, power steering, and turbo connections are checked and double checked. We get the Defender up to temp and check for leaks, overheating, and other issues that need to be addressed.
Once we’re satisfied that mechanical components are good to go, we take her out for a little test drive and check for suspension handling, braking, road noise, and general driving performance. Anything that shows up on this initial run will be fixed, modified, or tweaked.
After the initial drive and adjustments are made we take each vehicle out for an extended trip to do a final shake down of all the components. It’s also a time when we take a lot of photos and smile.
FINAL PHASE – DELIVERY
New Home / Introductions + Shipment
The final stage is generally pretty bittersweet for us here a Bishop+Rook. While we love releasing the newly refreshed Defenders back into the wild, we do form pretty significant bonds with each of our builds.
For those that are able to pick them up in person we give you a few driving lessons, take you out for a burger at Sandy’s Tavern, and hand over the keys.
For those who we are shipping the finished project to, we will do a Facetime or video walk around to introduce you to all the features (or particularities) of your new family member, and then we help load it up on the transport. Wer’re able to assist with shipping logistics 99% of the time.