A couple of years ago we came across a very interesting Land Rover Defender 110 project for sale. It was a beautiful original Arles Blue 200Tdi with a strange roof hatch system. When we inquired, the owner told us the Defender had started its life in Kenya as a vehicle leading safari trips. The top hatch was designed to allow people to open it up and observe nature from the safety of the vehicle. We were hooked. Money was wired. The vehicle was immediately collected.
Now, what we were going to do with this unique Defender had not been decided – or even thought about at this point. All we knew is that it had a cool backstory and we wanted it.
Fun + Adventures with the Safari Land Rover Defender
We tucked it away in the Salisbury, England workshop yard and didn’t give it much thought after that. It was too interesting to use as a donor truck for a restoration, but not quite nice enough to sell as a Preservation Series or Adventure-Ready Series Bishop+Rook Defender. We decided to keep it for ourselves to enjoy.
The guys in England used the roof hatch for a few “rolling” hunting trips out on the farm. It started and drove wonderfully each time. As we grew more curious, we started to poke around the vehicle to see what the real condition she was in. It turned out that the years of service in Africa were very kind to this particular adventuring Land Rover. Aside from some surface corrosion on the doors and a bit of surface rust on the chassis, she was a rather solid little Landy.
Importing the Land Rover Defender 110 Safari Truck to America
Truth be told, I was a little jealous that I didn’t get to enjoy the fun they were having with the Safari Defender. The world was on lockdown and I was unable to travel to our English shop. I told Tom and Andrew in the Salisbury workshop that they should prep the Defender for travel. She was moving to America!
We had grand dreams of doing something with the Defender but found ourselves well behind on other projects. After a spirited weekend of driving – and discovering a nasty little wobble at 55mph, she was parked up again in front of our Minneapolis workshop where she sat until today.
Project Mombasa – A Preservation Story
We don’t restore all the vehicles we get into the workshop. Some are just too interesting to do anything other than sorting them out mechanically and enjoy them for what they are. The story of Mombasa (named because of her service in Kenya) is one of saving her heritage and history of adventure, but ensuring she is as solid and as reliable as a full nut-and-bolt restoration.
We spent the better part of a day poking around this gem of a Defender, making a mental list of items that needed to be addressed – including spending the better part of an afternoon figuring out the extended fuel tank we found hidden under the driver’s seat.
We decided that we would try to save this old Land Rover Defender 110 in a very unique way. We want to find a way to preserve every bit of the patina on the vehicle while making her fit for long overland adventures. We will feature her in our latest Bishop+Rook Defender TV Defender Rescue series. We’re not quite sure how far we will go, but the hope is that we will be able to share our knowledge of Land Rover Defender restoration through the eyes of saving this one from the terrible fate of either rusting away in a field – or worse – being fully restored and eliminating her charm.