One of the biggest problems with purchasing an un-restored Defender is sorting through the issues that might create both short-term and long-term problems for the new owners.  We write and publish these guides as a way to share the issues we’ve seen over the years and give you additional education so you don’t make the mistakes that those before you often did.

Defender Buyer Beware

Keep this in mind:  no matter how honest the seller of a bargain Defender might be, there will always be hidden issues.  Always.  Sometimes this is intentional, but often it’s just that Defender owners often overlook these nagging issues, as they’ve simply gotten used to them.  Granted, there continue to be online sellers that purposefully try to scam and cheat, but we will leave that for our other blog posts to describe.

When we look at a donor Defender for import or restoration, we spend quite a bit of time poking around looking for potential issues that can either cost us money, or leave us stranded.  We also do this service as a pre-purchase inspection for folks in the UK and the US from time to time, as well.  The goal is to make sure that we, or the buyer, has as much information as possible before they agree to a purchase.  Or, for us, we do this before we begin any restoration process – knowing the process, approach, and parts we will need to match the build spec for the particular project.

What To Expect When Expecting

“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is a pregnancy guide released in 1984. It is a top-selling book on The New York Times Best Seller list and is considered one of the most influential books of the past twenty-five years for people expecting a baby.  We’ve been working on our own version of the book called, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Defender,” but haven’t quite finished it yet.  One of the most important lessons of the pregnancy guide is to be prepared for each stage of the process – including that happens after the baby comes home from the hospital.

In the case of a Defender adoption, you get a little bit more freedom to choose which Defender comes home with you.  It’s a luxury most parents don’t get to have – although I think a few of you might have wished that was the case.  In terms of expectations for a Defender, they should match with your investment.  If you’re looking at a cheap Defender, you should expect a cheap Defender with issues. If you’ve got some extra time to look around and a little bit more money up front, you could end up with a Harvard-potential Land Rover Defender to bring home.

Sample Defender Inspection and Assessment

The gallery below was taken on a recent inspection we did for a customer of ours in England.  He was an American who lived in Ireland for a couple years for work.  While he was there he acquired a Defender to drive around.  The previous owners had swapped the 2.5L Turbo Diesel for a 300Tdi (poorly).  This created an issue for him to be able to export it immediately – which is where we came in.  In order for his Defender to be eligible to be shipped to the US, we will need to ensure it conforms to the import rules and regulations.  Unfortunately, that means sourcing a 19J (Turbo Diesel) lump and putting it back in there – even if it’s just temporary for import.

While we have it at our workshop, we’ve discussed doing some general refresh and restoration – as the cost of parts/pieces can be much more affordable without shipping them across the ocean.  We had planned to try and keep the patina of the vehicle (and keeping costs down), by doing a little door repair. Upon closer inspection, we found a few other items that needed to be addressed, as well.

From Previous Chassis Repair to Rust and Rot Issues

Our client purchased this Defender in 2020, with the previous owner providing documented proof of the chassis being stripped down, red oxide primer treated, and sealed.  From the photos, it appeared the work had been done to a good standard.  Once we got the Defender on the lift in the workshop, it showed how quickly a good chassis can turn to an ugly chassis.  While we can’t judge the work that was previously done, we can admit that the Irish weather has certainly done a number on that previous work.  There were several areas on the chassis that will need immediate attention. It’s not that it’s dangerous to drive int his condition, it’s more so that the rust will continue to grow unless it is taken care of and properly treated at this stage. Any holes should be patched and the inside of the chassis should be completely steam cleaned and treated to prevent future rust and damage.

Here Is Our Assessment

We spent several hours going through both cosmetic and mechanical systems on this particular Defender.  Not all of these issues will need to be addressed to make it a reliable driver.  Much of the cosmetic issues will be a matter of preference and expectations from the owner.  As it is already his own Defender, he’s done the biggest part already.  Deciding which issues to take on, and in what order, is now the next challenge.

Bulkhead corrosion drivers side.
All doors in poor condition.
C pilers corroded and holed.
Tub floor in poor condition.
Oil cooler not attached.
Steering box and lines leaking badly.
Bulkhead holed on drivers side.
Engine smokey,white/gray/black.
Incorrect coolant bottle.
Radiator in poor condition.
Rear seat box badly corroded and holed.
Chassis cross beam holed.
Front chassis holed.
Swivels corroded.
Chassis holed by front cross member.
Exhaust system in poor condition.
Chassis holed by rear gearbox mounts.
Rear suspension in poor condition.
Excessive play in different and poss transfer box.
Very notch to drive,suspect incorrect axles.
Every body panel damaged.

Project Update (Fall 2022)

After being pushed around our workshop for the better part of a year while the customer decided what he wanted to do with the Defender, it finally left for the port today. Granted, the owner decided not to get the Defender to an import conforming standard. It had been rejected the first time it went to the port due to the interior being filled not only spare parts, but all sorts of creatures and organic matter.

If this makes it through US Customs we will be surprised.