As we mentioned in our post, we purchased a 4×4 vehicle for our new 4WD Adventures; we are now the owners of a Land Rover Defender TD5. His former owner used the vehicle for short-term raids in Northern Africa and Central Asia and came with a couple of raid accessories. But we decided to revamp the car and went into a 4×4 conversion that fit our needs and travel plans as we continue our world trip. Below we give an overview of the current work process, but we will detail each section with more details about what we did, why we did so, and what we used.
Our Defender TD5
Why we opted for this specific model is based on several criteria. While we long considered a Toyota Land Cruise 80 series (HDJ80), the Defender appeared to be a better option for us. A post on comparing both cars will be done shortly – stay tuned for more!
Our Land Rover Defender is a :
- manual shift (easier to fix in many countries around the world, spare parts easier to find, and fewer electronics)
- 5-door (allows for more “habitable” space given the 5 entry points)
- 2006 (the most recent year with limited electronics)
- Diesel (higher availability and more reliable mechanics)
- TD5 engine (we did not want the electronics that come with the TD4 model or any new Defender models)
- 110 body
- 47 220 miles (76 000 km)
- A/C (because Africa…)
Existing 4WD Accessories
- 12-Gallon (45L) built-in water tank (because Africa still…)
- 47-Gallon (140L) built-in Diesel tank (for higher autonomy as we explore off-the-beaten-path destinations)
- 2-in (5-cm) body lift
- Koni Raid shocks back and front
- King springs
- Front Runner Slimline gallery (for the kiteboarding gear)
- Underbody protection plates
- Reinforced spare wheel support
4WD Camping Accessories
- Fridge (gotta keep our cheese and beers cold)
- Side awning (perfect for getting some shades when parked with no trees around under the hot summer sun)
- Back awning (ideal for narrow parking space and rainy mealtime)
Our Custom 4X4 Conversion
First, the Defender was due for a good cleanup, so Bruno stripped it bare. There was a certain amount of hardened sand in various locations, so it was well worth it.
Bruno removed the previous owner’s setup, including heavy wood pieces that held his sleeping arrangement. But the engine area was also caked with sand, and a deep cleaning was required around many parts.
As we are planning on taking the Defender from the cold of winter in the Alps, against the strong winds of Patagonia and the hot desert temperatures of Africa, we decided to insulate as much as we could.
The roof and inside the structure are covered with cork and foil insulation.
Reworking the electrical configuration took some time. First, figure out what we needed, where we needed, and finally, how to get it there!
Here we removed the former layout that was placed on a thick and heavy wooden pole.
We elevated the fridge and placed a new heater underneath, with the vent connection through the deck.
Other electrical work in progress includes adding USB drives and LED lights throughout the car. All under the supervising eyes of our cat – nothing passes her attention!
4wd Camping Setups
The previous sleeping arrangement was a set of mattresses placed over a thick and heavy wood panel.
We removed that heavy wood structure and replaced it with lighter plywood. The goal was to have a modular structure we could convert depending on the needs:
- Sleeping inside in case of high winds, early departure, or sensitive areas that require an inside stay
- Cooking option when the weather doesn’t let us use the awnings (too windy, too much rain, too cold) so we can transform the bed into a sitting area with a kitchen table
- Sitting friends and family into the two back seats, requiring the bed structure to shift backward
While we did sleep a few nights in the previous settings and used the two backseats when we traveled with friends, we have yet to try the interior cooking layout.
Past sand accumulation and rust damaged the ventilation. Bruno ordered a new motor, scrubbed the whole system, and replaced a new motor.
To prevent dust, debris, and sand from filling inside moving forward, Bruno put on a new ventilation air intake.
New 4WD Tires
We replaced the old Mud tires with a new set of Cooper ST Maxx.
New 4WD Accessories, Repairs & Maintenance
Hopefully, we can soon travel and start playing with our Def. There is more work to be done, pieces to be replaced, setups to be optimized – a custom conversion really never ends, like in any new home! Among the projects, missing parts, and maintenance, we will need to:
- Fix the A/C since our air conditioning leaks
- Attach an air compressor
- Place our new 4WD roof tent
- Change the bushings (silent-blocs)
- Install the 4WD camping shower layout, and maybe a frame where we can hang the shower curtains
- Fit a bike rack behind the spare tire
- Connect a coverage section between the side and back awnings so that we don’t get rained on when we move from one area to the other
- Change the track rod
- Repair the leaking radiator
- Full oil change
- Get recovery ropes (cordes cinétiques)
- Complete our 4WD camping equipment
We can’t wait to hit the road again, and take our Def to epic road trips like here in Corsica until we can cross oceans and take on deserts, jungles, and anything in between!
4WD Driver Training
Though we had a 4WD car before with our Subaru, we have yet to drive on rough terrains and through tough passages. Once the Def is up and running, we need to gain serious 4WD driver training and learn what we can and cannot do with our 4×4. Have you taken similar training before? I totally understand we are all coming with different levels of driving knowledge and comfort, so your and our experience, expectations, and needs will surely differ. But we would love to hear from you, to see what worked or didn’t in your case.
Do you own a 4WD car? Did you make custom preparations ahead of your off-road adventures? Are you Team Toyota or Team Land Rover? What conversion did you find the most useful? Please share with us your adventures!
If you are looking for more road trip ideas, check out our travel blog posts on:
Stay tuned for more adventures
from our travel around the world!
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