Mudrut's Lead Vehicle
Our lead vehicle, a 2009 Land Rover Defender 90 hard top with a 2.4 TDCi engine, has had extensive modifications carried out on it so that it is suitable for the challenging conditions we travel to.
The huge amount of upgrade work was carried out by a specialist (Devon 4x4) who already had vast experience in extreme SUV 4x4 modifications. Read all about it by scrolling through this page.
Vehicle Modifications Master Class Part 1
We had already carried out some work on it to suit weekend green laning conditions in the UK and on these occasions, we towed a camping trailer behind it. However, for our Nordkapp trips much more work was needed and we decided it would be more practical if the camping was self-contained. We therefore approached specialists Devon 4x4 to carry out this work for us. They accepted the challenge with relish!
We had already added a raised air intake (we installed one from Mantec with the fantastic name “Plastic Jobby”!), waffle carriers attached to the side of the vehicle using cargo tracks, a roof rack, a demountable winch to the rear and lots of communication and electrical extras in the front. Also, the rear load area needed to be tidy in order to fit all the kit we would need to take. Therefore any piping and wiring had to be tucked out of the way.
To begin with, many of the existing parts had to be stripped out, including the interior side panels and the headlining to the cab. The dash was removed, ready for installation of air conditioning. The heater unit was also removed so that an evaporator unit could be added to it. Then a new wiring loom kit was plugged into the existing wiring and an AC compressor and an additional idler were fitted into a space under the bonnet. Next, a new air conditioning condenser and dryer unit were installed, together with the necessary pipework. New brackets were needed for the condenser as the vehicle has a performance intercooler.
The head lights and roof lights were upgraded and some other lights were moved. In order to accommodate the new air conditioning unit, the front lights behind the grill had to be moved. The original light mounts were taken out and new brackets were made so the lights could be installed higher up and closer to the grill, giving the space required for the air conditioning unit. As standard Defender headlights are not of good quality, these were replaced with IPF lights and bulbs, thus providing a much improved bright, white light. A new Aurora 40” light bar, consisting of 80 LEDs, was installed under the roof rack and two of the old roof lights were moved to the front bumper to provide extra lighting.
Vehicle Modifications Master Class Part 2
The existing demountable winch was secured using a class 3 receiver on a NAS style step. The step, fuel tank, anti-roll bar and wheels were removed and also the old rear cross member, which had to be removed using a plasma cutter. Some careful marking was needed to each side of the vehicle in preparation for trimming, in order to accept the new heavy duty, galvanised rear winch cross member.
Extra support bracing was installed for the class 3 receiver and a small part of the rear tub needed trimming away in order for the rear winch to fit. The Warn Tabor 10 winch is a tight fit and a D44 Clutch / Freespool lever was added to give sufficient space for its operation. The bracing was powder coated in order to provide extra protection and an Allbright HD contactor for the rear winch was added. The cables for the winch were routed down through the body of the vehicle.
In order to travel and sleep in freezing conditions, we needed a robust heating system which could keep the cabin warm enough during the day and also heat a roof tent at night.This needed an inspired solution - it was decided to site the exit for the heater underneath the number plate! The sticky pad used to secure the rear number plate was removed and then a template was created in order to cut a precise hole so the heater pipework could be piped up into the roof tent. A TIG welder was used to weld stainless steel together to provide connectors for the pipework. The number plate was fixed back in place but this time, it was fixed to a hinged metal plate which flips down ready for the heater pipework to be attached.
A "T" piece was used to join the ducting to the Webasto Air Top Heater and on the other side of the bulkhead, a manifold was used to split hot air between the two front seats. A chequer plate panel was then fitted to hide and protect the interior ducting.
The next part involved drilling a hole into the base of the roof tent to accept the ducting. Another template was made, this time to mark where a recess needed to be created to take the bespoke metal connector for the duct work.
A control box for the inside of the tent was made in order to turn the heating on or off, to adjust the temperature and also to provide the capability to charge phones etc. It is now a simple process to get heat to the roof tent by simply flipping down the rear number plate, attaching ducting to the fitting behind this and up through the roof tent and then turning it on!
Vehicle Modifications Master Class Part 3
Defenders can be noisy and also full of condensation due to the lack of insulation. Therefore closed cell foam insulation was affixed to the bare panels to the roof and sides
The next step was to fit the Webasto Air Top 2000 ST heater which was installed so that not only did it provide heat for the roof tent, but also for the cabin. An ARBCKMA12 compressor was installed to provide a tyre inflation system and to run the air lockers and this fitted in well behind the Air Top. Solenoids were required for the air lockers.
Directional heater vents were installed, with removable covers so heat can be directed where it is needed.
We required a new front switch panel to control all the electrical equipment we wanted the ability to run. We decided to do away with the front clock and have it replaced with a USB point. Extra plug in points for phones were added.
We decided to create housing for cutlery and crockery in a side locker fixed to the outside of the vehicle. A locker on the other side holds equipment either for recovery or for the roof tent, depending on our trip. Sheet aluminium was cut, bent into shape and welded together to form the boxes. Holes were cut out to mount the locks which were then fitted, together with the hinges. This also provided a fold-down area for food preparation. We added a 12v power point to run any ancillary equipment and finally, CNC cut foam was used to line the boxes to keep everything safe in its place.
To save time on necessary fuel trips whilst out on expedition, we increased the 60 litre standard capacity of the fuel tank by adding a Safari Equip 30 litre side mounted, gravity fed, auxiliary fuel tank. For this, the existing fuel tank had to be removed by marking the position of the balance pipe hole before removing it. The pick ups for the Webasto heater were fitted to the top of the tank.
The standard tank was re-mounted and a mounting bracket was added for the additional tank.
Part 3 Continued
Defenders have the spare wheel mounted to the rear door but over time, this can cause the rear door to drop and the hinges to wear, which then often have to be replaced. We decided to have a Mantec swing away rear wheel carrier fitted to combat this problem. It swings away with the rear door without any need to first undo securing bolts. The bottom bracket was fitted first and then the rear door plate, using the existing holes. An additional hole was drilled out for the top mounting point and the carrier bolts are added, ready to house the wheel.
door, a slider mounted fridge and a multi-purpose Hi-Lift Xtreme Jack which has been mounted on bespoke bonnet hinges. We had the front winch bumper upgraded and galvanised the steering guards. To control the winch, an Allbright solenoid was added and also a winch isolator.
Bearing in mind the freezing conditions we would be travelling to, we thought it prudent to install a Heatshot. This clever product heats your screen wash before it hits the windscreen, helping to release stuck wipers, clear frozen nozzles, clean insects from the screen and also prolongs the life of your wiper blades. A mounting plate was fitted to the wing before connecting it to the existing washer fluid system.
A final touch was to install a cubby box from Mobile Storage Systems. It has a separate lockable compartment on the front to house our CB radio and is cushioned on the top to provide an elbow rest!
We were delighted with these modifications from Devon 4x4 and added a few last touches ourselves. These included two waterproof “Peli” cases which mount on the roof rack to increase storage capacity, a fold down ladder to make it easier to access the roof rack in difficult conditions, chequer plating to the bonnet and wings to provide essential strengthening for foot traffic, a side awning running the entire length of the roof, providing protection from sun, rain and snow, a cooker mounted to the inside of the rear door, a slider mounted fridge and a multi-purpose Hi-Lift Xtreme Jack which has been mounted on bespoke bonnet hinges.