We purchased our new adventure wagon in October 2023 and we are now converting him into an off-road camper. I'll keep this post updated as we progress with the conversion.
Budgie the 110 Defender
Our new vehicle is a 1993 Land Rover Defender 110 County Station Wagon with the 200Tdi (Turbo Diesel Injection) engine. He was affectionately named Budgie by a previous owner's kids, apparently because he had a squeaky fan belt which chirped like a budgie!
Prior to our purchase, Budgie had an extensive renovation including a galvanised chassis and some serious rust repairs. He even came with a photo book recording the work done.
We'd been looking for a Defender since we arrived back in the UK; Ridley was looking at newer models but Sarah spotted the advert for Budgie, who was just down the road from us. The amount of work done meant that Budgie had already been 'future proofed', and we just couldn't resist.
Roof Tent vs Pop-Top
We'd been debating for a while whether to get one large family roof tent, two smaller roof tents, or a pop-top.
We really enjoyed our time in the Yukon, where we hired a Jeep with a roof tent, but we found the soft cover a bit of a faff to pack away and we knew that the boys would soon outgrow the space available in most large roof tents.
We seriously considered an iKamper or TentBox hard shell tent, but even the largest models didn't seem big enough for long term sharing for the four of us.
We thought about fitting two smaller roof tents, but it would require a specially adapted roof rack, and would be a considerable amount of weight up high, and pretty expensive.
In the end we decided on the Icarus pop-top roof conversion from Alu-Cab. While the roof will only sleep two, it is raised in seconds and packed away in only a couple of minutes. The pop-top has the added advantage of giving us standing room inside the Land Rover. We're currently planning a layout which will allow us to use the folded second row seats as beds for the boys.
The roof was fitted for us by Tuff-Trek, along with an Alu-Cab 270 degree awning which wraps around the Landy to give us some outdoor shelter. Tuff-Trek did a great job, and we highly recommend them.
Fitting a Solar System to the Defender Icarus Roof
The next major upgrade was fitting a solar system to Budgie. We went with a fixed 175 Amp solar panel fitted to the Alu-Cab Icarus roof bars and a battery to battery charger. You can read more in our Fitting Solar Panels post.
Anyone who's driven a Defender will know that there is nowhere to put your phone! Budgie doesn't currently have a radio and we don't have a satnav, so we usually use a phone for music and directions.
I'd been looking for a new phone holder for a while, and recently came across an eBay listing for a 3D printed adaptor that would fit in the ashtray space on the dash. The adaptor allowed a Ram Mount to be fitted without drilling any new holes in the dash, and covered up the useless ashtray!
The adaptor was well made, and came with pre-marked positions which aligned perfectly to the Ram Mount 7" Tough Track. After drilling a few quick holes in the adaptor the Tough Track was quickly bolted onto the mount using the bolts supplied with the adaptor.
Once it was all bolted up, the assembly was fitted into the ashtray position and the securing arms tightened up with an allen key. The 1" mounting ball can then be fitted onto the track and the X-Grip phone holder accessory fitted to the ball. The track allows for additional accessories to be fitted later, I'll probably be adding a GoPro mount in the near future!
Overall it's a really quick and easy modification which solves the phone holder issue, only needs a drill and a couple of allen keys, is completely reversible, and makes use of the ashtray; highly recommended!
Adding a Defender roof access step
If you've ever tried accessing the roof of a Defender from the front, you'll know it's pretty easy to get up on the wings, but getting up the windscreen onto the roof is tricky. I'm always worried about damaging the window gutter, or scraping the paint!
I spotted a great step on the LR Challenge 4x4 web site the other day, which really solves this problem (and looks good in the process - in my opinion!).
It's a quick and easy modification, which I managed to complete in my lunch break yesterday. You simply undo three (13mm head) bolts which hold the window hinge in place. You will likely need to pull the door seal trim out of the way to get the socket head in. Replace the 13mm bolts with the longer (14mm head) bolts provided with the step, and position the rubber gasket and step over the bolts. Tighten up the bolts and replace the door seal - job done!
Defender 200tdi Alternator Upgrade
Our alternator failed the other day and since it needed to be replaced anyway, we took the opportunity to upgrade from the standard 45amp version (which had been fitted since 1993) for a new 70amp alternator upgrade from Britpart. This should charge our new leisure battery faster than the old alternator would have done.
* Make sure you disconnect the battery before starting work on the alternator!
I had a fear that there would be lots of other removals required to get the alternator out, like there was with the water pump a few weeks ago, but actually all it was pretty straight forward. All it required was the removal of the air filter housing (which can just be unfastened and moved over to the side) and an air pipe to the turbo (2 jubilee clips). With these out of the way, it was just a case of undoing the three securing bolts.
The new alternator had slightly different wiring connections on the back. On the old alternator the wire from the dash warning light (thin yellow and brown) was connected to a D+ post, but after some friendly advice from the LRUK Forum, I was informed that this had to be connected to the smallest pin of the three pin plug position. So I had to change this wire from a ring connector to a small spade. I also had a blue/brown wire connected to the D+, which appeared to be a non-standard addition. I traced this wire back to a relay inside the back door. This relay controls the power to a socket that charges a caravan battery whilst towing, so that the circuit is only live while the engine is running. I wired this to the same small spade connector.
The new alternator also came with a new red cable, designed to take the higher output from the alternator. This was wired to the B+ terminal along with the original thicker brown wire. The other end of the new red cable was connected to the positive terminal on the starter motor (in parallel to the brown wire - but following a shorter route). It's a bit fiddly to reach the terminal on the starter motor, but can be done without any further removals, if you lie on the wing and reach down!
Once everything is wired up, the new alternator was placed into position, the three securing bolts were loosely fastened, and the alternator belt replaced. Then the belt is tensioned and bolts tightened up. The whole job probably took about 3 hours, but would be much faster if you had standard wire connections.