Restoring a Land Rover Defender Part 1 - Life Fiend

Restoring a Land Rover Defender Part 1

I’d like to take you back a few years to 2011…

A work colleague of mine (who later became a good friend), Pink, had his dream car – a 1996 Land Rover Defender 300Tdi. I remember it well. He had spent a lot of money on it. I think he originally bought it for around £5k plus many thousands upgrading everything that he could.

Several years after owning the car, I remember hearing that Pink and his Land Rover had got involved in bit of an argument with a speeding BMW driving on the wrong side of the road. Luckily nobody was hurt apart from a bit of pride, but unfortunately, the poor Landy was in a sorryful state and it looked likely that it would be heading to Land Rover Heaven…

Fast forward to December 2016, when I happened to be talking to Pink about his car and asked him what happened to it. Apparently, it didn’t quite make it to Land Rover Heaven after all, but instead, had spent a lonely 7 years rotting away in his mother’s garden.

Suddenly, a crazy idea went through my head, and £600 later, I was the proud new owner of a Land Rover that would definitely need a bit more than a few coats of T-Cut.

Later that week, early in the morning, I was on my way to Pinks to collect my new car…

This is probably a good time to mention that I had absolutely no clue about Land Rovers and as a hard-core biker, I didn’t really know much about any other cars either, apart from the ones I had owned.

I knew that the car was going to be in a bit of a state after sitting out in the British winter for seven years, but I wasn’t prepared for quite how bad it was going be…

Initial Inspection

When I arrived to look at the Landy, the first thing I saw were huge brambles completely covering it. They had got in through the missing windows and had even grown through the radiator into the engine compartment. Nature really is wonderful.

30 minutes later with the help of thick leather gloves and some garden snips, Pink and I managed to get to the car to have a good look.

Even though the car looked in such a sad state, I was really starting to get excited about the thought of stripping and rebuilding it.

The engine compartment was completely full of brambles and crap and what looked like, a birds nest. Sorry birds, but we need our car back. We cleaned out as much as we could and then started figuring out how to get the car back to my house.

Attempting to Start the Engine

We decided to try to get it started. Obviously, the battery was dead so we hooked up Pink’s 110 to jumpstart it. The keys had been lost a long time ago so first of all we had to hot-wire it. Pretty simple on cars like this.

We tried starting it but after a few attempts I noticed that water was dripping out of the air cleaner box. I should probably have removed the air cleaner first. It was completely rusted so we had to resort to using a small hammer to try and break the seal. In fairness, this was the first time we had used a hammer today so I think we were doing quite well.

As soon as we got the cover off, a load of water came out. Anyway, back to starting the engine…

After a few more attempts (with the addition of a booster starter along with the power that we were already getting from Pink’s car), the car started!! I was really surprised. We let it run for a few minutes then shut it off.

Time for some ham sandwiches for a late lunch, courtesy of Pink’s Mum.

Now, if we could just reverse the car out of the bushes, that would be a great achievement for today and it would be ready to be towed away once I’d figured out how or who was going to do that. 

With Pink at the helm and me guiding (what could possibly go wrong), we managed to reverse the car a few meters when Pink suddenly realised he couldn’t turn the steering wheel! Of course… The steering lock had kicked in and there were no keys in the ignition to unlock it!

It was starting to get dark and that was enough progress for one day. To contnue, we would have to cut off the steering lock and we just didnt have the tools so it was home time for me whilst still feeling the pain from all the thorn wounds I’d aquired…

I have created a series of videos on YouTube to document the rebuild and refurbishment and you can watch these as you follow this blog. You can find the first video below (please consider subscribing to my channel as it will really help me).

Coming up in Part 2 – We’ll be trying to turn the car around in the garden ready to get it towed away to its new home.

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