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1995 Defender 90 - On Safari

Posted in Features on October 1, 2003 Comment (0)
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1995 Defender 90 - On Safari

It's not everyday that we see Land Rovers out on the trail. When we do, we take notice. The name Land Rover is synonymous with off-roading and adventure travel, and it exemplifies the rugged individualist in us all. Though you may not drive one everyday, if you were heading off across the Kalahari Desert with a herd of pachyderms in chase, what else could you imagine driving but a Land Rover clad with a hood-mounted spare, a PTO winch inside a rhino-proof factory bumper, and a roof rack overburdened with jerrycans, ladder tracks, and camp gear?

Greg Jevne, owner of Safari Gard, purveyors of heavy-duty Land Rover and Range Rover accessories, is a long-time loyalist of the Rover family. So when the time came to create a vehicle capable of hauling the family out for day of hard-core wheeling, the choice was obvious. What Greg came up with was a family rig capable of competition: the Rock-90.

Land Rovers have been trouncing around the globe for more than half a century. In fact, the first unit emerged from post-WWII Britain in 1948. Presented at the International Motor Expo in Amsterdam, it was the brain child of brothers Spencer and Maurice Wilks, who worked for Rover automobile company. With a utilitarian design, lightweight aluminum body, and reliable four-wheel drive, it gained immediate acceptance and was soon named Land Rover. By 1959, more than 250,000 units rolled off the assembly line, and they quickly found niches in military, industrial, and civilian applications around the world.

As civilian demand grew through the '60s, '70s, and '80s, Land Rovers were given a facelift. The new-generation rigs were refined to provide creature comforts while maintaining the traditional heavy-duty platform. While some believe today's Rovers have been refined to the point that their off-road prowess has been diminished, they are still as tough as ever. And this is exactly what Greg wanted as a platform for a competition Land Rover rock buggy.

Starting with a rolled '95 Defender 90, Greg removed the crumpled sheetmetal from the chassis. To handle the grueling demands of competition rockcrawling, a new suspension was needed. The original frame was reinforced and cropped at both ends. Replacing the rear OEM parts is an engineered three-link setup based on two trailing arms and a wishbone center link. The front is a four-link design with chromoly Heim joints that allow smooth transitions throughout the range of motion. This setup, with the addition of an antisway bar, provides maximum controlled articulation and fairly tame on-pavement manners.

Levitation and damping are achieved with the help of Fox remote-reservoir coilover shocks and duel Eibach coil springs. The front and rear use 14-inch and 16-inch coils respectively, with coil spring combinations of 320/100-pound rear and 250/150-pound front. To manage excessive upward travel, Fox 4-inch nitrogen bumpstops were added.

For bulletproof axle components, a pair of high-pinion, reverse-rotation Dyantrac R60s were installed. The rear 35-spline unit is fitted with 5.13 ring-and-pinion gears, a Detroit locking differential, and is capped with disc brakes. The front received a new pair (not even on the market yet) of Superior 4340 alloy axles and an ARB locker.

In British fashion, everything under the bonnet is tidy and has its place. The Rock-90 retained its original 3.9L EFI mill. With the exception of a K&N air filter to assist aspiration, the motor was left stock and churns out a modest 180 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. A C&R Racing radiator was slipped into the front hoop to keep things cool, and a firewall mounted, 2.5-gallon Safari Gard aluminum air tank supplies pneumatic motivation to the front ARB locker, air horn, and air tools. Dual Hawker Engineering 1,200-amp Odyssey batteries bring everything to life, and Earl's fittings and lines ensure sealed cooling and fuel systems. Running out of fuel won't be an issue thanks to a custom 20-gallon aluminum fuel cell fabricated by Safari Gard with Fuel Safe components. Spent exhaust gases are channeled through a Flowmaster exhaust system.

From the pilot bearing back, Greg's Rock-90 was given the works. A new Centerforce flywheel, clutch, and pressure plate are spun by a Weber starter. The tranny was swapped for a New Venture 4500 five-speed, while an Advance Adapters Atlas II transfer case manages torque bias to a pair of J.E. drivelines.

The interior of this rock-hopping family rig was also treated to a major overhaul. The original instrument cluster was retained, along with the firewall, hood, floor pan, and windshield frame for street driving. Additions took the form of a Tuffy Security glovebox and center console, Premier Power Welder controls, front and rear Mastercraft seats, and five-point harnesses. For enhanced night vision, a pair of Hella auxiliary lights was attached to the windscreen posts with Safari Gard's cage-mounted adjustable light brackets.

Putting this creation in touch with terra firma is a set of 40-inch Goodyear Wrangler M/Ts mounted on Allied aluminum bead-lock wheels. When the going gets tough, front and rear Superwinch winches are available. A closer look at the rear axle unveils a Master Pull-wrapped Superwinch x3000 for preloading the suspension, an antisway bar, and a set of Mastercraft limiting straps. Up front is an x9000 fitted with a quick-release hook that can be used for forward pull or to load the front suspension.

In traditional British fashion, Safari Gard's Rock-90 is one tough rig. The next time we hit the Kalahari or Sahara Desert, we may want a windscreen and doors, but with its clean lines and detailed attention to engineering and aesthetics, if we're heading for some backcountry rockcrawlin' with the kids, this is one rig we wouldn't mind having under our jeans.

SPECIFICATIONS
Owner: Greg Jevne
Year/make/model: '95 {{{Defender}}} 90
Engine: Stock 3.9L
Transmission: NV4500
Transfer case: Atlas II
Frontend: Pro Rock 60
Rearend: Pro Rock 60
Ring-and-pinion: 5.13
Suspension: Custom three-link rear;
  four-link front
Wheels/tires: 40-inch Goodyear
  Wrangler M/Ts/Allied
  17-inch aluminum
  bead locks

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