If someone told you to imagine an expedition crossing a desert in a far-off land you’d probably picture a Land Rover as the vehicle of choice. The ARB Land Rover Defender 110 that we took on the ARB Off Road Icons trip across Australia’s Simpson Desert is just that vehicle. Boxy, tons of windows, tall and skinny tires, and a roof rack piled high with camping gear, the Defender fits the image. It doesn’t hurt that ARB was started by Anthony “Tony” Ronald Brown (initials ARB) when he wanted to build bumpers and gear for his own Land Rover back in 1976.
The 1995 Defender 110 we used is a bit nicer than whatever series Rover Brown started with. It comes standard with a coil-sprung suspension, and the ARB store in West Australia upfitted it with an Old Man Emu suspension. Plus, under the hood is a 300 TDI diesel engine that pulled the mighty Defender over almost every dune we pointed it at. Sure, the Defender had some quirks, but every old 4x4 does.
The big red Rover was found by the ARB staff and purchased from a previous owner, who had planned to travel around in it after retirement but then opted to sell it. Before long, the Rover was on the rack getting a slew of new ARB parts and a pile of replacement Land Rover parts such as a vacuum pump for the brakes, an alternator, a headliner, a gauge cluster surround, brake pads, an ignition switch, and wiper controls. The resulting 4x4 has tons of character, rides great, and would be the perfect family truckster for the family looking to drive around the world.
Before the trip the interior of the Defender was worked over with some new gauges. All of the icons were manual transmissions, which isn’t too bad unless you realize that they were also right-hand drive. The Rover’s R380 five-speed transmission took a little getting used to for an American driver, but after a few hundred miles the shifting with your left seemed normal.
In addition to the normal service parts to get it back up and running well, a pile of ARB accessories was added. ARB has multiple stores in Australia where the company can upgrade your 4x4 no matter whether it’s a boxy solid-axle Land Rover or a new IFS Toyota.
The Defender was fitted with an ARB bumper, a Warn winch, IPF LED off-road lights, and a Safari Snorkel to keep the air intake up in the fresh air and above water. An ARB deluxe roof rack was piled high with swags, a heavy canvas one-person tent that incorporates a thick mattress. The packed-to-the-gills Defender not only looked the part of the safari truck but was great at chugging along through loose sand and wet mud.
An Old Man Emu suspension cleared 235/85R16 Cooper Discoverer A/T3 tires. We were wary of the all-terrain pattern, but the Rover never lost its footing. It clawed its way up and over the thousands of dunes that cover the Simpson Desert. Plus, there wasn’t a single flat tire along the trip.
The rear Salisbury differential under the 110 is very similar to the popular Dana 60, but the Rover version is offset to the passenger, er, driver side (right side). ARB Air Lockers are found behind the ARB diff cover. The big gray tank is a 120-liter (32-gallon) Long Ranger tank for plenty of diesel and distance.
Tech Specs1995 Land Rover Defender 110
Engine:2.5L 300 TDI diesel
Transmission:R380 5-speed manual transmission
Front Axle: stock with ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: stock with ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: Old Man Emu
Tires & Wheels: 235/85R16 Cooper Discoverer A/T3 on steel wheels
Lighting: IPF LED spot lights
Other Stuff: ARB Deluxe winch bar; Warn 9.5 XDC-s winch; headlights were upgraded with IPF reflectors and globes; ARB deluxe roof rack; Recaro seats; twin on-board compressor for easy tyre (tire) inflation; Safari snorkel; GME TX4500S UHF combined with a GME 6.6Db antenna; Redarc BCDC dual battery setup; ARB fridge freezer; Long Ranger 120-liter (32-gal) fuel; Hayman Reece tow bar