BLACK & WHITE

DEANO STARTS KITTING OUT HIS DEFENDER.

WORDS DEAN MELLOR

AFTER throwing a heap of money at my old Defender, I reckon itís finally mechanically sound (knock on wood); although, there are still a few little things to sort out, such as the still-leaking auxiliary fuel tank.

When new, the little 2.5-litre fourcylinder turbo-diesel engine only made a claimed 111hp (83kW), and I reckon a few of those ponies may have got out of the gate in the last 23 years, but on-road performance is still acceptable. The Defender will happily cruise at 100km/h on the highway and I can even stretch it out to 110 clicks on the freeway, so long as the terrain is flat Ö or pointing downhill. It struggles a bit on inclines and often needs a shift down to fourth, but I try to leave early for appointments so Iím never in too much of a rush. The upside of that modest output is excellent fuel economy, the Defender averaging just 10L/100km over the past 1000km.

The best thing, however, is how the Defender now rides and handles. Thereís minimal play in the steering, ride quality is good and cornering is predictable with well-controlled bodyroll Ö relative to other Defenders, that is. The new Xtreme Outback clutch has bedded in nicely. It offers a progressive feel and is only a little heavier than I remember the old clutch being.

To say Iím impressed with the BF Goodrich A/T KO2s would be an understatement, both on sealed and unsealed roads. On the blacktop they offer plenty of grip and are particularly confidence-inspiring in wet weather.

Are they quiet? Well, thatís a hard one to answer, but I can assure you theyíre barely audible over the wind noise and mechanical cacophony that the Defender generates at highway speeds. Off-road they bag out nicely with pressures dropped to around 25psi, which youíd expect of a high-profile LT235/85R16. I havenít had the chance to drive them in muddy conditions as yet, but Iíll let you know how they go as soon as I find out.

As any Defender owner knows, too much chequer plate is never enough, so I was pretty stoked when the oldies bought me a pair of wing-top chequer plates for my birthday. I reckon black highlights on a white vehicle look fantastic, and these plates are no exception. Iíve also spent a fair bit of time trying to remove the worn Defender decals down each side.

Using a heat gun, I managed to get the stickers completely off the driverís side, but thereís still some adhesive residue that wonít budge. Iíve only just started peeling off the stickers on the passenger side. If anyone has any tips on easy decal removal, Iím all ears.

Iíve put some new mud flaps on the back (the old ones went AWOL) and a new catch in one of the sliding rear windows. I sourced these items out of the UK as I struggled to find them locally.

My next job was fitting an ARB winch bullbar that I spotted on Gumtree for $750. I called the seller one morning a couple of weeks ago, whipped up to Sydney (from the íGong) to buy the bar, whipped back home and spent the arvo in the shed fitting it. My wife Renata

helped me lift the bar into place and the whole job was done in a just a few hours. This was the second bullbar sheís helped me fit, so Iíll probably have to start paying her soon, but now sheíll have to wait until after Iíve bought a winch (which undoubtedly sheíll also have to help me fit).

Finally, the Lightforce Genesis LED driving lights I had fitted to my previous vehicle are now on the front of the Defender. Using the supplied Lightforce wiring loom, these lights are easy to wire-up on a regular vehicle, but not so on a Defender, with its battery located under the passenger seat, next to no space between the radiator and the grille, and no access behind the dashboard without first removing it. The Aussie-made Lightforce Genesis driving lights are seriously bright, and will prove a great complement to the yellow glow of the standard halogen headlights Ö once I get them wired-up properly.

Iíve ordered an Exmoor Trim rear seat from the UK for my daughter to sit in, because the standard seat is hardly what youíd call safe. The stock pew has no headrest and wobbles around on its dodgy-looking mounts. The Exmoor unit mounts securely to the floor of the Defender and has a high back and a headrest.

Another job on the to-do list is to fix the air conditioning, especially now winter is well and truly behind us. I also want to tidy-up the cargo area and make it a little more practical, but for now Iím just enjoying the Defender every time I slip behind the wheel, whether itís a weekend in the scrub or a drive down to the shops.

PRODUCT INFO

Lightforce Genesis: lightforce.com.au ARB bullbar: arb.com.au Xtreme Outback clutch: xtremeoutback.com.au