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Defenders of the Faith, a Land Rover Outfitted to Fight

This article originally appeared in RECOIL Issue 39

There was a time when the words Land Rover brought images to mind of robust safari vehicles chasing lions across the African plains. Over the years its reputation has changed considerably. A new Discovery or Velar would be out of place anywhere other than a valet-attended country club. Although the brand has moved more into competing with other luxury SUV companies, vintage Land Rovers have an ecclesiastical following. The older versions still see considerable use overseas, and there are a few boutique companies passionate about retaining the brand’s off-road, utilitarian roots. Phoenix, Arizona-based Method SV is one such outfit.

First, a little history on the Defender. The model became part of the company’s lineup in 1983, but was originally called the 90 or 110. The Defender’s simplicity and ease of fixing out in the field if you’re stranded make it highly sought after among aficionados. The Defender moniker didn’t come attached to the vehicle until 1991, and Land Rover ceased production of the model in 2016. Since Method SV only focuses on restoring Land Rover Defenders, it was fortuitous that its owner, Brent Frazier, became the one to carry on the legacy of this particular ’89 130 model.

Dillon Aero, who previously owned the vehicle, modified it to serve as a test mule for their M134D minigun. The truck began life as a 110 model, but Dillon Aero had the chassis extended an extra 17 inches. This is the same process used by Land Rover to create the 130 model (technically 127 inches) from the 110 in the years prior to producing the chassis with the 130 wheelbase.

1989 land rover

After testing was completed, Dillon Aero decommissioned this Defender and parked it in a warehouse, where it was essentially forgotten. Through a local club, Frazier learned about its availability, came to see it in person, and was immediately enamored with its uniqueness. “As far as I know, it’s the only one of its kind in the world,” Frazier says. And so began the second phase of its life, which Frazier named Project Bronson, after the infamous British prisoner.

Not much left on the vehicle is still original. Everything from the firewall back had essentially been modified by Dillon Aero or a company they used to build a particular feature they wanted. Although stripped of its former combat appointments, it did still have a full soft top with custom rollcage, custom removable doors (the second row of which are suicide doors), custom side panels and tub, 55-gallon auxiliary gas tank, dual fold-down windshields, aircraft tracking in the bed for locking down loads, an externally mounted deployable weapons bench with ammo can compartments, and a host of other one-off modifications.

By the time Brent got ahold of it, the truck had seen better days and much was due for replacement. The drivetrain was upgraded to a ’96 four-cylinder 2.5L turbo diesel 300tdi motor with a five-speed R380 trans and LT230 transfer case. Brent felt that its 33-inch tires reminded him of a bodybuilder who skipped leg day, so he upped the ante to 16×8 Hutchinson beadlocks with 35-inch tires. An AlliSport full-length intercooler and radiator with integrated Spal fan and new turbo boost pin were installed to offset the power loss from the larger rolling stock. Terrafirma caster-corrected radius arms and new bushings firmed up the ride on the preexisting Asfir/Bilstein long-travel suspension.

knightsbridge overland

Residing in the interior are take-out Puma front seats from a ’14 Defender, a Tuffy 12-inch locking center console, and Uniden CB and Kenwood Ham radios. To bring the vehicle back to active duty, Brent procured a NOS turret from Crane Technologies and did some mods to the roof to make it work. It’s fitted with a Browning M2HB, which understandably gets some dumbfounded looks when cruising the city streets.

Saved from a questionable future, Method SV has definitely put the fighting spirit back into this old British bulldog. Considering restoring one of these yourself? Proceed with caution. The aftermarket, while fairly ripe with options, is fraught with poor-quality replacement parts. Think of vintage Land Rovers like mail-order brides. Since many are sourced from overseas, what may look appealing on the outside is really hiding lots of problems you won’t discover until after the money has changed hands. Assume you may spend over $150,000 on having one properly restored by a reputable company, but if you have the minerals to pay the full whack or take on the project yourself, you’ll undoubtedly have one of the coolest trucks ever made.

methodsv

1989 Land Rover Defender 130
1996 four-cylinder 2.5L turbo diesel 300tdi
R380 five-speed
www.methodsv.com

300tdi

Lights
Make: Truck-Lite
Model: LED
URL: www.truck-lite.com

Front bumper
Make: Asfir
Model: Warn winch with front axle and belly skidplates
URL: asfir.com

Tires
Make: BFGoodrich
Model: Mud Terrain T/A KM2
URL: bfgoodrichtires.com

Wheels
Make: Hutchinson
Model: WA-1352 Beadlock 16×8
URL: hutchinsoninc.com

skid plate

Skid plate
Make: EQUIPE 4×4
Model: Steering/sump
URL: equipe4x4.com

Seat Covers
Make: Knightsbridge Overland
Model: Custom with MOLLE accessories
URL: knightsbridgeoverland.com

land rover seat covers

Rear bumper
Make: Dillon Aero
Model: Custom
URL: dillonaero.com

dillon aero turret

Turret
Make: Crane Technologies
Model: Browning M2
URL: cranetechnologiesinc.com


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