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The Progenitor: Himalaya Land Rover

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Pictures by Himalaya & Nick Cann Photography

With the recent popularization of “overlanding” vehicles, many truck and SUV buyers are looking to equip their rigs with a never-ending list of aftermarket upgrades and accessories. 

Lift kits, skid plates, oversized mud tires, light bars, communications and navigation tech, winches and recovery equipment, auxiliary power systems, refrigerators, showers — almost everything but the kitchen sink. We won’t deny that all this gear makes for a very comfortable and capable vehicle, but is it necessary? 

Rewind back to the early 1960s, and you’ll see that the concept of overlanding was quite different. A bare-bones, rugged vehicle with four-wheel drive and adequate clearance was the basic formula, and few vehicles epitomize it more than the classic Land Rover. 

Along with its cohort, the American Willys Jeep, the original British Land Rover (and its successor the Land Rover Defender) paved the way for the category we now refer to as overlanding vehicles.

At first glance, this pastel blue Land Rover Series IIA — nicknamed Waimea — might appear to be simply restored to original 1960s specs, but there’s more than meets the eye. It was actually built by Himalaya, a South Carolina-based shop that specializes in re-engineering and updating Land Rovers. 

A center-mounted instrument panel includes only the most basic gauges, indicator lights, and the Land Rover’s ignition.

The company summarizes its mission as follows: “While being ultimately respectful of the history, we seamlessly integrate the modern touches that enhance drivability, reliability, and performance. Absolutely nothing is overlooked, and nothing is compromised in a vehicle that retains its classic styling but can go anywhere reliably and in comfort.”

Himalaya Land Rover builds cover the entire spectrum, from elegant classics like this SIIA to heavily modernized Defenders such as their Summit Series. The latter offers a 650hp supercharged V-8, Fox coilover shocks, a big brake kit, and much more. The company’s also built diesel and even fully electric models.

The front bucket seats, center console, and rear bench seats have all been upholstered in soft chestnut leather.

“Waimea” started life as a Series IIA pickup with an 88-inch short wheelbase. The original 2.3L carbureted inline-four-cylinder engine and four-speed manual transmission were replaced with a fuel-injected GM 4.3L V-6 and six-speed automatic. As you might expect, this provides vastly more power — 300 horsepower and 340 ft-lb of torque — as well as enhanced reliability. 

If the buyer prefers, Himalaya can install a turbo-diesel engine and/or manual transmission instead. The Land Rover’s factory axles have been upgraded to a set from a newer Defender, widening the track width by 2 inches, increasing stability on- and off-road, and vastly improving ride quality by ditching the original leaf springs.

A set of 16-inch steel wheels, painted to match the body, are clad in modern 32-inch Goodyear all-terrain tires. These wheels conceal a four-wheel Wilwood disc brake conversion, which allows the lightweight Land Rover to stop on a dime.

A coil-spring suspension swap, modern shock absorbers, and a power steering conversion bring this vintage truck into the 21st century and make it even easier to drive. Exterior lighting has been upgraded to LEDs for clearer visibility.

Compared to the original 74hp 2.3L inline-four, this 300hp 4.3L V-6 is substantially more potent. It’s more fuel-efficient and reliable, too.

The interior of this build stays close to its original state and is therefore extremely Spartan. The dashboard (which barely qualifies as one by modern standards) only has two Classic Instruments gauges: a speedometer with inset tachometer and a four-needle unit that displays fuel level, oil pressure, temperature, and voltage. 

The ignition, headlight indicator, and turn signal indicators are also located on this panel. If you’re expecting climate control, think again — your options include opening the hinged air vents beneath the windshield or folding the windshield down against the hood. There are windshield wipers, though, so you won’t have to resort to using a rag after a romp through the mud.

However, the interior isn’t completely unmodified. It has a pair of front bucket seats, a center console, and rear bench seats upholstered from luxurious chestnut brown leather. The bed floor is lined with stained hardwood for a dignified yet utilitarian look. Lastly, there’s a custom JL Audio system with Bluetooth, a USB port, and a concealed subwoofer.

Himalaya’s Series IIA takes us back to an era when overlanding didn’t involve bringing all the comforts of home along for the ride. It has all the capabilities you’ll need to handle rough trails, enough room in the bed for essential gear, and an appearance that’s truly timeless. 

Himalaya Land Rover Series IIA 88 “Waimea”

  • Drivetrain: General Motors 4.3L EcoTec V-6 (LV3), 6L80e six-speed automatic transmission, two-speed transfer case with locking differential
  • Suspension and Brakes: Land Rover Defender axles, coil spring conversion, power steering conversion, Wilwood disc brakes
  • Wheels & Tires: 16-inch Land Rover “Wolf” heavy-duty steel wheels, LT235/85R16 Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires
  • Electronics: Custom JL Audio sound system with Bluetooth, USB, and subwoofer
  • Interior Upgrades: Custom leather seats and center console, hardwood bed floor, wood-rimmed billet aluminum MOMO steering wheel
  • Builder: Himalaya
  • WEB:
  • Price: $225,000

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