A chronicle of the improvements I make to our Land Rover Defender 110, but first a little bit of context

We sourced our 1991 Land Rover Defender 110 HCPU through Sonoran Rovers in Tucson, in late 2021.

I had to look that up. It’s currently May, 2024, as I’m typing this, and I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed. Although we’ve done some traveling in the interim, we never reeeally left Tucson after that.

First sighting of the Land Rover Defender 110 at Sonoran Rovers in Tucson

Engine trouble sets things in motion

Shannon and I had been living on the road, full-time, traveling in two vehicles: my 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and our 2021 Winnebago Revel.

We were making our way through the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 2021, when my beloved Jeep was diagnosed with a timing issue. With 197,000 miles on the odometer, the shop recommended a whole new engine, given the labor involved and our intention to keep it indefinitely.

So we gave the shop the green light, abandoned the Jeep in Portland, Oregon, for the work, which would likely take a few months, and traveled south in our van – minus a vehicle.

The Jeep gets picked up on a roll-back somewhere in southern Washington

This turn of events was significant because I make four-wheel drive adventure videos for a living, which are regularly published to YouTube.

I relied on my Jeep heavily for my video series, and I wasn’t quite sure how I might proceed without it – even if only for a short hiatus.

Replacing the Jeep wasn’t on the table

Although my lovely partner Shannon and I had a Winnebago Revel by this time, our van was our mutual home and mobile office. It had to be stationary during the week so Shannon could be online for her work in the IT industry.

At the time, it wasn’t an option to make videos using the Revel because of our differing needs.

At home in our Winnebago Revel

Before I met Shannon, I lived in the Jeep for four years prior. Then we got a Winnebago Revel which we shared for two years before we bought our home.

Full-timing inside our Winnebago Revel

While the Winnebago Revel is by no means a large RV, it felt like a mansion after living in a Jeep for four years. We made some wonderful memories here.

A few weeks passed, and we arrived in Tucson to enjoy some warmer weather.

While we were there, we encountered this well-used, relatively inexpensive (due to needing some love) 1991 Land Rover Defender 110 imported by Sonoran Rovers. I thought it might make a wonderful vehicle to feature in videos until the engine work was completed on the Jeep.

Exploring a forest road in the Land Rover Defender 110 near Prescott, Arizona

I was infatuated with the heritage and romanticism surrounding classic Land Rovers. Furthermore, these vehicles hold their value pretty well in the United States, so I was confident that I could sell it in a few months, after the Jeep was fixed, and get my money back.

The plan looked good on paper, so why not? Let’s go for it!

Let’s get a Landy! What could go wrong?

Life threw some curveballs after I took delivery of the Land Rover.

I lost my mom to cancer, and had to store the Defender before traveling east to be with my family. Immediately thereafter, I broke my foot which put me on my ass for a couple more months. Then, our dog died.

A broken foot ruins Millertime

Shannon and I were hiking when I stepped on a tree root and moved my foot wrongly, resulting in a fracture. It took a while for the boot to come off, but I was hobbling around without crutches in a few weeks.

Finegan and Shannon

A portrait of Shannon and Finegan. They were together for his whole life, and I fell in love with him for his last two years. He is missed. Finegan was a rescue; chow dachshund super-mutt according to a test.

By the end of 2022, I said to Shannon, “I’ve had my fill of full-timing. I want to stop.”

Just like that.

A month later, we were home owners in Tucson.

They’re easy to get attached to

Fast forward to today, I kept the Land Rover with no intention of selling it. My demeanor was similar to that of Bilbo contemplating the One Ring, “After all, why not? Why shouldn’t I keep it?”

Quite frankly, I love it.

There isn’t a straight body panel on it. It looks to have been put through hell by previous owners. It can just about reach highway speed. It farts plumes of black smoke. The electrical system is pure madness, and with so much rust, it’s only held together by god’s will.

It’s perfect.

The bonnet is up on the Land Rover and I'm contemplating a charging issue
The odometer didn't quite finish turning to 200,000 miles before it broke

I watched it stop. It had 197,000 miles on the odometer when I bought it, but the leftmost 1 got stuck as it tried to turn to a 2. I put a few more thousand miles on it since then and it still reads 200,000.

Land Rover Defender 110 posing on some rocks with the wide lens

Love these wheels. I’m a huge fan of narrow tires on stock wheels, nicely tucked under the fenders. I’ve since replaced the tires with a fresh set of BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains, in 255/85R16E.

It’s not the finest specimen, but it’s a dream-vehicle for me. More than anything, it reminds me of the old Camel Trophy competitions that I used to ogle at in disbelief when paging through 4×4 magazines as a child.

Camel Trophy was the pinnacle of four-wheel drive adventure

Plans for the Defender

I have no intention to alter its patina, or to restore its exterior. One thing that I really love about it, is that it’s already scratched and dented. I can take it on a backcountry adventure without feeling bad about using it. Although, my goal is to steadily improve upon its condition and functionality while preserving its rustic outward appearance.

Out exploring Arizona in the Land Rover Defender 110

I’m not going to build it into an overland vehicle for extended travel. While the bed offers great real estate for some sort of camper, I already have the Jeep which has proven itself to be wonderfully suited for mobile-living and longer excursions – especially with a brand new engine!

No, I simply plan to pick away at the Defender over time; add some off-road essentials, a good set of tires, and replace dodgy bits before they break.

That’s why I created this journal. The Land Rover is up on jack stands as we speak, and I have a bunch of parts piled up in the garage, ready-to-install.

You’ll be able to read about it here.

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