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1994 NAS Defender 90 Soft top
Getting every trick in the book
This 1994 NAS Defender 90 has come to us from Arizona for "the works". It is owned by a major league baseball player and he wants a D90 that is fully tricked. We'll be adding everything from a galvanized frame, to a Pursuit 4.6, a Stage III suspension, Underdrive, HD axles, and a new Arizona Blue paint job. Now don't freak out, the Arizona Blue paint job is original and was a special order for this D90, that is why you have never seen another one. The first step in this build up is to strip down the body and get the panels ready for paint. In the image above you can see we have rolled the D90 into our paint bay and we will now start stripping it down.
Here you can see the D90 in the strip down process. As pieces come off they are evaluated to see if they will make the cut to go back on the D90 or not. The weak factory bumpers and such are all removed to be later replaced with new heavy duty units. Next we'll start the paint prep. on the removed panels.
The rear body of the D90 is unfortunately a rear mess. It has obviously had a lot of accident repair and needs our help. In the image above you can see we have started to strip the tub down to find all the hidden damage.
The 2 circles show the damage on the LH side. In the rear circle we have ground out all the body filler and are back to the alloy where we can start to rework the metal to cure this problem. In the front circle you can still see the tan body filler that is being removed layer by layer. One all the filler and paints are gone we can do the repairs properly.
By holding a straight edge up to the side of the body you can see the extent of the damage, and the enormous amount of body filler someone used to make this repair. Once all the filler is stripped off we'll straighten the panels and get the tub ready for primer/ surfacer and paint.
Here you can see that we have re-worked the metal in the tub sides to be straight and true. The factory spot welds are still in place and the tub is now ready for paint. You can see that we have applied the epoxy primer and the color coded base primer to the outside of the tub. Once it comes off the D90 we will prep the inside and paint the tub as a unit.
As the work on the damaged body sections continues the smaller body parts are prep'd, treated and painted in the Arizona Blue color with numerous layers of clear coat for a deep shine, these pieces are now ready to install when the Defender goes back together.
Here you can see that the majority of the body work has been completed and everything is under fresh custom blue paint. The Defender will now be moved from our paint area to our mechanical area where the real modification will begin.
This image shows the 90 in our mechanical shop. At this stage the safari cage and cage supports will go back onto the 90 and we will do what is needed to remove the body from the frame so that we can transfer all the running gear over to the new galvanized frame that the 90 will be riding on for the rest of its life. We'll also be doing ECR ROX stainless clutch pipes, brake pipes, fuel lines and even a new ECR ROX stainless exhaust. The 90 will not only look mint, but it will kick butt off road and outlast just about anything out there.
Once we have removed the body we can start to get things set up on the new galvanized frame, seen above. The axles and all the other cross over pieces are removed from the old damaged frame (accident damage) and then installed on the new chassis. As this new chassis is galvanized the owner won't have to worry about rust anytime soon. We'll also be installing a Safari Gard Stage II suspension so the old shocks and suspension are going in the trash, and the new springs , Fox Racing shocks and the 3 link system for the front axle are going on the new frame.
Now that the old frame has been stripped down we can get to work on the mechanical systems individually. Here you can see the R380 gearbox and the 1.2 ratio LT230 transfer case. These had 100,000 miles of dirt and grime n them so we have cleaned them up to get them ready for whatever work is needed. The gearbox is in good shape, but the transfer case will need some attention.
The engine has also been removed from the old chassis and we have started to be striped down and cleaned up. The old 3.9 long block is history and in its place we'll be installing a brand new Pursuit 4.6 engine with over 280 HP.
Here you can see the transfer case after we have fully rebuilt it. It had some wear issues and we'll also needed to convert it to 26 tooth (from the stock 28 tooth) type so that the Underdrive will fit. This retains the stock 1.2 ratio, but gives us the needed 26 tooth set up so that we can install the Underdrive.
With the transfer case rebuild complete, we have turned our attention to the front and rear differentials. You can see above, the diffs have been stripped down and will now be rebuilt with the new gears and lockers.
Here you can see the diffs have been fully rebuilt with new seals and bearings and new GBR 4.11 ring and pinions as well as new RD56 ARB air lockers for maximum traction when needed off road, and smooth on road manners when you don't need lockers.
The modified diffs have now been plugged into the axle cases and the suspension is going together. Here you can see the front diff installed and the new 3 link front suspension being set up. This 3 link front end gives the 90 excellent articulation up front and gives a great deal more ability to a Defender off road.
The suspension is also set up with Fox Racing shocks for excellent manners on the trail and on the street. The rotation joints on the shocks help to eliminate suspension bind and give more articulation on the trail.
Now that the suspension has been set up it is time to get the new Pursuit 280HP 4.6 ready to drop into the rolling chassis. This image shows the heart of a Pursuit 4.6, a brand new 4.6 block that is modified to run in the 1994 D90 14CUX fuel injection system. The 4.6 is then dressed with fully flowed heads and larger valves. It will then be topped with a custom intake to allow more air into the engine, and we'll mate that to our own stainless steel ECR ROX exhaust system for maximum performance. Next the take off parts from the 3.9 will be cleaned up and crossed over to the new Pursuit 4.6.
As the engine is being set up we can start to get the details of the rolling chassis sorted out. Here you can see we have installed a new set of performance brake rotors to replaced the old 100,000 mile stock units and added new brake pads and longer stainless steel flex lines to cope with the added articulation of the 3 link front end, and the extra height from the Stage II suspension. Inside the front end to make it as tough as possible we have installed a set of 24/23 spline heavy duty front axle shafts and a pair of ultra heavy duty GBR CV joints. This will let the front end handle the extra stress from the locker and the upcoming larger meats.
The galvanized frame we are installing in the 90 will last a long time, but a Rover is only as good as its weakest link. To cure the weak links on this Defender we have also installed a set of ECR ROX stainless steel brake pipes (green arrow). This kit replaces all the brake pipes in the 90 with stainless steel pipes that have stainless steel fittings, ending corroded brake pipes on this rig for good. The orange arrows points to our ECR ROX stainless steel fuel lines.
The ROX stainless lines follow all the factory bends and curves and will end corroded fuel lines on this Rover. The lines come complete with new flex lines so as well, and with the body off this Defender this is certainly the time to install these long term items as you don't want to go through a frame swap and then down the road have to replace your brake or fuel lines.
Here you can see the Pursuit 4.6 coming together. It looks a lot better than that leaky old 3.9 that was in the 90 and it sure will perform better to with over 300 ft. lbs of torque at the ready. The best news of all, our hand assembled Rover V8s do not leak.
This image shows the Underdrive now mated to the rebuilt LT230 transfer case. We have altered the guts of the stock 1.2 LT230 to be a 26 tooth set up and then added he Underdrive that will give this 90 perfect road manners, but also the ability to easily switch ranges to have an ultra low off road crawl set up, without harming the highway speeds at all. For more information on Underdrives go here.
We then mounted the gearbox to the rebuild LT230 transfer case (now a 1.2 26 tooth unit) and then installed the set up into the new galvanized frame. Next we will drop the Pursuit 4.6 into place and then start to install the bodywork.
Here you can see the rear tub going into place with the lower roll cage supports. Once this is bolted in place at the back we will install the bulkhead and then adjust everything so that the body lines look right and the door gaps and are correct.
The new Pursuit 4.6 has been fully dressed and installed into the new galvanized frame and mated to the gearbox with all new clutch parts. Once everything is connected it will be time to install the newly painted body work.
To make the Defender long term trouble free we have done as much stainless steel as we can on the project. We have already talked about the ECR ROX SS fuel lines (green arrow) and you can see, even here by the back of the engine, the bends and turns of the line are exact duplicates of the factory lines. We have also installed an ECR ROX Stainless steel exhaust system. These systems, unlike the NRP systems, are 316 stainless steel and our performance Y pipes are full stainless with Random Technology high flow catalytic convertors. These won't fall apart and rattle after use on the trail and unlike the other "stainless" systems on the market (the NRP system uses much lower flow cats and it is made of 516 stainless and that rusts) the ECR ROX systems will not rust. We developed the ECR ROX SS exhaust system because of the long term problems we found with the NRP system and the ROX system blows the NRP away in every respect.
Now that the engine and the rest of the drivetrain has been put into place we can start to reassemble the front body work, or front clip. Here you can see we have installed the bulkhead back on the 90 and have started to install the stainless brake lines, stainless clutch lines and get the front fenders installed. The chains and straps allow us to hold the bodywork exactly where we want it while we tighten it down to the frame. This makes the body lines, door gaps and all fit properly and look correct.
It isn't hard to make a Defender 90 door close easily and securely, its just that most shops either don't know how, or don't care to make it right. Above you can see that we have set all the body lines and test fit the doors to make sure they open and close with ease.
In the engine bay we have started to get everything hooked back up. The new Pursuit 4.6 is being mated to the EFI harness and steering, brakes, etc. are all coming to lie one system at a time.
Another upgrade on the 90 is the addition of a larger rear tire carrier. When this set up is complete it will easily hold the 33" Good Year MTRs that are planned for this 90, and it will also carry 2 five gallon fuel cans (or water if you like) and a Hi-Lift jack, all safely and securely on the tire carrier.
Here you can see the 90 coming along nicely. The majority of the factory wiring is back in place and the safari cage is starting to go back into place. The 3 link suspension is being set up and the new MTRs should be ready shortly.
This image shows those new Good Year MTRs in what comes out to be roughly a 33x12 tire. These have been mounted to the factory alloys and then installed on the 90. The rear axle has also been upgraded to handle the added stress from these larger tires and the ARB locker. We have installed a set of HD 24 spline axles with upgraded drive flanges that directly replace the factory one piece axles for a much tougher set up and no worries about breakage on the trail.
The rear suspension has now been installed as well. The Stage II shock mounts have been installed on the new galv. frame and the Fox Racing shocks have been installed.
At the rear of the 90 the small details are coming together. The lamp guards are back on and the new corner trims have been installed. We also added a rear recovery point and a full alloy fuel tank skid plate to replace the rusted factory unit.
Here you can see the 90 has its new windshield in place and all new body seals and gaskets for a nice tight and leak free body once everything is together. This 90 had over 90,000 miles and numerous accidents under its belt, but once we are done it will be much more like a new car... a new car that is built to last.
Inside the 90 we have laid in sheets of dyna-mat where ever possible to reduce road noise and we have started to install some of the upgrades.
In the rear of the 90 we have installed dyna-mat over the entire rear bed and then topped it with a new rear cargo mat for a clean look. As you can see in this photo the inside of an ECR paint job looks just as nice as the outside. Next we will clean up the customers Tuffy center console and get started on the Alpine stereo installation.
We will be adding 2 more Tuffy boxes to the rear of the 90 with new Alpine speakers in them. To fill in the gap between the back of the Tuffy box and the rear of the 90 we have fabricated these cover panels and painted them in the correct color so that they will match the rest of the 90. These guards will make the Tuffy box install look factory ad they will also keep gear from getting lost back behind the new Tuffy side boxes.
Up front we have now installed the front bumper and lower skid plate. This set up also houses the new Warn 9000 winch and 2 ROX recovery points for one of the best off road set up going. At the customers request we also installed a set of IPF dual fog/driving lights on the bumper so that he can see in all conditions.
We have now bench tested the engine and drivetrain and everything is 100%, so now we will begin to button up the 90. The door seal and gutter kit from Badger Coachworks have now been installed and the wheel flares put on. Next we will install the sound system and the new on board air compressor and get ready for road tests.
Here you can see the 90 after the initial road tests. Everything is going well and it looks even better outside the shop. Next we will continue with the tests and get all the remaining items, like the rock sliders, fabricated and under paint.
This images show the new rear Tuffy box with the new Alpine 6x9 speaker installed inside and our spacer at the back to make everything look good and keep gear from getting lost behind the storage box. In this rig we also made custom arm rests that go on top of the side boxes so that rear seat passengers will have a nice arm rest when they are sitting in the rear bench seat.
The upgrades on this 90 go from large, like the new Pursuit 4.6, to small, but important items, like these new upgraded door hinges and a stainless steel hardware kit so that rust won't be a factor down the road.
We also installed a set of fender top guards for a nice look and the ability to stand on the fenders if need be without denting them.
Another simple, but handy, addition to the '94 D90 was done by added a locking rear gate. This was standard on the '95s and '97s, but not on the '94s, so this will mean a lot less crawling around the interior when you need to lock and unlock the tailgate.
Here you can see we have installed the new upgraded soft top for a nice tight fit and a great custom look.
At the back of the 90 we fabricated a mount for the 3rd brake light that works with the larger tire and tire carrier. This rig is so nice you don't want anyone running into the back of it, so the 3rd brake light will help grab other drivers attention.
To handle the compressed air needs of this off road 90 we will be installing an Oasis air compressor system. Above you can see the new Oasis air system. We have fabricated a drop box section and painted them to match the 90. These pieces will go under the RH side of the seat box so that the compressor can be tucked up out of the way but still be easily accessed when the need arises.
The ECR ROX sliders on this 90 will be a little different. The customer wanted a slider that would also double as a step so that he could move around the vehicle if need be by walking on the slider. To make that happen we have doubled the width of our normal slider and fabricated a slider out of 3/16" steel that looks roughly the same, but is twice as wide as our standard ROX slider.
Due to the limited space in a Defender 90 we will be making the ROX sliders double as the compressed air tank for the Oasis air system. The RH slider will hold as much air as the standard tank that the Oasis system uses and it will make it so we don't have to hide an air tank on the 90. The slider will be the air tank.
Here you can see the back side of the slider where the air inputs and outputs have been set up. We also fabricated a guard over the area so that debris won't be able to harm the air system parts (seen above). Once the mounting arms are welded on the slider they will be media blasted and then primed and painted in stain black and then installed on the 90.
Now that the sliders have been primed and painted we have installed them onto the Defender. The wider set up will give the customer the "walk around" foot room desired, but still keep all the rock pounding ability of a standard set of ECR ROX sliders. We will also be adding some non-skid material to the top of the slider so that getting in and out of the 90 will be a breeze. Even these wider sliders have our Hi-Lift points both front and rear to make it easy to change tires on even this very tall D90.
Under the Rover you can see that we have started to plumb up the air system into the slider/ air tank. All these connections get covered by a removable heavy duty skid plate so they can be easily serviced, but won't be harmed on the toughest trail.
To give the V8 powered 90 some more off road driving range we have added a set of CARB approved 5 gallon fuel cans to the SG rear tire carrier. We altered the plate on the tire carrier so that it now has lips to hold the cans securely in place and then fabricated a locking top clamp so that the cans won't go anywhere when you are off roading, and so they won't "walk away" when the 90 is parked out in public.
To power up everything in this highly tricked out D90 we installed a pair of batteries and wired them up to a safety battery kill switch. This will keep the power flowing but also add a level of safety and the ability to kill all the power to the systems if the 90 spends some idle time in a garage. This works great and means no more dead batteries when you go to fire up the Rover.
Here you can see the new Oasis air compressor installed in the modified seat box of the Defender. This set up will be able to handle all the air needs of Rover, from running the ARB air lockers, to tire filling and even air tools if need be. You can also see this 90 is getting our extended seat rails for both sides that make a Defender easier to drive for larger people.
To control the Oasis compressor we have wired in a master arm switch and the switch controls for the front and rear ARB lockers (see the yellow arrow). To keep the owner warm on those chilly night trail rides we also added heated seats, (driver and passenger) to the 90 that have adjustable temperature ranges (see the green arrows). To house all these extra switches in the 1994 spec dash we added a standard radio mount and fabricated a custom face for it that houses all the needed switch gear and keeps things easy to see and easy to reach for both driver and passenger but gives a clean and stock appearance.
In addition to the Alpine 6x9 speakers in the rear of the Defender we added a pair of simple 6" Alpine speaker sup front in the new door panels to give a full sound to the system.
Here you can see we have added the last part to the rear of the 90, the new Hi-Lift jack. It securely mounts to the new tire carrier and makes for a nice secure place to keep a Hi-Lift on a Defender 90 soft top.
Underneath the Rover we have finished up the wiring for the ARB air locker system and installed the protective guard over the connections on the air tank/slider. Next we will button up the interior and finish up the sound system.
This image shows the simple and easy to operate Underdrive linkage we have installed. Its easy to reach and operates on a short throw so that getting into your crawler gears is simple and easy when you need it on the trail. The small leather boot keeps debris and such out of the interior of the 90.
The rear seat set up in this 90 is now complete and very nice. The rear bench seat has been covered with a seat cover that gives it great protection and a much better than stock look. The custom made pads on the Tuffy side boxes are the perfect height for an arm rest. This has to be the most comfortable rear seat set up in a D90 we have ever built/seen.
Here you can see the custom ECR ROX sliders. We added non-skid to the top of the slider so that walking around on it is easy. The added width will also help protect all that beautiful new paint from harm when the 90 hits the trails.
The Defender is now in the road test phase were we put miles on the 90 to make sure all the new systems are working correctly and we replace or adjust any of the old systems that are not up to snuff. Most repair shops do work for you and then send you down the road, but that is not what ECR is about. We will do simple repairs, but on large scale projects like this the Rover has to be fully sorted out before we will hand it over to the customer. There is nothing worse than driving a few miles and finding out that things were not done correctly or that details were overlooked. Here at ECR that does not happen as we fully road test all the large scale projects. We even aim the headlights... yes, we are that picky.
A few more minor adjustments and a top to bottom cleaning and this 90 will be ready to head back to Arizona.
Here you can see the completed project about to be loaded on the transport truck for delivery to the owner in AZ. This fully tricked out custom Defender 90 will be ready for anything the new owner wants to throw out at it.
If you have Land Rover Defender needs, from a simple repair to a wild custom rebuild like this Defender, contact ECR. We are your source for anything and everything Defender and we'll be happy to help you in any way we can.
From mild to wild we can make your Defender dreams a reality and we can make your Rover world class... just like this one!