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1997 NAS Defender 90 Station Wagon 4.6 V8 Install and Upgrades

This 1997 Defender 90 Wagon has come to us from Virginia for some repairs, a number of upgrades and the installation of a new 4.6 V8 engine. The Rover is in pretty good shape, but as with any near decade old vehicle it needs some repairs and some service items. The owner wants to keep his 90 it good condition and also make some needed improvements, so to that end the Defender has landed at ECR so that we can make it even better.

Here you can see the main item in this Defender project, the engine bay. The 90 has about 80,000 miles and there are some issues that need attention, and to get more grunt from the Rover we will be yanking out that original 4.0 and installing a new 4.6 instead. The new 4.6 will cure the lack of low end torque and will make the automatic D90 drive much better, as well as have more guts when you put the throttle down. Next we will pull the 4.0 and get the old engine stripped down and start to assemble the new 4.6 V8.

Once the old 4.0 has been removed the cross over pieces that will be used on the 4.6 are cleaned and inspected. Anything that does not make the cut is replaced with a new part to assure long life of the new 4.6. Here you can see the new 4.6 being set up with the GEMS equipment so that it will be ready to drop into the 97 Defender 90.

While the motor was removed we took the time to address the leaking power steering system and some other steering related items so that the 90 will leak less and drive better. Once all the surrounding engine bay work was complete we installed the new 4.6 and hooked up all the systems.

The last item before we test fire the engine is to change the computer chips in the GEMS ECU so that the Defender understands it has a 4.6 under the hood. Without this step you will not take advantage of all the 4.6 can give you. You can run a 4.6 on the stock tune, but to achieve the best performance, in both power and mpg, you have to install a chip set. Above you can see we have removed the 2 chips from the GEMS computer and have installed the new performance chip sets in their place.

To combat the risk of fire, we have installed new oil cooler lines and sleeved them in heat wrap to reflect heat from the exhaust manifold away from the rubber oil cooler lines. Nothing could be worse than getting your 90 all fixed up with a new 4.6 and then having an engine fire due to some 10 year old oil cooler lines coming apart. Because we handle so many Defenders we know and understand all their needs, we are far more than just an engine installer. We make sure you Defender will work correctly and last long term.

Now that the engine start up has been completed we can turn our attention to some off road goodies and some routine repairs that this 90 is in need of. First up is the removal of the god awful factory brush bar. We have removed that cheesy thing and prep'd the front end of the Rover for a new ROX front bumper and skid plate. We have also installed a front diff guard and a ROX heavy duty drag link to make sure the front side of the steering is robust and ready for the trail.

Behind the axle we have installed a ROX tie rod guard. Unlike a HD tie rod that can still be damaged, we surround the tie rod with our guard so that no harm can come from it off road. You can even jack the truck up by the guard if you so desire. It is that tough. Our set up is unique as it allows the use of the factory sway bar if you so desire (orange arrow), when most tie rod guards require that you remove the sway bar.

To make the 90 more capable in the self off road recovery department we have also added a ROX front bumper, skid plate and a Warn 9000 winch. These items will be a great asset for both protection and recovery when the Defender plays on the trail.

Along with the large upgrades we went through and did a host of smaller repairs and upgrades. Everything from fixing lights that don't work to making the heater controls work easily. Speaking of lights, above you can see we have installed a full set of our plug and play LED tail lights on this D90, thus ending the all too common 95-97 D90 corroded tail light issue for good. For more LED info. go here.

To continue with the small, but useful, upgrades we have eliminated the old cardboard upper kick panel from this 90 and installed the alloy, polymer coated ECR ROX version. Many have copied it, but ours was and still is the original. It looks stock, but it stands up to muddy boots and will never sag.

We also installed a full stainless steel bolt kit and updated the door hinges to the later model style that don't rust. Here you can see the new hinges painted to match the 90 and installed with all SS hardware.

At the rear of the Rover we have removed the rear step/tow bumper in order to get at the rear crossmember and get some fresh primer and paint on it before the rust takes hold. Next we'll move the 90 into our paint booth and get this area looking better than new with some epoxy primer and paint.

Another off road addition will be a set of ECR ROX sliders for the sides of the 90. Here you can see we have fabricated the sliders and have blasted them to white metal. Next we will epoxy prime them and get then under 3 coats of satin black and then install them onto the Defender.

This image shows the front end of the 90 coming together nicely. The ROX bumper is all set and the new Warn 9000 has been wired up to the new Optima battery. The ROX recovery points and shackles have been installed along with a trio of Hella 4000 lights that can turn night into day.

Here you can see the ECR ROX sliders, fresh out of the paint booth with 3 coats of epoxy primer and 3 coats of PPG stain black for a tough finish. We paint the sliders because we want our customer to use them and grind them on rocks. The fact that they are painted allows them to be touched up if need be, unlike powder coated units.

To make our sliders as tough as nails we not only install some heavy duty sliders, we modify your truck to be able to take the abuse. This isn't done for fit issues, it is done for strength issues. The factory frame was never meant to take the abuse dished out from a slider that is used hard. So as you can see above (rear slider mount), we modify the frame to be able to handle the stress that the slider can put on these areas, then we bolt the slider to the upgraded frame section for a tough as nails set up. Sliders bolted to factory location are just not tough enough.

The front slider mount is also heavy duty. Unlike the cheap sliders out there, we do not mount or bolt to the bulkhead bolts. Putting that much force into the frame so far away from the main frame rail is just asking for trouble. We have removed many a set of mail order sliders that were bent, or worse yet had damaged the Defenders frame. Our front mount is moved inboard towards the frame rail as much as possible to keep the stress down. We also use 5 mounting bolts to prevent any rotation or movement of the slider. The set up is also backed up by a thick steel backing plaint behind the frames outrigger that you can't see here. This all adds up to the toughest slider on the market and also the reason why we can not offer them mail order. Unlike big mail order places we care greatly about our products and customers. Nothing would embarrass us more than having a customer be able to bend or break something we made. That is why we will not compromise and make weaker mail order versions of our sliders.

At the rear of the 90 we have completed all the work. The rear crossmember has new primer and paint and the rear step/tow bumper has been put back into place. A new rear recovery point has been installed and we also topped off the engine install with a new SS exhaust tail section.

Here you can see the completed 90, ready to head back to VA. The 90 was in quite nice shape when it arrived, and now with a host of off road goodies, a ton of service work and minor repairs completed, and a new 4.6 installed, the 90 will be just what the owner desired and will take him wherever he'd like to go, street or trail.

If you have needs for your Defender, from routine service to wild modifications, contact ECR. We'll be happy to help make your Defender world class... just like this one.

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