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1997 Defender 90 Soft Top #1346
Upgrades and Service
This 1997 NAS Defender 90 soft top has come to us from Arkansas. The base vehicle has just over 20K miles, pretty low for a vehicle of this age, and it is in pretty good shape. The problem with this 90 is not the basic vehicle... it is all the goofy crap that has been put onto and into it, but we will get all that fixed up the right way. We will also be doing some standard service work and making it a much nice place to be along the way. The first step in getting this 90 up to snuff will be gutting all the really poor "upgrades" from the vehicle in order to get back to a nice "ground floor" for us to build on.
Seriously, what is all this goofy crap!? This is some master stereo shops idea of a high end system for a Defender. The rear jump seat has been removed and replaced with de-laminating cheap wooden boxes that house a CD changer, an amp and subwoofers and they are all held down this sheet-rock screws from the hardware store! All that stuff is out in the weather and you can't even install the back seat anymore, but they left all the seat belts and brackets in place.
Well, they didn't really leave the seat belt brackets in place. Here you can see the rear buckle seat belt assembly. Instead of putting it back into the hole with the steel backing plate (the part that saves your ass from going forward in an accident) they moved it over and just bolted it in with no backing plate into the thin alloy floor. Its a good thing the back seat could not go in as someone could have died in this set up, and if the back seat can't go in, why is all this in the car?
All this crap is history and we will be installing a correct sound system with all the equipment nicely tucked away, under cover, other than a new subwoofer that will go onto the tailgate that is made from quality materials and then Rhino-Lined for longevity.
Up the 90 goes to get all the fluids out and ready to be changed and to pull the differentials for the upcoming ARB air locker install. We will also be pulling the rusty exhaust system in order to install a ROX 304 stainless performance exhaust system and much more.
This image shows the 90 a little farther along in the process. The weak factory brush bar has been removed along with the front bumper assembly. These will be replaced with our ROX front bumper and skid plate combination. The white material on the fenders is used to protect the paint from harm while we work in the engine bay. When our team works on your car, we don't want you to ever know we worked on your car by leaving a scratch or ding. The extra steps we take over typical repair shops ensure that your pride and joy stays in top condition.
Here you can see the rear cargo area nearly ready for us to begin. Setting up correct seating and a nice stereo system isn't hard, it is just that your local stereo shop can't do it. Next we will get everything cleaned up and install the new jump seats and new floor mat after a layer of sound reduction material is put in place on the rear tub floors.
One of the things this Defender needs to do for its new owner is carry gear and a kayak. The Defender is a great sports and recreation vehicle and it can get you to the most remote kayaking spot with ease, but with the soft top it can get you there... but not your boat! There is no good solution for carrying gear and equipment for a NAS Defender soft top. When Defenders were new there was a dealer installed rack offered, but it had major short-comings. The basket was weak, it was too tall and it didn't allow for anything much, other than soft luggage, to be carried or secured to it. There was no floor in it, so if you wanted to walk around on the rack it was a tight-rope act. About the only thing that original rack had going for it was a pretty cool rear support system. So in order to make this, and other Defenders, do the jobs that their owners ask of them we looked high and low for a solution. We finally concluded that there was no rack on the market for the NAS Defender that was good enough, strong enough or versatile enough to meet our customer's demands. That meant it was up to us, so we have now developed our own ECR roof rack system. Basically we evaluated everything we disliked about the racks we have seen in the past and came up with a well rounded solution that does it all.
In the image above you can see that we have fabricated a new rear support system and installed it onto the D90. This system is nice because it allows the soft top, and all the other stock parts of the Rover, to be used normally and adds twin ladders to the rear of the truck so that you can easily access the things on the top of the rack by simply climbing the ladder. The images here show the rack in bare steel. It will later be put through a rust prevention dip and then powder coated in satin black for long life and good looks.
The front support bars also mimic the long out of production factory rack system for a clean look. The double bends in the front support bars keep the rack tight to the vehicle so that it not only looks good, but does not stick out presenting a place for limbs or off road hazards to get caught. The clamps bolt to the factory safari cage and can be adjusted so that everything is a perfect fit. The rack support system works with 1994-1997 NAS Defender 90 soft tops or station wagons (hard tops). It works with the fiberglass hardtop as well so everything is covered.
The huge difference in our rack system is the upper roof rack, or basket, itself (shown above). It takes the last 15 years of messing around with the wrong racks and cures all the aspects we didn't like about them in one shot.
Most racks are made out of very thin material. The ECR rack is made from sturdy 1.25 tubing so that if you rub it on a tree while off roading it will hold up and not fold. The old baskets had a full perimeter so if you needed to put a long surfboard or something up there and it didn't fit down inside the basket you were out of luck. Also if you wanted to install a roof top tent that folded forward the factory basket would have to be cut to allow this, making its structure even weaker.
Our rack has an open front so installing tents is simple and if you want to carry a longboard you can carry it flat.
The height of the old basket was very tall, and that not only looks a bit odd it can mean the difference between getting into your garage or not. Our rack is lower, but still retains enough height so that gear can be strapped down and to the sides securely.
The lower sides work well and offer a better/more modern look to the vehicle. The factory rack had only a narrow network of tubes to walk on if you got up on it. Our rack has a full floor made from perforated stainless steel so moving around and securing gear is a snap with reduced risk of loosing your balance and falling off the truck. Other racks we have used in the past had cheap construction and over time water would get inside the racks tubes and then rusty water would drip out. Imagine rusty water from some cheap rack ruining your new soft top! Our system is fully welded so that water can not get inside.
The factory rack had curved sides, so if you were trying to strap a gas can to the side of the rack the can would have the tendency to slip and fall over. Our rack has vertical sides so things strapped to the sides wedge securely into place and don't tend to roll around. Normally when you buy a rack you get a rack, and that is it.
Our racks come with locations for a Hi-Lift jack, a CB antennas, a rear work light and more already built in and ready for what you want to add on down the line. There are no other parts to buy as you add gear or change your hobbies.
Our rack is large enough for tents and other items, but is also small enough so that you can still run the safari cage mounted driving lights if you like. The rack will not interfere with them at all and the entire system is made in the USA. There are many reasons that the ECR rack is superior, but the best quality is its flexibility. It can be a location for a tent, a great spot to set up a tripod for photography, a place to bring home large items from the hardware store or a place to carry your kayak. In the past Defender owners have had to choose one rack or another depending on what they needed. The rack that would hold a tent wouldn't hold surfboards. The rack that holds boards wouldn't hold soft luggage, and on and on. Our rack does it all and it accepts Yakima rack parts, so no matter if you carry a kayak or a mountain bike, skis or a tent we have you covered. It is the solution to your all your rack needs. Stay tuned as this rack gets finished and set up for carrying a kayak with ease.
While work is being done on the rack we have also taken care of under the Rover. We have added a HD drag link, our ROX tie rod guard, differential guards, our alloy fuel tank skid plate, our 304 stainless steel performance exhaust system stainless steel fuel and brake pipes, ARB lockers front and rear and much more. This 90 will be ready to head to the furthest reaches with ease and it won't have to worry about wrecked steering gear while getting there and back like a stock 90 would.
This 90 already has a set of rock sliders on it and the customer wanted side steps added as well, but the side steps don't fit with these sliders so we fabricated some changes in order to make everything work together. These side steps unbolt easily for when the off road trips come up. This image also show the upgraded door hinges that we have installed that are already epoxy primed and painted in Beluga Black.
This image shows the interior starting to go back together. The new floor mat is in place covering a layer of sound reduction material and the jump seats are being installed. You will see on the jump seat back in the image that we install these a little differently. We use small spacers, the same thickness as the load space mat and stainless hardware in our installs. This makes it so the load mat does not get squished under the seat and deform and eventually split and crack. In the image you can see the seat is installed and is tight, but the mat still lays nice and even. It looks better and it makes the load mat last longer as well.
To make the inside of the 90 a nicer place to be we have also added a new Alpine sound system with a plethora of music choices. It has a 6 disc CD changer, satellite radio, AM/FM and even an iPod connection. There is also an Alpine digital amp hidden under the console to give power to the...
10" subwoofer in its custom Rhino-Lined enclose on the tailgate. Unlike all the goofy stereo stuff that was in this car before, this ECR installed system has more music choices, sounds better, looks better and it doesn't take up any extra room in the interior. We still have an amplifier, a sub, a CD changer and all, it is just installed with a little class this time instead, and the truck now has the ability to seat 6, where the stereo system before made this a 2 person only vehicle.
Here you can see the jump seats on the LH side installed and done. You can also see the JL Audio speaker hiding in the factory speaker location. All this adds up to a much better interior set up for the 90 that is much more versatile.
The customer also asked us to install an automatic dimming rear view mirror that has exterior temp display and...
heavy duty seat covers to protect the seats and give the truck a nice finished look.
Under those seat covers we have added 2 stage seat heaters to the 90 as well. Once the truck goes to the detailer to have the interior cleaned up this low mile 90 will once again look like a low mile 90.
The ARB air locker controls have been wired up and everything tested. The original dash pod makes a great place to install the 3 locker switches. It gives a nice finished look to the interior and the switches are easy to reach while off roading.
On the exterior of the 90 we have added a ROX front bumper and skid plate system. We topped it off with a Warn 9000 winch and triple Hella 4000 lights and 2 recovery points. This set up will help protect the steering gear and will be a welcome addition in off road situations.
To cure the all too common tail light issues we installed a set of our sealed LED tail lights. We also restored the rusted tire carrier parts and have reinstalled them with new bushings and adjusted everything so that the tailgate closes and opens with ease.
Here you can see the roof rack system is back from powder coating and has been installed with all the gear. The rear ladder is an exact duplicate of the factory unit for a clean look and the ECR designed roof basket gives maximum flexibility. This image also shows the new upgraded top installed and looking great.
The high lift jack has been mounted on one side. It can be easily accessed by removing the 2 wing nuts that hold it securely in place.
The Yakima adapters have also been installed and the system has been built up with Yakima's best kayak set up, so that now matter what size kayak the truck needs to carry it can carry 2 of them with ease and they can be loaded simply and easily by one person. The Yakima parts are easily removed if you need to install a roof top tent of just need a platform for your camera's tripod.
The rear work light bracket is already in place on the ECR rack system, so we have finished up the wiring to the rear work/reverse lamp. This set up is controlled at the dash by a factory switch and it can be off, or it can come on and off automatically as you select and deselect reverse gear, or it can be on manually to help you load gear at night.
The last upgrade for the 90 is to install a set of ROX oil cooler lines. Yes, we offer stainless oil cooler lines for the 1997 NAS Defender 90. Above you can see the adapters that we fabricate for the system.
These parts correctly hook up standard 8AN fittings to your Rover and eliminate the fire prone factory lines for good. Unlike remakes of the factory lines, our set up moves the oil "cooler" lines away from the super hot RH exhaust manifold and away from the AC system line. It is common that due to engine vibration the AC line can get rubbed through by the original oil cooler lines. Our system solves all the problems in one shot.
Here you can see the completed project ready for delivery to the customer in Arkansas. The truck has now been fully serviced, very nicely optioned and outfitted exactly the way the customer wanted. It is now one amazing vehicle that can take the owner and his gear anywhere he wants to go, no matter if that is to the ocean for a sea kayak trip or to the top of some mountain to see what lies on the other side.
If you have dreams for your Defender, contact ECR. We'll be happy to make your Defender world class... just like this one.