How much is too much??? - Defender Source
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  #1  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 07:29 AM
Azarur
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LR 1984 110
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How much is too much???

Exactly a year ago we started a restoration project of a 1984 110. We are probably still a month or two away from completion.

Return on investment was negative from day one (and I knew that...). But as the project nears completion - and the sanity line dims in the rear view mirror - I'd like to put it to this forum to ask: Is there such a thing as too much when it comes to defenders?

First a bit of background: After driving all kinds of SUVs for the last 20 years, and finding myself compromising all the time, my two older kids and I decided it was time to "build" ourselves our dream car. Our previous ride - a Supercharged 2011 Range Rover - was the best car I have ever driven. Sadly it gave us 9 mpg in daily Boston driving, and out of concern for our environment (and more than that, teaching kids that wanton waste does not lead to anything good) we disposed of it last June.

My 9 year-old (now 10) and I sat down and mapped what this car should be:
First, it should give us better than 20 mpg.
Second, it should accommodate our family of 5, plus our massive dog, plus our ski gear, camping gear, baseball, football, soccer, lacrosse, you-name-it gear. By the way, my 12 year-old is now taller than my wife and fast approaching me.... keep that in mind because it changed things radically.
Third, it should be comfortable enough to be my daily driver and allow me to transport guests, investors, partners, clients, etc. In other words, the original interior would not do.
Fourth, it should do 70 mph comfortably for our road trips.
Fifth, it should have the kinds of amenities present in modern vehicles.

Based on this list of requirements, we settled on a 1984 110 diesel. We found a decent LHD, bought it and shipped it to our tested and trusted shop in Vermont.

What followed is really nothing short of insane.

The first thing that was done is the car was entirely disassembled. And when I say entirely, i mean entirely. Not a single bolt remained affixed. Every. single. piece. came. off.

As May of last year came, and the snow in VT all melted, I visited the shop and saw about 1000 sq ft of parts. All labeled, all following an organized chaotic system. We then started deciding what needed repair, what needed replacement, and what was OK the way it was. Sadly, 99% of parts fell on one of the two categories. I can say - quite literally - that the only one piece that stayed exactly as it was, is the steering wheel. Everything else was either thoroughly restored or replaced.

Replacements included doors, fenders, grill, the entire electrical system, the entire dashboard (more about that later), seats, the entire floor, rims, wheels, windscreens, brakes, brake lines, exhaust system, radiator, door posts, every seal, headlamps, fog lamps, brake lamps... all lamps.

Restoration included the chassis, the engine (which was completely remanufactured, gaskets changed, water pump changed, fuel pump remanufactured, injectors changed, pistons changed), the roof and every other body panel (every body panel was sanded, and in many cases where bondo was abundant and hidden, either replaced or skillfully repaired. Bottom panels, roof, firewall were coated with lizard skin. wheel wells were coated with anti-corrosive compound).

The interior was a project of its own. First, the second row was moved back around 3 inches to accommodate for future growth or our three boys. This required all kinds of careful analysis and work to ensure no interference with tire travel and suspension components, and to allow for compliant seat belts to be installed. The dashboard was completely redesigned. New gauges, new electronics, new climate control system. To make the cabin as comfortable as possible, every inch of the interior was covered with two layers of insulating film and the guys spent a painstakingly long amount of time squaring door as windows to minimize gaps (as much as a defender allows!). The cargo area was designed to be comfortable for our dog and yet functional for cargo. The sound system is pretty cool (despite the fact that we know the car will be noisy).

We know the interior is huge overkill and it will render one or two LR purists catatonic. It does not look like a Defender. And yet it's not without class. We did not want to turn this into a Range Rover, or worse, an orange-leather, Austin-Powers-Pad, strip-joint cpasule. We wanted a design that would be simplistic and yet elegant. Comfort was the number one consideration. However we could not resist playing around with technology. All of it unobtrusive to the driving of the vehicle, and yet functional and "cool". And since nothing like that exists in the aftermarket, it was all homegrown. My two older kids and I programmed 3 Arduinos to keep track of temperatures (exterior, cabin, engine coolant and exhaust gases), fuel consumption (via two fuel flow meters), speed, rpm, altitude, tilt, bearing. These 3 communicate with a message center in the gauge cluster that provides for fuel economy and trip computer, and serves as an alert system, providing messages for seat belt, door open, low fuel, high temperature, etc.
A system from Infinity Box controls all the vital car electronics (climate, power windows, power locks, lighting). It can be controlled through two rows of mounted switches on the center console, but it can also be controlled remotely through iPhone or Android. Two heavy-duty batteries in parallel ensure we have enough power to drive all this stuff, plus a lithium-polymer cell bank provides further energy storage and clean power to the sensitive arduino electronics.

Without a doubt, more than half the cost so far has been spent in the interior.

On the outside, this car will look like a defender and drive like a defender. Except it will be more square than when it left the factory. The body and chassis will have higher quality, more rust- and chip-resistant than the original paint. And the lights are all LEDs. Other than that it looks exactly like a 1984 110 (sans the stickers... could not stomach the stickers!).

The inside looks like nothing else out there. It;s certainly not a defender, but it's also not a swanky poseur chariot. It does have puma leather seats, and one or two gadgets, but other than that it is simple, elegant (black leather, ebony wood panels, black carpet) and functional (clean instrument cluster, unobtrusive controls). Sadly if I ever try to sell the 110, the interior will be hugely under-appreciated. No purist would ever touch it. And no Nantucket-bound hedgefund manager will want to pay anywhere near what was invested because it simply does not look like "money."

So... without further a-do, here's the visual story of this project... And to all of you members - purists and not-so-purists, lovers and haters - let us know what you think. You won't hurt our feelings. We are doing this as much for having a new car, as for building something unique where a 45 year-old nerd at heart can share a passion with his 12, 9 and 7 year olds.
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  #2  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 07:30 AM
Azarur
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LR 1984 110
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The original

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Original starting point
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  #3  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 07:38 AM
Azarur
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LR 1984 110
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More pictures of the starting point
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  #4  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 07:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azarur View Post

What followed is really nothing short of insane.
Couldn't have said it better myself. Questioned myself as well when on the road to building Nigel.

Welcome to the club!
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A friend of mine runs a land rover / range rover specialty repair shop. Based on his experience, they are capable of stopping anywhere, anytime, at any cost.

I don't know about the brakes, only their unreliability.
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  #5  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 07:57 AM
Azarur
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LR 1984 110
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
Couldn't have said it better myself. Questioned myself as well when on the road to building Nigel.

Welcome to the club!
Hope you're happy with it
I will *have* top be happy w mine, because based on the amount of money I spent on it, my wife ain't gonna let me buy a new car EVER!!!
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  #6  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 08:51 AM
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D110
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I'm excited to see the Arduinos and the components they are controlling.
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  #7  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 09:13 AM
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rovertrader
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Dale
Tithonus 110, D-90, 109 S/T 5-door
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Well, when the experience is considered priceless, the end result is as well. Will you ever get your money out of the truck, doubtful on a good day. Will you ever be able to correlate the build cost with the team work developed by you and the kids, again doubtful.
The real value lies in not necessarily what you all have built together,,but in what you do from here forward. Used a DD, totally not worth the effort. Used to travel, experience new places and meet new people as well as 'live a life worth living', then it takes on an important status as part of the 'team' so to speak.
While I am sure I have not articulated what I am trying to express, suffice it to say, get outside and use the Defender as it is meant to be used- and build many 'priceless' memories....

I built a canoe whilst in high school with my then girlfriend's dad, and while fun, it was all the trips it carried me on that I remember most. And it was always an ice breaker when meeting new folks...

Enjoy the new ride!
,
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  #8  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 09:27 AM
Azarur
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LR 1984 110
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackField View Post
I'm excited to see the Arduinos and the components they are controlling.
Indeed. The Arduinos have been by far one of the most fun parts of the project. We have three arduinos:
1. An Arduino Due
2. An Arduino Mega
3. An Arduino Uno

The Due was critical because it is the only one who can handle more than 5 interrupts, and we needed a bunch: Speed, RPM, fuel pulses, each of the 5 doors, low fuel. The Due reads each interrupt and converts them into a signal (mph for speed, RPM, or a trigger for doors and fuel). The Mega is connected to the thermocouples (4 in total: exterior, interior, exhaust gases, engine coolant), a tilt sensor (XYZ angles), an accelerometer and a barometer (all from Parallax, off the shelf). Likewise it converts all the digital signals into analog readouts (temperatures, altitude, bearing, g-forces, incline angles). All the information is then transferred to the UNO which displays it on a TFT screen.

Once it's all done I will post a list of components and the code for each of the three boards.

Oh, and when you turn the car on, it shows a kick-ass picture of the car
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  #9  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 09:54 AM
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Nigel is pure farm truck material. In time, he'll get a few softer touches (eg soundproofing) but for now he's good.
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A friend of mine runs a land rover / range rover specialty repair shop. Based on his experience, they are capable of stopping anywhere, anytime, at any cost.

I don't know about the brakes, only their unreliability.
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  #10  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 10:04 AM
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If you keep it forever, it'll (sort of) balance out. Sounds like you've accomplished your goal for a family truck. Go enjoy it!
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Past Land Rovers: '96 Discovery SD, '00 Range Rover HSE, '04 Discovery SE7, '07 Range Rover HSE, '08 LR3 SE7.
Past fleet: '89 Classic Mini, '83 Porsche 911 SC Coupe, '89 911 Carrera targa, '96 911 Carrera 4, '07 Toyota FJ Cruiser, several Minis.
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  #11  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 10:16 AM
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Is this the 200tdi 110 at performance unlimited? If so, awesome, because it sounds like it's a fantastic build. I went over it while I was down visiting Rodney a few months ago
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  #12  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 10:33 AM
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As someone doing something very similar to his truck, I say congrats and enjoy. If you have the money and the love, throw all economic sense away because there are no theories for passion.
The purists are clueless. Sorry. Yes there are people blinging out their truck tastelessly, but I (and it seems you too) are doing what LR themselves did for these last few years of Defenders-- adding some basic modern (and law requiring) amenities and keeping the truck a classy but modernized vehicle.

So send the pics on man. Excited to see a modern LR instead of the same old rust pots falling apart with people thinking how cool they are to drive.
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  #13  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 11:42 AM
Azarur
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LR 1984 110
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSBriggs View Post
Cars/machines are NOT investments. Just like your 2011 RR sold for less than you had into it, this will be the same. Is it simply transportation, or is this a hobby as well? Like many other hobbies, (skiing, golf, kayaking etc) you will never get money back from it. Why expect different from a truck?

As for the moral lesson of "teaching kids that wanton waste does not lead to anything good" I think you'd be just a well to teach then the power of money. How compounding interest can help or harm you depending of weather you are the lender or borrower. Or you could just make sure your truck is fair trade/sustainable/conflict free/carbon offset/gluten free and call it a day. Its a truck for fucksake.

-Jeff
I agree with about 80% of what you said. I just don't think its just a truck. I think spending months planning, discussing, deciding, executing with three young kids was - and continues to be - a huge teaching opportunity. It just happens to have four wheels and an engine (and cost a pile of money). It could have just as well been a tree house or a canoe. We just happen to be car people, so it's a truck.

As you correctly say, this is not an investment (not a good one anyway!). I expected to lose money. I was just hoping that the delta between what I'll end up spending and the potential re-sale value down the road would not be as HUGE as it will be. Again, I'm not complaining. I went into this with eyes wide open, and I have no intention of selling the 110 any time soon. I just laugh at my self-imposed irony of switching out of a car because it was "wasteful" and then spending this kind of money on its replacement.

------ Follow up post added February 2nd, 2015 11:44 AM ------

Quote:
Originally Posted by Z.G View Post
Is this the 200tdi 110 at performance unlimited? If so, awesome, because it sounds like it's a fantastic build. I went over it while I was down visiting Rodney a few months ago
Yup. Next person to work with Rodney will be very fortunate. Both because he is an awesome guy and because he's learned a ton with this project!
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  #14  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 11:59 AM
seaswood
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Restoration/restore

It is worth what you think it is although it may be too much for one person sounds like a great way to involve the family & give all a rewarding experience. That will lead to unknown experiences down the line.
I thought I was done but the restoration just keeps on going as it is a vehicle for transportation that has unintended consequences once started in motion takes on a life of it's own.

Go get lost somewhere not on the Cali freeway.
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  #15  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 12:49 PM
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Sounds like an awesome project and a great family experience. However, in terms of teaching a lesson to the children about wanton waste, then keeping the 2011 RR would have made more sense. Just seems like a contradiction to me.
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  #16  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 02:22 PM
Azarur
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Originally Posted by geoellis View Post
Sounds like an awesome project and a great family experience. However, in terms of teaching a lesson to the children about wanton waste, then keeping the 2011 RR would have made more sense. Just seems like a contradiction to me.
It was actually an easier decision than what it sounds because the RR was a company lease and the company just wanted to return it and get us a new one. The kids were keenly aware of how much fuel it used (I usually "gassed" it up on my way to dropping them off at school on Monday mornings) and how expensive it was (about $90 per week back when oil was worth something). I think the fact that the car was a company lease they understood much less of.

So getting rid of the RR was kind of a double whamy: not continuing to burn 20 gallons of premium unleaded per week AND not getting a new vehicle, but rather giving new life to an old one. We actually did the calculation, and although restoring an old car is by no means a "green" process, we did save about 30,000 gallons of water and about 130 MBTU of energy by restoring instead of buying a new one.

Now, the money we are spending that's a different question altogether. But I work my butt off and it's something worth doing with the kids, so I figure what the hell, right?
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  #17  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 02:24 PM
Azarur
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Here's the engine mess while disassembling:
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  #18  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 03:28 PM
newhue
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Azarur, I think you have a nicely rebuilt truck. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it looks ok to me. I would put myself more in the purist camp.
I do however think you have demonstrated to the kids more so, if you have money you can do what you want. Waste it, feel good about it, forget about it. It's great they were included in the planning, but if one just stands there pointing out what should go where, or deciding on what speakers will be installed, then little sweat, shinned knuckles, and appreciation are to be had. Once the buzz of a new car has faded it will be what's next. The OP reads as the answer to all questions was yes or Ok regardless of costs. If the vehicle is along term keeper than this changes the above somewhat.

In my view if you spent less, rebuild 1/4 of the car with the kids down in the dirt, then a better appreciation want and waste could be realised. The kids will truly appreciate it because it took effort, real effort. Not just money. The time spent together sharing the same frustrations, wins, and problem solving. Getting spanners for each other, interpreting the next move as you work together all helps with realising that $1 in true cost, along with effect and kinship, can make one feel like they have $100 in the pocket, or that they don't even need that because they have a unique experience together. The car is priceless in their eyes. And even if they loose it, they still hold it's real worth within, you.

Buy hey, it all depends on one mans budget, time, skills, and what they feel is fair to themselves and his offspring. The kids will love it regardless because of the time you spent working it out, and evermore so with the places you go in it.
You have done well. I'm sure you will have fun in it. I hope it's everything and more than whats on that checklist.

thanks for sharing.
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  #19  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azarur View Post
More pictures of the starting point
I would have been excited if my interior looked that nice when I got mine lol.

That being said there is a ton of room for improvement, and I'm definitely not a purist by any stretch of the imagination. I'm looking forward to seeing what you did in there.
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  #20  
Old February 2nd, 2015, 04:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azarur View Post
More pictures of the starting point
LOL, purist or not, that starting point looks like it could be the ending point for some!

In the end, the innerwebs opinions don't matter. The fact that you are involving your family in this project, no matter where it starts or ends, does matter. A lot.

Good luck with the restoration!
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