Defender Source Forum banner

SoonerMatt's 1988 Defender 90 build

12064 Views 108 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  robertf
Hello everyone. I'm about to take delivery of this defender here in Norman, Oklahoma. I'd been nostalgic for my old rock crawler YJ and the 1980 C10 truck I drove in high school. Land Cruisers and Rubicons were considered. Strangely, price was an issue on those. This was about the same. I've always loved these so it's a great fit. This is not a daily driver and will likely be a Home Depot or school drop off car. A mall crawler.

It should be mentioned that I have a 2007 Escalade which is extremely desirable year for 6.2L engine donors. It is pre AFM and direct injection. It has the better push rods and pistons. It's a very easy 500HP drop in drivetrain. That is eventually going in something. Why not this?

See less See more
1 - 20 of 109 Posts
Here is what l'm going for in this build. I'm posting this picture to remind myself to not buy that ARB bumper, winch, lockers, etc. This does not need to be a rock crawler.

On this I really like the naked grill and the basic bumper. I know it sounds crazy, but I don't necessarily need the over the top stuff. I've ordered the sawtooth wheels and a spare tire mount for the back.

I'm strongly considering that front grill. It has recesses that look a little better. I think the part number is DA1968 if anyone else is googling. I've bought all the LED lights as well. On mine I'll probably keep the passenger step and not get the step bar. Another item I need to research is preparing and painting my current fender flares. I want them, and my white roof to be color matched like this.
See less See more
For color, I found a 1997 Defender paint guide. I believe my paint will be PPG 73323 AKA "Portofino Red". It might not be the original color on mine but it will be close enough I believe. I like the darker red if possible. Someone please correct me if there is a darker, more 1988 accurate paint. I'll be going full clearcoat and wetsanding.

See less See more
Finally have the truck. Here's my least favorite part. It's rusted steel in my bulkhead (I believe). Previous owners have just been slapping parts on my rig without paying attention to the underlying cancer. I'm going to have to take this all back to steel and possibly weld in a repair.

I think this has changed hands maybe 3 times since it entered the United States. No one appeared to know what they were doing. This brake drum never had a chance to properly rust. (I'll probably sand it down and paint it black.)


This did come with a new set of KO2 tires which are exactly what I had lined up to buy. They're just a little smaller. We can use them for now!

Here are the sawtooth wheels I'll be putting the BFG tires on:

The very top of the roof isn't even bolted in properly. I'll have to get that fixed.

The cheap grill is cracked and barely hanging on. I ordered that new one I mentioned earlier.

There are ~6 seats in the back. I'll be using 0 of them.

The safari rack is 100% getting sold. So are all the lights and likely the snorkel.

There is no radio in this thing. At the moment I think I'm going with one of those 10" Android head units + backup camera. I'm running a 7" version in the Porsche and I love it.


So much has been ordered for this. I'll do separate posts for the headliner, sound deadening, carpet, new springs, shocks, poly kits, etc. So much to do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The new starter arrives tomorrow sometime.
See less See more
Now we're starting to get down to business. I took the wheels and tires to the shop to be swapped. Now I get to see my axles. I notice we have no sway bar. K. We can work with that. After I finally get to drive this thing (I haven't yet) -- I'll possibly add those later. I could grab some from Pull-A-Part off a Tahoe or truck. But here you can see the previous owner had some brake work done. The drum has rust on only one side. Since I'll have those fancy wheels on here I cleaned up the drums.


And this will prevent future rust.

Those springs are a disgrace. On other builds I've really enjoyed Old Man Emu and Bilstein. I think it's time to order OME springs and Bilstein shocks. I'll do that now.
See less See more
I slapped those skinny BFG KO2 tires on the new wheels. They were fairly new themselves. These tires are actually the skinniest tires on any vehicle at my house now. The Porsche has wider tires lol. I'm going to hold off on the OME spring purchase. I think I have ~83" to fit into my garage. This is ~80.5". The OME springs supposedly lift it 2". The tires I'll eventually get + 2" lift springs will be exactly what I want. But it will be close. I'll need to drive it a bit and see how it settles before I order my springs and shocks. Don't need to do everything today. Before I've ever even driven this truck...

See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Your progress looks great so far! I know what you mean about the garage. I am in the market for a Defender and have to ask sellers “can you measure to the tallest point on the truck for me”. I have 82” to work with. Keep up the great work.
Forget the springs and cosmetics. Fixing the bulkhead should be number one job.
  • Like
Reactions: 2
The patches on the frame are clues that a close inspection of the frame is a good idea. It also looks like the rear crossmember (rear end of the frame) might have been replaced. At a minimum, bang on it with a hammer to make sure you have a good foundation before you start plowing money into it.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
The patches on the frame are clues that a close inspection of the frame is a good idea. It also looks like the rear crossmember (rear end of the frame) might have been replaced. At a minimum, bang on it with a hammer to make sure you have a good foundation before you start plowing money into it.
Thanks. Yes, it was replaced. Bulkhead rust and frame rust are my top two targets right now. Concerning the frame I've ordered new poly bushings, springs and shocks.

I'm going to pull the axles and attached components and give them a once over. I'll be removing any frame rust and can patch anything as needed. When I'm done the chassis will be bedlined as much as you can from below.

Sent from my BE2029 using Tapatalk
The driver (I typed passenger at first due to habit) door was being held shut by a bungie cord. The new striker now keeps it closed. Landrover made an interesting choice by putting plastic on a part called "striker". They knew this thing was going to be slammed thousands of times but still decided to put plastic there. lol.

One thing that kind of sucks is that only the striker appears to be adjustable; not the locking mechanism. I've maxed out the striker holes for adjustment and still have ~1/4" play in the closed door. I think I'm going to have to drill the holes 1/4" closer to the seat :(

Please pipe up if you see that I'm about to make a permanent mistake. I don't want to cut metal if it isn't needed!

Another item I need to solve are the door check straps. On old jeeps these were nylon. It appears that I might be missing a metal arm on both sides. More research needed...

See less See more
Here is an unproductive rant on this truck's previous owners. I won't worry about offending them, because if they were active on this forum they likely would not have made these very bad decisions.

So the door doesn't shut, there is water leaking in. What does a previous owner do? Flashy shift knobs is the answer!

The top is being held in by ~3 bolts and possibly 15 are missing.

So how do you deal with the leaking top that isn't bolted on properly? Add some super expensive roof rack and ladder! That will solve all this truck's problems! (This is like new and will be listed for sale soon. It's useless on a truck that doesn't run.)


The doors have no check straps and fling open. How do we solve that? Let's buy one of those fancy snorkels and use a single bolt to mount it! It will prevent the door from flying into the fender (fact). Luckily the PO was lazy and only used one bolt. That's less to repair.

Since a (maybe not the guy I bought this from) previous owner was an African Safari baller, they needed extra lights for the extreme overlanding they were doing. These unplugged lights were a great radiator protector.


It's going to annoy people, but this build is not going to be an extreme offroad rock crawler. I've been there and have done that. Every Defender doesn't need ARB lockers, bumper, WARN winch, onboard air compressor, double beadlocks, etc. I've been there and have done all that before. There's a reason I'm not posting this on Pirate4x4.
See less See more
The new starter is installed and the truck barely runs. I can get it to limp at idle if I prime the lifter pump. A new diaphragm should arrive in 2-3 weeks. I'm not sure what to do next. A question thread has been created in technical discussions.

Don't re-drill door jambs. Read some threads about adjusting the door hinges. If you drill holes there they will eventually slot out and the door will never shut correctly

That bulkhead foot is totally toast and most likely the rest of the bulkhead is absolutely trash. Food factor in a brand new bulkhead instead of trying to repair that one.
  • Like
Reactions: 2
I'm going to take this to work before sunrise on Monday. I have the grill and lights in the house. Decided to toss them on for now. It's temporary as I still have a lot of body work to do.

This grill is hanging on by 3 screws.

This is grill part number: DA1968

The new grill comes with a blank spot for a logo. There was this Landrover logo on the back. I grabbed some double sided tape and put it permanently on the front.

See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Not a fan of spare tires that hang on the rear tailgate. It never works out. This was ~$350 on ebay.


See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Change of plans! I'm doing an engine swap first and painting later. I did a 4am test run on the highway to check on the headlights and see if I could maintain highway cruising speed. In short I can't and my truck almost caught on fire. It started overheating, blowing sparks out from around the turbo and ran like crap. It felt dangerous and unuseable. And I, in now way, want to spend another penny on this engine.

Here are some trends in 4x4s from 1988. Which engine were the major players running?

1988 Toyota Landcruiser: 4.0L i6 (the Toyota 3F)
1988 Jeep Cherokee: 4.0L i6 (famous, reliable Jeep engine)

What did Landrover decide to do? They took a 2.5L petrol engine, switched it to diesel. They discovered that still sucked so they slapped a turbo on it. Now it has more power, but has more moving parts that need to be maintained and fail. Still bad.

I'm going to put a 4.1L i6 from a Chevy truck in this thing. I'll be using Robert Davis' GM250 -> LT77 kit.

Here is a picture of my engine getting red hot after driving on the highway at 4am. Maybe sparks and red hot metal is normal on a diesel? I don't know. Either way I'm switching to gas. More on that to come.

See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
I’m sure you’ll find these closer…but I have a core and 3 intakes of you need any. Atlanta

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  • Like
Reactions: 2
Needed a strategy to start tackling all the holes drilled in the body. Read about lead solder, bondo, etc. Decided on JB-Weld + tape. Did a test run overnight. Am pleased with the results.

To start, I take the holes down to bare metal with a grinder. Wanted a divot more than anything.


I chose q-tips as the applicator. They helped to "drag" jb-weld into the underside of the hole. I want as much coverage as possible.

Then I used tape to mash it flat and hold it in place.


Ran a palm sander over it and sprayed some primer. This will probably get another once over, but it's much better for now. I'm confident in this process to do other holes in the body.


This is much easier than I expected, So that's some good news. Maybe the first of this project.
See less See more
Front bumpers are a mess on these things! All 4 of my bumper bolts snapped off. We called those nuts in clips "nutserts" in the jeep world. They have to go any time I see them. Grade 8 nuts have been welded onto the bumper. The frame has been cleaned as well. The welder was probably too hot on those bolts. It started to turn them to liquid lol.


The amount of rust inside was disturbing. None-the-less it needed cleaned and painted.

See less See more
1 - 20 of 109 Posts