When we bumped into Eric Simpkins outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center during the 2014 SEMA Show, we both were standing next to a 1993 Land Rover 110. For those not familiar with these boxy but stately British 4x4s, they are considered a quintessential off-road vehicle and adored by many.
Production of the model now known as the Defender began in 1983 as the Land Rover 110, a name that reflected the 110-inch length of the wheelbase. In 1993 Land Rover launched the Defender in the North American market, and although the upscale Range Rover had been sold here since 1987, this was the first time “utility” Land Rovers had been sold in the U.S. since 1974.
The initial export delivery was just 525 Defender 110 County Station Wagons: 500 to the United States and 25 to Canada. They came with a 3.9-liter V8 gas engine and a five-speed manual transmission. All of the vehicles were white (except one specifically painted black for Ralph Lauren), and featured full external roll-cages, and larger side-indicator and tail-lights. Factory air conditioning was standard.
The example we were staring at when meeting Simpkins was in phenomenal condition, but looked to be heavily customized. It naturally got our attention. So our first question to Simpkins was, “is this yours?” We found out that in fact Simpkins was a guest of Galpin Auto Sports, and he had restored the vehicle for the owner.
Simpkins told us, “I didn’t know anything about these vehicles, and had never even seen one before beginning the restoration and build-up on this Land Rover Defender 110. It was a complete teardown, and I had to pull the entire powertrain first to figure out where everything would go when the owner decided he wanted an LS swap.”
The 1993 Land Rover Defender 110 is now outfitted with a new E-Rod LS3 from Chevrolet Performance, and a 4L70 automatic transmission backs it up. Power is sent down to a pair of beefy Dynatrac axles to handle all the power coming from the LS3–a ProRock 44 in front and a ProRock 60 in the rear–both of which contain ARB air lockers for ultimate traction capabilities.
Simpkins fabricated all the mounts for the new axles and upgraded steering system. The only thing stock on the steering system is the steering box and pitman arm, everything else was built from chromoly steel. The suspension was augmented with a three-inch lift using Old Man Emu springs all the way around, and FOX 2.0 remote-reservoir coilovers front and rear to improve the ride quality and deliver better off-road drivability.
Making sure as much of the power from the LS3 gets usefully delivered to the ground is a set of aggressively-treaded Nitto Tire LT285/75-16R Grapplers wrapped around some very sweet-looking 16-inch, all-black Fuel wheels.
The Land Rover Defender 110 carried the bumper-bull bar up front when Simpkins got ahold of it, but he re-fabricated it by taking out a section of the center, moved the winch forward, and built a foot-step into it. It carries a Superwinch for use in any rescue operations, and Simpkins told us, “the owner asked to keep the winch and steering wheel for sentimental reasons.”
The Amp Research auto-retract steps used on the Land Rover were for a Ford F-150, but Simpkins milled down the mounts and re-clocked the motors to make them work for the Defender’s shape. The Land Rover 110-signature exterior cage-roof rack is the original, however a couple of upper bars were added for more strength and storage capacity.
Simpkins also did a full-custom interior makeover on the 110, creating dash pieces and a center console from brushed stainless steel. He also added new power windows on all four doors, installed an Alpine Nav head unit, and replaced the stock instruments in the dash with a set of Dakota Digital gauges.
As a matter of fact, aside from the full powertrain and drivetrain swap, Simpkins said, “the hardest part of the entire re-build project was creating the new interior, as I had to move the AC and heat unit from the engine bay and figure out where to fit it behind the front dash.”
We are a bit sentimental about real “utes” here at OffRoadXtreme too, so we were drooling over the incredibly well-done rebuild on the British 4×4. Simpkins did an outstanding job of bringing the 20-year old Land Rover 110 back to life, and breathing new fire into it with an LS swap, heavy duty axles, and a completely new custom interior.