Reliability, simplicity, security and storage is the aim for want we to achieve with Kermit’s re-build. We are investing a lot more into him this time round and we hope it pays dividends when we go back on the road. Like anyone who embarks on a self-build and ships their vehicle to another continent, we hope he’ll drive the distance and have as little issues as possible.
With this build we have avoided playing reliability roulette with getting products from eBay and instead opted for quality led companies who have guarantees and warranties on products for longer than we are expecting to be away. This has to be a winning formula… right?
Through Central America and part of our mini South American adventures we were plagued with reliability issues. As we had such a short time frame from having the idea to do this trip and to shipping the vehicle, we did not replace any of Dougal’s parts before leaving and were naively hoping for the best. Lesson learnt. This time with the help of Bearmach we are replacing most (if not all) mechanical parts. We have tried to keep things as simple as possible, so finding parts in any country in the continent won’t be as much of a headache.
Why have we replaced so much?
After being away and having the most obscure part to fail on us, we wanted to replace with some quality parts to reduce the chances of the vehicle being immobile. We have lost count of the amount of times we were stuck in a dangerous area with the stress of a deadline to meet.
We do not know the history of this vehicle at all (and the last owner just lied when we bought it). Having covered 100k miles we would like to take the opportunity whilst we have it to make the most reliable, leak free Defender as can be. Bearmach is a company I have been familiar with for a while, and I have always chosen these parts over their competitors. As a company they guarantee the quality of the products they distribute and sell. They do this through third party and in-house testing. They are also possibly one of the friendliest and most efficient Land Rover companies I have had the pleasure of working with. Throughout our adventures we will be posting about their products, which we have fitted to Kermit and how they are holding up and performing. They distribute to most of the world including South America – a massive bonus for us if something goes wrong.
We have upgraded the cooling system to include alloy radiators, double core intercooler, water pump, thermostat and silicon pipes. Hopefully this will keep us running happy through deserts and up steep inclines – places where we have run into cooling issues before.
We have gone a little overboard here, but we want longevity out of our vehicle. Teflon swivels, new stub axles, Bearmach wheel bearing kits, EBC disc upgrade, heavy duty wide angle prop shafts, heavy duty steering components, new hand brake components (as ours are oil contaminated), HD pan hard to mention but a few.
We had already fitted a Terrafirma +2” Lift kit with heavy duty springs. This will enable us to carry an extra 500KG above normal load, which should give us a better ride when we are carrying all our gear. We have also fitted tubuar shock turrets to help us shed the mud we pick up along the way. We have upgraded to Polyurethane bushes all around, a heavy duty anti roll bar, castor-correcting and cranked trailing arms by Wild Bear.
As we had no vehicle history, we have replaced the transfer and gearboxes with refurbished units. This will hopefully stop the dripping oil that contaminates the handbrake making it useless
We changed every gasket and oil seal. We are after a rare and elusive leak free Defender. A mission impossible? We also upgraded the oil breather and fitted new fuel pump, starter motor, vacuum pump, replaced the core plugs, glow plugs and gave it a thorough service. We have already fitted our turbo with a new wastegate and an upgraded turbo cartridge from NKK Turbos, which packs a bit more punch. We also fitted a second alternator kit to help charge our leisure battery and take the strain off our vehicle alternator.
To stop the dreaded rust we will be treating the chassis to a steam clean, de-greasing and dinitrol chassis paint and chassis wax. We are hopping to apply a thick enough covering to last us a couple of years.
This time, everything is being re-wired. A new auxiliary fuse and relay box will be fitted in the seatbox. All old wiring by previous owners has been removed.
We are using 20A carling switches. Anything over 15A will be placed on a relay circuit. Whilst the vehicle is stripped, all wiring will be routed and covered in anti-crush housing to ensure it is durable and sensibly routed. Connections will be crimped and soldered for added durability – no more Mr Scotchblock butchering!
Two 100W solar panels will be fitted to the roof to charge our leisure battery and to run our fridge during the day. This will be fitted to a quality solar controller. These teamed with a second 120A alternator will make us a mini power station.
All auxiliary lighting will be LED. This reduces draw from the battery and they also give a longer operational life than bulbs.
With overlanding in a Defender the space you have is limited. Everything must be as compact as possible. The simpler the design, the less there is to go wrong. In Kermit's first build though we over simplified the rear. It was too lightweight; didn’t last in the rigorous of overlanding and compromised the handling.
One thing we have done to simplify our setup is to get rid of gas. In previous setups we used propane to heat water and to cook with. Although this is readily available in all countries we visited, every single country had a different regulator and gas bottle fittings. Not all countries had gas bottles small enough to fit in our side lockers either. In Chile the smallest bottle we could find was 13KG! This then took up a lot of space in the rear and meant we couldn’t have it connected to run our fridge whist driving. This time we have decided to heat and cook with Diesel. We have gone for a Webasto Dual top to heat both air and water, and a Webasto X100 diesel hob. Although this is pricier, this will save us a lot of space inside and means we only need one fuel to run everything. Although the systems we are installing are more complex than a propane bottle and a gas hob, the overall longevity and simplicity of only using one fuel source together with the space saved from carrying a propane canister prevails.
Where possible we have fitted intelligent systems, which are self-monitoring and self-regulating. This kit comes from National Luna. A smart solenoid and monitoring system takes care of our split charging, and their 50L weekender fridge keeps all our food (and more importantly our beers) cool in a compact rugged unit.
We have opted for a pop-top system by Alu-Cab, supplied by UK importers - Extreme Sales. The Icarus system is simple in its build but is of great quality. There is much less to go wrong than with a RTT, and also it is far more secure.
Having been broken into in Peru, and attempted to be broken into every container crossing (that’s now a total of five), security is high on our agenda this time. We purposefully choose the 110 Hardtop Defender due to its lack of windows in the rear compared to other models.
We have partnered with Pentagon glass, who will fit their supaglass laminate. This means that the windows can still be broken but it will still hold the glass together. Watch the video. It’s impressive. This stops opportunistic smash and grabs - a major problem in South America. It also provides safety benefits whist off-roading. Find us at a show to see a demo of us trying to break the glass!
We have upgraded to heavy duty lock barrels and also fitted kasp hasps. These are heavy duty tamper proof locks, which fit to the outside of the vehicle, often seen on van back doors. We have one for each door.
All of our storage is in metal drawers that are also lockable.
Everything that is fitted externally to the vehicle is locked onto the vehicle using toughened locks.
We have a global tracker that alerts us if Kermit moves
Custom Dog guard
A lockable dog guard fits between the cab and the rear making it impossible to get into the rear.
We also have steel window guards fitted to the rear windows.
We are using every possible inch with clever storage solutions. We will be leveling off the rear load space in Kermit with a large pull out drawer, which will become our kitchen when pulled out from the back. Down each side of the rear we will have plenty of lockable storage that is custom tailored to the Defender. This will give us the maximum storage for our gear and food. Previously we have always struggled to find a place for our chairs and table to fit whilst on the road, and they always seem to take up so much space. This time we have a table made by Alu Cab, which is locked on the underside of the roof rack.
We have also removed the bulkhead behind the rear seats and replaced with a bulkhead removal bar. This makes access to the rear easier without getting out of the vehicle.
Without gas, our side lockers have become useful space for storage. We have also fitted a GMB wing top locker for a little extra storage.
We are fitting chassis mounted tanks to carry additional fuel and water. This will give us the following benefits: they are much more discreet than jerry cans on the roof and far less likely to attract thieves, and having the tanks mounted to the chasis will lower our center of gravity. Throwing everything out of the way on the roof is great, but it does make handling comparable to a boat. Also, having the water tanks out of the way will free up a lot of space inside the truck. We will carry an additional 100L of fuel and 100L of potable water.
We have 10 months to get the vehicle finished. This is the longest time frame we have ever given ourselves to build and test the setup. We will be at Land Rover and Overland shows throughout the year, the first starting in April. Ideally we would like to be 75% completed by this point, so if you are at the shows, come say hello and let us know what you think!
You can follow our progress on our website, social media sites and YouTube.
Got any other suggestions for the ultimate camper setup? Let us know via the comments or Facebook. Thank you.