‘How lucky is he?’ must wonder all of Danny’s classmates knowing his dad funded and help him build his dream Land Rover as his first car. Believe it or not, this head turner, show-car quality, Defender 90 is the pride and joy of 17-year old Danny, Paul Darlow’s son!

Corsa or Fiesta? This is not a question that was ever going to be asked at the Darlows when Danny was old enough to get his permit: of course, it is going to be a Defender. The need for a car instantly translated into a father and son endeavour, after building together several others of the family’s Land Rovers.

The project being on a tight budget, Paul opted for an older, inexpensive to insure, Tdi 90. Finding a non-rusty one proved harder than expected and took travelling to Liskeard, Cornwall to find one! A sympathetic lady had just advertised it and Paul bought it on the spot, over the phone. A 6 hours trip from Bedford with a trailer and £2.650 later Danny was the proud owner of a 1991 90 Hardtop.

As soon as the duo made it home, they immediately started putting it in bits down to bare chassis – they could do it in their sleep we are told! No bad surprise once stripped: the running gear was in fair condition and the chassis only needed a steam clean, a couple of welds followed by a coat of waxoil.

This allowed spending more time on thoroughly inspecting the 200 Tdi. It only needed a full service, running nice and smooth already. Followed the install of a freshly refurbished gearbox and a Range Rover Classic high ratio transfer case – Paul happens to have a ginormous parts collection from previous builds to pick elements from. He continued digging into his parts bin, extracting a set of Td5 Defender axels, trailing and radius arms. He fitted brand news Td5 brakes, before mating the lot to the gearboxes thanks to Puma prop shafts.

The fully serviced, original, 200 Tdi engine lives untouched with its stock turbocharger and fuel pump. The only slight upgrades consist of a K&N filter in the color-coded airbox and silicone hoses. ‘That’s plenty of power for a young driver already!’ That said, Paul could not leave the powerplant strictly alone and installed an exhaust system of his own, producing a Td5/ and 200 Tdi hybrid exhaust system, without center box.

The Defender being a daily driver, Danny did not need a raised suspension, so the duo opted for standard Td5 springs and shock absorbers – figure where from… The part collection was again visited when Paul installed a new rear cross member, then decided to install a second diesel tank. Not to double the fuel capacity but as hidden storage. A cut open Td5 unit acts as a secret stash, accessible from the rear of the tub, hidden by a heavy-duty rubber floor mat. A new 200 Tdi tank sits under the seat.

Retro look

At this point, they already know in which direction they are headed: they will upgrade the 90 in a retro-modern fashion. This allows standing out of the Defender crowd while keeping expenses to a minimum, saving on alloys or aftermarket leather seats for instance. First off, the hardtop leaves room for a lovely, custom, All Wheel Trim mohair soft-top. It is coupled with a truck cab, and TD5 doors, themselves mated to a refurbished Td5 Bulkhead. You’ll hardly notice it, but Paul blanked out the vent flap with steel plates, reinforcing the painstakingly renovated bulkhead extracted from a crashed 90.

After a test fit, the lot, along with sandblasted galvanized cappings, was covered in Tonga Green, right in the Darlow’s garage! They were soon joined by new NAS rear quarters and plastic front wings Paul had in stock, along with a Puma bonnet from one of James Bond stunt 110! Paul bought several parts from one of the scraped Skyfall Defender – one with the stuntman driving atop the cabin. He had to patch it in as the various cables running from the driver’s controls to the engine bay went through a large cut out on the side.

Paul then filled his spray gun with a creamy Limestone to cover a new grill (nicely contrasting with the Tonga headlight surrounds), and the Bolt on Bits bumper with integrated LED lights. The SVX sidebars and widen 200 Tdi steel rims followed.

Paul succeeded in offering a classic feel to a front end boasting newest LED technologies and latest styling. The Limestone grill and the Tonga headlight surrounds certainly help making discreet the usually rather ‘bling’ Powerful UK LED headlights. Ditto for the massive Bolt on Bits bumper with integrated day running lights.

All the Darlows had to do was wait for the paint to dry and reassemble, adding finishing touches such as the Powerful UK LED headlights, NAS side running lights and rare NOS Series II mud flaps. Then they could concentrate on outfitting the entire cabin with new carpet and soundproofing lining along with a Exmoor Trim moulded sound deadening cover on top of the new 200 Tdi seat box, receiving the Puma seats. The Tonga and Limestone theme continues inside with painted cubby box, Raptor centre dash, binnacle trim and even classic car gauges, all complementing the superb wood steering wheel and leather-trimmed dashboard.

Deep soundproofing carpet and Exmoor Trim moulded sound deadening seat box cover make for a considerably quieter truck cab 90. Smart touches of stitched leather cover the sun visors, top dash, gear levers and the painted cubby box’s extra thick foam padded armrest. Classic car gauges stand out of the Tonga Raptor centre dash, as the original ones do of the binnacle, since Paul painted them Limestone! The handcrafted steering wheel fantastically completes the retro look.

If you think this is impressive enough, you’ll be shock reading the whole project only took Paul and Danny 2.5 months and that they only spend £6.500, including the donor 90! Needless to say, the previous owner was stunned when the Darlow visited her during a local Land Rover meet. She also happened to have asked Danny: ‘Do you know how lucky you are?’

If you have visited a Land Rover show in the last two decades, chances are you have already seen one of Paul’s creations. A Defender fanatic, he creates, with the help of Danny, his custom 90s and 110s to very high standards, on par with the best bespoke specialists, at the rate of one per year. In our 2012 Spring issue, we featured his superb Bali Blue 100’’ SVX soft top Puma Defender, consisting entirely of brand new Land Rover parts, the first – and probably still the only – Puma 100’’ Defender. Paul’s next “ten-strike”? He is currently building himself an insane 4.2L V8 auto 107’’ Series 1!

If you have visited a Land Rover show in the last two decades, chances are you have already seen one of Paul’s creations. A Defender fanatic, he creates, with the help of Danny, his own custom 90s and 110s to very high standards, on par with the best bespoke specialists, at the rate of one per year. In our 2012 Spring issue, we featured his superb Bali Blue 100’’ SVX soft top Puma Defender, consisting entirely of brand new Land Rover parts, the first – and probably still the only – Puma 100’’ Defender. Paul’s next “ten-strike”? He is currently building himself an insane 4.2L V8 auto 107’’ Series 1!
Paul bought several panels from one of the Skyfall scraped stunt Defender 110s; this bonnet is one of them. The smoothed bulkhead is almost unnoticed but visually “cleans” the Defender lines. This operation was necessary to reinforce the salvaged Td5 bulkhead.
he 200 Tdi steel rims widened by 2 inches to accommodate larger tyres. The 265/75R16 Cooper Discoverer A/T3s nicely fill the painted Td5 Defender wheel arches, fitted on ABS wing side panels. Amber side light are NAS style aftermarket Led units.
Modern NAS Style LED lights surprisingly complement the classic Limestone covering the NAS rear step bumper. The latter hides a new rear crossmenber holding the spare wheel carrier. Paul smoothed the pick-up rear door by sticking a 2mm aluminium panel to it before spraying it Tonga green. Yes, these are hard to find, New Old Stock, Series II mud flaps!
Another James Bondesque touch: hidden under the Land Rover rubber floor mat lays a hatch giving access to a cut open Td5 tank, acting as a secret stash. We wonder where its aluminium panel comes from though…
Paul bought several parts from one of the scraped Skyfall Defender – one with the stuntman driving atop the cabin. He actually had to patch it in as the various cables running from the driver’s controls to the engine bay went through a large cut out on the side.