The Expedition Vehicle

I've finally started the journey towards my own Land Rover expedition. In June 2009 I purchased this 1992 Land Rover Defender 110 Hardtop 200Tdi from eBay. I've already found myself trawling catalogues and websites for things I can buy to upgrade it with. My journey to make the ultimate expedition vehicle has begun.

Buying an expedition Land Rover relies on a few choices depending on what your main purpose is. Any Land Rover can be used effectively, but Defenders from 1990 to 1998 seem to be the popular choice. My vehicle also sits in this bracket, and my reasons are fairly similar to others who buy Land Rover Defenders as expedition vehicles:

  • It's a 110 Hardtop
  • It's has a 200Tdi
  • It's in fairly good condition
  • The price

The spec

A Defender has the ground clearance, the ease of modification and simplicity of maintenance that aren't a given with a Discovery. The 110 was a definite choice over the 90, as they have a better load space to carry expedition equipment. I would have settled for a Station Wagon, although as I don't have kids or intend to carry many people on expedition, the Hardtop allows me to get even more stuff in the back. It means there are fewer doors to rust and less potential break-in points! It's also fairly standard spec so gives me a blank canvas on which to design my ultimate expedition vehicle.

The engine

It would always prefer to have a pre-Td5 engine that didn't rely on electronics that could be mended in the middle of nowhere with simple tools. The 200Tdi, although an earlier model than the 300Tdi, has a good reputation for reliability, and it's well known that a diesel is the best expedition engine.

This one being at 205,000 miles still has the potential for plenty of life to go. The 300Tdi's, whilst of similar performance, have reliability issues with head gaskets and timing belts on the early engines. Having said that, I would have settled on either. The fact it's a 200Tdi meant I was able to pick it up for under £2000. Had it been a 300Tdi the price could have been a lot more.

The condition

I have seen better examples of Defenders, but a lot worse. From the photo it does look quite gleaming. It'd had a fair amount of work done already such as a new clutch, tires, modular wheels, timing belt and the engine runs smoothly; all of which help to settle the nerves when buying a 17 year old Land Rover.

However, the hinges are rusty, some parts of the chassis are a bit crispy, the radiator's damaged, the fuel light stays on, the doors are rotting, the transfer box leaks from both ends and so do the sump and rear diff. The fact it has a few niggly issues makes me glad that I have a Land Rover that I can learn from and feel more confident in fixing should I find myself lost in Africa with no mechanic.

The price

Your choice of expedition vehicle comes a lot down to your budget. I intend to use it as a project and get the satisfaction of modifying it over the coming years, but you may want to pay a bit more to have a ready made expedition vehicle. My budget was optimistically set and after 3 months looking at Land Rovers on eBay for a good "cost to condition to suitability" ratio, and looking closer to see exactly what i've bought, I feel happy that I got a good deal. They're definitely out there! This way i'm still able to get a decent, capable vehicle but spread out over a few more years...

The future

As i'm not going on expedition quite yet, I'm glad I afforded myself the time to research the market and strike when the factors were right.

It was a big step of commitment but it has made the vision of going on expedition a definite reality. In the coming months i'll be fixing/repairing/modifying the Land Rover as the pay cheques clear. Watch this space....


After 15 months of ownership, I sold this Defender. Read more about the replacement expedition Defender.

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