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1997 NAS Defender 90 Soft Top
4.6 Conversion, Repairs and Upgrades
This 1997 NAS Defender 90 Soft Top has come to us from an owner in NC. Its a nice vehicle, but it is getting up there in miles and it needs some TLC and some upgrades to make it better. To develop a base line for the vehicle, we have completed a full evaluation of the 90 and have discussed that list with the customer to find out what he does and does not want done. For this 90 we will be doing mainly mechanical items to get the 90 that is approaching 100,000 miles ready for some more road time.
As with most 90s with this many miles the Rover has some rust issues as well. The door hinges on this 90 are getting quite rusty and some of the tire carrier parts need to be replaced/ restored to make the 90 look good again. Once these parts are brought back they will be assembled with all stainless steel parts so that the hardware won't rust up again.
The engine in the 90 has 100K miles, but appears to suffer from lack of oil changes. This is showing up as some really loud lifter noise and very low oil pressure. After talking the options over with the customer we will be yanking the old 4.0 and installing a new 4.6 to cure the engine issues and gain some more power for the D90. We will also be replacing the dreaded oil cooler lines with new units and sleeved them in heat resistant sleeve to combat any engine compartment fires. Stay tuned for the engine swap and the ECU upgrade.
Here you can see the tire carrier and restored third brake light mounts looking great and installed back onto the Rover. Everything is installed with stainless steel and the parts are primed/ painted and or powder coated with better attention to detail so that the rust won't come back any time soon.
The upgraded hinges with stainless steel hardware is a nice addition to this 90, especially with the Alpine White color. These will keep the rust bleeds to a min. and make the 90 look fresh once it is cleaned up.
Inside the 90 we have replaced a number of broken plastic trims and even replaced the de-laminated steering wheel for a clean and rattle free interior, making it a much nicer place to be.
As this 90 will have periods where it sits without being run, we have installed an NAS 110 style battery cut off switch so that the battery power can be cut and the next time the customer wants to start the 90 the power will be there and there will be no dead battery issues when the 90 is supposed to jump into action.
A fine addition to any D90 soft top is the installation of a new upgraded soft top. This set up with the gutter kit, that we have powder coated black for a more finished look, seals better and is something we suggest for all Defender 90 soft tops. Its a win, win situation. It looks better, works better and will last longer as well.
Next up for this 90 is a new sound system, the installation of a ROX front bumper and winch set up and the new 4.6 V8.
When we removed the original bumper we found this rust hole in the frame. The rest of the frame is in good shape, but this area needs to be addressed before we can install the heavy duty bumper set up.
Here you can see we have cut away the rust and this is the good steel we are left with.
Once we have fabricated a patch panel with new heavy gauge steel and fully welded it in, primed and painted the area this is what it looks like, a proper repair that will last a long time and be able to support the weight and stress of the new ROX winch bumper combination.
Here you can see the new ROX bumper set up and installed onto the Defender. We have not only completed the ROX bumper install but also added some Hella 4000 driving lights, recovery points and a Warn 9000 winch to make the 90 look better and have more capabilities off road.
This 90 also had a "professionally" installed sound system. The rats nest of wires and substandard stuff in this install is too long to mention. Lets just leave it at this... the customer runs this 90 with the top off frequently and the "professionals" installed an amplifier in the back, under a piece of loose Plexiglas (can you say "Pimp My Ride") that was exposed to the elements. So when the customer had the top off and it rained or the morning dew formed, the amp got wet... Brilliant!
So what do we do with all that "professionally" installed stuff. Stick it all right in the trash where it belongs and start over with a proper system that will work in a 90 the way a 90 should be used. This isn't an Escalade.
Once all the goofy crap was removed we laid down a layer of dyna-mat and then topped it off with a new rear load space mat. This gives us a nice blank canvas to work with.
New rear boxes are then fabricated that will serve many purposes. They will house the rear speakers, house the dual sub-woofers and act as arm rests for the rear bench seat passengers. These units will now head off to be Rhino-Lined for the ultimate in durability The new amp will be located under the center console out of the weather and everything will be set up with less "bling" and more durability in mind. In a Defender with the top off or windows out you don't need "bling", you need a good sound system that will stand up the the elements.
To add some personal touches and to set this 90 apart, the customer had us install some 5 bar diamond plate items. We added wing top guards and new running boards...
As well as a new rear step plate to match. This keeps the 90 looking subtle, but adds some pieces that most Defender 90s do not have. In this photo you can also see the ECR ROX 304 stainless exhaust system that has been installed ready for the new 4.6 and also the new LED tail lights that will eliminate the troublesome old rear lights.
Here is that brand new, not rebuilt, 4.6 ready for the ancillaries from the old 4.0 that will be out shortly. This new engine will not only cure the mechanical issues, but it will give the automatic D90 a much needed boost in torque.
To make the EFI computer understand that it has a new 4.6 to work with we are installing a new chip set for the GEMS computer. These chips clean up the general settings used by Land Rover to cover their butts and tweaks everything to be the best that it can be. Without these chips the ECU still thinks it has a 4.0 under the hood, and although the GEMS ECU is good at adapting, its not good enough to get the full potential from the engine without a chip set change.
Here you can see the new 4.6 fully dressed and installed back into the 90s engine bay. The re-chipped ECU has been installed and everything has been checked, tested and fired up. Next we'll clean and button up the engine bay.
To make the inside of the 90 as nice as some of the other areas of this Rover we have updated the sound system. The new Alpine head unit controls the iPod connection in the cubby box, the Sirius radio and more. The Alpine digital amp is mounted under the console out of the weather and away from prying eyes, as is the Bluetooth unit and more.
The new speakers have been installed in the doors and...
the new rear speakers and subs have been hooked up as well. This system now sounds better than the system that was in this 90, has more options that the old system did (Bluetooth and Sirius) and takes up less space. Its a win win situation.
Another common problem with Defenders as they get older is in the seats. They tend to get uncomfortable and start to fall apart. You can see the drivers sat above has seen better days, its all squashed out of shape.
With the seat cover removed you can see the issue. The seat foam has ripped and is falling down the seat frame.
The same thing happens with the lower seat foam. It decays and gets squished out of shape. This seat bottom already had someone's lame attempt at a repair. They glued a layer of pillow stuffing on the original foam and then tried to glue chunks of foam in to fill the splits. It didn't work and it still surprises us what people will pay for (a "repair" like this) when the correct parts to cure the issue are readily available and easy to install.
Here you can see the repaired seat back in place. We have installed new upper and lower foams, correct factory formed units, and put the factory covers back over the new foam. This brings the seat back into shape and makes it a pleasure to sit in again. The old covers are pretty worn on this 90, and those can be replaced as well, but in this 90s case it will be getting upgraded seat covers, and the seat trims were not ripped so that was not needed. The passenger seat already has its upgraded seat cover installed and is looking good. Once the test miles are done we will install the drivers seat cover (we leave it until last so there are no risk of a stain from one of our staff).
This image shows the rear bench seat back in place, with its new covers installed. The rear of the 90 is now starting to look great again with the new sound system parts, new seat covers and new floor covering, and it will be quieter too because of the dyna-mat installed and the upgraded soft top.
Here you can see both front seat covers in place. The work done to the front seats will make the seating position better, eliminate rattles from the broken seat bases and make the 90 a much nicer place to be while behind the wheel.
Now that the interior work is complete we have cleaned up the 90 and made it ready for delivery. Everything works in the 90 once again and it looks much better than it did when it arrived.
Another upgrade that is great for a Defender that sees beach use is the Oasis on board air system. This system fills tires as fast as our shop air compressor and means no more waiting in line to "air up" your tires after driving on the beach or off road. Our Oasis system fits neatly under the passenger seat and allows easy access too. Simply remove the seat base and the tool locker cover, flip the red switch and the compressor is ready for action. Plug in the supplied air hose and it will reach all 4 tires and you can fill them up with the supplied air chuck with built in pressure gauge. The only down side we hear about this system is that owners of the ECR installed system end up filling up all their buddy's tires as well!
Here is a shot of the completed 4.6 install and the engine bay. Everything is clean and functional and the Defender now has the performance it was lacking with the stock 4.0. It now runs 0-60 more than 2 seconds faster than it used to and the new found torque means the automatic doesn't have to shift down all the time to move the 90 around. It now drives like a dream.
Here you can see the completed 90 project ready to head back to NC so that the owner can enjoy it, and enjoy it he will with the new 4.6 engine, upgraded sound system, ROX bumper and all the other repairs and upgrades. This 1997 Defender is now well set up and is exactly what the customer desired.
If you have needs for your Defender, from routine service to wild modifications, contact ECR. We'll be happy to help make your Defender everything you want it to be.