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1997 NAS Defender 90 Soft Top #810
Galvanized frame install and various other repairs
This 1997 NAS (North American Specification) Defender 90 Soft Top has come to us from NH for some repairs and upgrades. The 90 has low miles and is very nice mechanical shape, but it has been in an accident that damaged the frame. Another shop tried to repair the frame but they didn't do a good job and they even put body filler (bondo) in the frame to try and hide the frame damage. The new owner of the truck wants to keep this 90 long term, so the time has come to fix the truck correctly, and that means it is time for a new galvanized frame. So we have brought the truck in and have started disconnecting systems in order to lift the body up in our frame swap system.
A little while later the old damaged frame is out of the truck and ready for tear down.
A little while after that, the new galvanized frame is set up as a rolling chassis with the running gear from the old frame and is ready to go back under the Rover.
While the frame is out we work with the customer to make repairs and additions that are smart to do while the body is off. Here you can see we have installed our stainless steel fuel lines so that there will be no corrosion issues with the fuel lines. We have also done the brake lines over in stainless steel for longevity and safety. The brake lines we use are all stainless steel with stainless steel fittings, unlike others on the market that are stainless pipes with regular steel fittings that rust.
Here at ECR, a galvanized frame install gets more than just a galvanized frame. The other items that commonly rust out are also exchanged with galvanized units when we do the work. The lower cage support and the cross braces are also replaced with galvanized units, as well as the gearbox cross-member because these units need to be long lasting along with the frame.
This image shows the 90 back together, now on a new galvanized frame. This not only gets rid of the problems of damage and poor body alignment from the previous accident, but it will help the 90 last a good long time. Now we will hook all the systems back up and then tackle some body work that wasn't done correctly so that we can get this 90 up into tip top shape.
In going around the 90 the accident damage keeps coming to the surface. Small things like the headlight buckets were broken and had no adjustment and some major things like the rear body. The rivets were nearly hidden under body filler, so we took a look at what the other body shop experts in CA did to "repair" this 90 and found the tub loaded with body filler.
Yup, that is over 1/4" of body filler applied right over the damaged old factory paint with no prep at all. So when you take your Defender to your local body shop for repairs remember that this level of work is likely what you will be getting. Its even worse when you take your Defender to a Rover "specialist" who does not do their own paint work. These shops farm the work out to the body shop down the road and they really don't know anything about body work or what is hiding under the recently applied paint that they get back. If you own a Defender you likely really enjoy the vehicle and you should demand better. Filling a Defender's alloy body with filler isn't the way to do things and it will not last. The bondo in this tub had already cracked and was starting to fall out. The cure for this is to replace the tub side with the correct panel and then epoxy prime and paint it correctly. No more bondo, no more BS for this truck, its time to get it fixed right.
The LH tub side was damaged as you can see in the images above, but the accident was in the RH front and as you can see the impact not only trashed the frame, it transfered energy into the tub and seat box as well. The impact caused serious damage to the seat box and the front lip of the tub.
The damage needs to be fixed to make everything line up correctly again and things are so out of shape that some of the metal has split around the bolt holes. The good news is that it can all be fixed correctly by welding up all the splits and working the metal back into shape. The truck was about an inch and half shorter on the RH side vs. the LH side, but once everything is corrected properly the truck will be straight again. Next up we will remove the tub and get to work on these areas.
Here you can see the LH tub side has been replaced in the exact same way that it was built in the first place. No body filler, no poor quality repairs and no incorrect parts. The repaired tub will now be prep'd primed and made ready for paint in our in house paint shop.
One thing that causes rust on a Defender 90 is that Rover did not paint the undersides of the steel capping pieces and that area starts to rust and cause rust bleeds and holes in the steel cappings. To combat this in our work we remove all the rust and then media blast these pieces back to white metal. We then use top quality epoxy primers and sealers and coat them inside, out and under for long lasting, better than factory, repair.
Here you can see the tub after it has been assembled and given numerous coats of primer and British Racing Green base coat. The tub will now be cleaned and then head off to get Rhino-Lined for an ultra tough and a little bit quieter rear cargo area. Once it returns we will apply the clear coat to the show surfaces and then assemble the rear section of the truck.
This images shows the truck coming back together. The paint work is done and the repaired tub is on the new frame. The 90 is also getting some upgrades, such as our LED tail lamps that you can see are being installed at this stage.
Here you can see the 90 a little further along. The owner had us re-powder coat the roll cage and that has been re-installed. The safari cage parts are going back on and the body lines have been set to make sure the 90 not only looks good, but that the doors and systems all work correctly and smoothly.
This shot shows the cargo area and rear end parts coming together. The tire carrier parts are going on and the seat brackets and such have been installed in the newly Rhino-Lined cargo area. Next up we will finish all the body assembly and get some road tests started to make sure all the systems are 100%. At this stage we are also fixing dozens of small things that have been screwed up by the previous repair shops. Wiring issues, things that were removed for no reason and all kinds of small things right down to repairing the interior light system. It sounds like a small thing, but imagine how annoying driving a Defender is without an interior light.
Here you can see the 90 back together and undergoing some road tests to make sure everything is ready to go. To keep the 90 safe while on the road, we also installed a set of ROX oil cooler lines to replace the old originals that tend to crack and start fires. Now that the work is done it is time for the truck to head off to the detailer to get cleaned up and made ready for the customer. The new galvanized frame and all the stainless parts and hardware will help this 90 last for the long haul and the new parts also correct a lot of previously repaired screw ups on the Rover, so the 90 truly is a better vehicle than it ever was.
This image shows the completed cargo area. Things that should be coated with bed-liner are, and service items that should not be coated are not.
The same goes for the floors and seat box. In the future these parts may need to be removed so if you bed-liner everything in place you just shot yourself in the foot for the long term. Its just as easy to do it right and have the pieces done individually for a correct upgrade.
Here you can see the completed 90 all cleaned up and ready to head back to NH. The Defender now shows very little signs of the previous accident and works better in all respects. It drives better, the doors close correctly and best of all the new owner will not have t worry about frame rust. The 90 is now much more useable after nearly 3 entire pages of work orders done in order to get it back into shape. There are still some things to do, but most of them are fun weekends projects that the new owner can take on to make the 90 the way he wants it to be. We have straightened out, literally, the core of the truck and it is now a great platform to start with. It took a lot to build out all the previous BS from this 90, but now it is great low miles NAS Defender that will last long term and serve its relatively new owner for the long haul.
If you have dreams for your Defender, contact ECR. We'll be happy to get your Defender back into shape... just like we did with this one.