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The Land Rover Defender is an iconic vehicle with an almost timeless look and appeal. It also has a following of like-minded souls. This is why Justin decided to send his beloved vehicle to Mark at Rocket 88 to get LS Swapped. This was to give it a second life with a lot more attitude and performance than in its first life.


The quest with regards to this project started with the car wanting more performance and fewer oil leaks. It just got tedious when every time Justin had to switch to a low range just to make it up the driveway. This is at 130km/h with a tailwind assisting it to summit Key Ridge in 3rd gear and 80km/h in the middle lane. All older model Defender drivers will most definitely identify with this and agree. 

After many conversations, Justin found himself down on the South Coast near Ifafa Beach thinking about solutions. Whilst chatting to Graham about all things Defender, Clive Morgan-Davies arrived to buy some spares in his very different-sounding and modified Defender 110. 

As men do when they get together around cars, they got chatting and Clive lifted the hood of his car to show off the LS1 that was fitted underneath. In short, all of Justins questions were answered and he knew exactly what he wanted to do and where to send the car to get it done. 

The plan for the build was simply performance, performance, performance. The body was in good condition apart from some rust at the bottom of the doors but this was easily repaired and resprayed. The bodywork took a total of 4 weeks. It was all kept standard. GUS Panel Beaters in Westmead did all of the work. Also, Gus provided the colour slides to choose from and this is how he settled on the current colour.

The chassis on the car is still the original one and there are no modifications. The same goes for the new shocks, springs and bushes. Furthermore, the brakes were upgraded. All of the parts were purchased from Landy Parts in Pinetown.

The motor is turn-key and comes from Rocket88 along with the transmission. The unit is pre-wired and tested in their shop. Luckily, Justin lives locally so he was able to see the engine up and running on the bench test before it was put into his car. He commented that it was a very professional setup. 

The motor is a Chevy LM7 5.3L with 280 to 300 HP and 325 ft-lbs. In addition, the exhaust is Flow Tech and the engine is fuel injected. As was mentioned before, the engine and auto box are from Rocket88, but he wanted to maintain the Landy LT230 transfer case and 4×4 function. As it so happens, Rocket88 also made the adaptor from the 4L60E tranny to LT230. The engine comes with a centre cover but nothing that covers up the unsightly coils. So, once again, Rocket88 came up with a solution and made the cool-looking covers you see on the car now.

Furthermore, the interior was done by New Germany Upholsterers but the seats are original. Also, Justin upgraded the aircon system. Then, the steering is standard and the speedo, water temp and fuel gauges were upgraded to a better quality VDO.

All of these parts were supplied by Rocket88. The wheels are Land Rover Defender Saw tooth 18 rims. These were from Landy Parts. The tyres are Cooper Defender STs LT285/65R18. Furthermore, the grille on the car is standard. Also, the windows will be tinted in the near future. The headlights and taillights were also supplied by Landy Parts. Finally, the fuel tank is standard with an in-tank pump to suit the LM7 engine.

The easiest way to describe the vehicle now is that it used to feel like driving a big heavy truck that laboured its way around. Now it is effortless and best of all, he makes a lot of use of the fast lane. The total rebuild time was 2 months.

He would like to say a big thank you to Mark and Clive Morgan-Davies. Companies that supplied parts/services:

Article Category: Car Features