This Cummins Turbo Diesel Land Rover Defender Is Much More Than A Simple Engine Swap
Photography by Stan Evans
The ultimate classic British trucks are now born in the United States, or at least that’s what companies like ICON 4×4 and East Coast Defender would have you believe. Operations like these provide convincing arguments for that statement in the form of the restored, refurbished, and reimagined Land Rovers that leave their facilities with new motors, new metal, and contemporary amenities like satellite navigation systems and working air-conditioning to replace the tired and wheezy factory systems that are perpetually in need of recharging.
These guys and many other Landy restomodders will swap in rebuilt or sourced-from-another-mother engines, tweak and update the chassis, and rethink the interior spaces depending on customer wishes, but despite this growing popularity and the general pig-piling that’s been going on in the classic 4×4 restomod scene over the last few years there is still room to stand out for those who do high-quality work.
The creator of the Defender pictured here, the Blacksmith Engineering Company, has an ethos that is very much in vogue these days: take a beloved classic vehicle, strip it down to its essence, and build it back up with new and revised components to create the ultimate expression of the original idea. Using the benefit of modern equipment and hindsight, a lot is altered in the process, but in this case the modifications are done in order to draw the car’s original trajectory further out than the factory ever took it in period.
The end product is certainly a different beast than the base truck, but the two share the same fundamental concepts at their core: rugged ability, and a handsome but utilitarian presence. The goal at Blacksmith Engineering is to augment the vehicle’s original intentions, and the guys in this Utah shop have done a hell of a job of making a singular machine that’s equally suited to commuting as it is off-roading. The rig pictured here for instance has a turbo diesel engine like many of the early Defenders—this truck began life as a military-build 1987 Defender 110—but instead of one of the rather anemic and not-so-reliable 2.5L units that were offered in these things in the mid ’80s, this Defender houses a modern Cummins 3.9L 4BT with a hot cam, custom turbo setup, and other improvements that leave it capable of churning up 580ft-lbs of torque. The motor is connected to a ZF 5-S42 five-speed manual transmission and the original but rebuilt LT230 transfer case splits the power between a Detroit soft-locker differential in the back and a Detroit Truetrac unit in the front.
Besides the stock mil-spec cage, the transfer case mentioned earlier, the bulkhead, and the removable tin top, everything else has been replaced or reinvigorated by Blacksmith and their partners around Utah, like Wild Diesel in Ogden, UT, who helped bring the motor from its stock 105bhp guise into the stump-puller that it is today. The chassis is a brand-new galvanized example sourced from Land Rover itself, and the full list of modifications to the rest of the machine (they call this the “ANV-LR1”) are laid out in greater detail on the company’s website, here. It’s an impressive spec to say the least, and one that’s clearly been arrived it through good intentions and great execution.