Part 2 - Engine Conversion

As many of you have been following the progress of my engine conversion online via social media, it’s about time I follow that up with some more detail.

After importing and driving the new to us Defender 90 we decided that an engine conversion was the right thing to do and the next step in the development of our iconic off road and adventuring vehicle.

Originally this Land Rover Defender 90 came with the rarer 2.0 T16 MPI DOHC gasoline engine. The configuration and history of this vehicle came from Land Rover’s special order military ordeign department. The Italian Carabinieri ordered roughly a thousand of these vehicles with this engine configuration due to Italy’s fuel taxation rates and the scarcity of diesel at the time.

The original engine is a really great little engine that loved to rev and zipped the Defender down the road very happily at over 70mph. The beauty of this engine is that it’s small, light, compact and has a low fuel consumption.

The reason for the conversion was to move the vehicle back to the iconic diesel set up to allow for the required low down tractor like torque. Being a model year 1996 Defender 90, the correct thing to do was to convert it to the classic Land Rover 300tdi diesel.

I was lucky enough to arrange some help through Rovalution Automotive in North Vancouver, an old Land Rover specialist shop. I wanted to do most of the work myself to keep the cost down and to learn how to do such a conversion as I had never done anything like this before. Don and the guys were amazing during the whole process.

Our process was fairly straight forward and took a couple of months as I had to fit in the conversion around work. During the conversion we did as much as we could to complete the conversion using OEM parts and to original manufacturing specifications.

The conversion itself was very straightforward forwards, the old engine came out with gentle care as it will be being re-used by a really great friend. And the installation went fairly smoothly as the correct R380 transmission and LT230 transfer case was the same as the original engine and those were the ones we wanted to use. The only things we had to change really were the fuel pickup, motor mounts, exhaust and literally one wire in the current harness - which was a simple matter of blanking off the old fuel sender wires and switching one wire in the starter rely connecter, literally into a new hole in the same connector - awesome!

We did take the time to install all new hoses, seals, timing belt, clutch etc whilst we had the engine out which would save time in the future.

The final few days of the conversion and the first time we started it up was a fantastic moment that made all the hard work well worth it.

Removing winch and bumper.

Removing winch and bumper.

Unplumbing.

Unplumbing.

Old engine removal.

Old engine removal.

Transmission removal.

Transmission removal.

Cleaning up and new p-gasket.

Cleaning up and new p-gasket.

New clutch.

New clutch.

New timing belt & gasket.

New timing belt & gasket.

Heavy duty clutch fork upgrade.

Heavy duty clutch fork upgrade.

Ready to install.

Ready to install.

Tacking motor mounts.

Tacking motor mounts.

New motor mounts.

New motor mounts.

New plumbing.

New plumbing.

Wiring update.

Wiring update.

Modifying fuel pickup and removing old gas fuel sender.

Modifying fuel pickup and removing old gas fuel sender.

New transmission mount.

New transmission mount.

Exhaust installation.

Exhaust installation.

Custom exhaust.

Custom exhaust.

It's official.

It's official.

Runs fantastically.

Christopher Walker

Overlanding BC, PO Box 1528, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada