Custom 4X4 – Land Rover Discovery

 

Ironic name, considering this is Australia’s most customised road-legal Land Rover Defender – complete with portal axles and rear steer

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Yep, we’re going to make the call. This is the most modified Land Rover Defender we have ever seen. And yes, it is 100% engineered and road registered in NSW. Just ask the owner, Stefan Fischer. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t had a few questions from the boys and girls in blue though. Getting pulled over in the NSW town of Windsor a few months ago saw Stefan having to go through the engineering process once again, simply because he was running 17-inch wheels over the 16-inch wheels on his engineering certificate. Yep, he is that serious about keeping this vehicle safe and legal for road use … and that’s all the fuzz could find wrong.

 

The places Stefan drives Tiny have to be seen to be believed. We’re still not sure why he has a winch, as we doubt he’s had to use it (on Tiny anyway). And just because this is his play truck, don’t for one second think this thing is rough. He knows how to drive technical lines without just mashing the accelerator and panels in the process … it is called rock crawling, and Stefan knows how to do it the right way.

 

The Owner

Stefan Fischer, the owner of this fine piece of engineering, moved to Australia from Germany in 1997 and wasted no time sinking into the Australian lifestyle. Once he discovered the joys of 4WDing, he was hooked. These days, he spends as much time off road as possible. Driving every sort of terrain he can find, from technical rock crawling through to cross-desert expeditions (not in Tiny). At the time of writing this, Stefan was out on a month-long trip through the Simpson Desert with our print magazine Editor Scott Mason.

 

Stefan is certainly someone who doesn’t do things by halves. In the time we have known him, he has owned an extremely customised Land Rover Discovery 2, a 110 Defender and an outrageously neat Pinzgauer that he sadly had to sell as he physically didn’t fit in it. Recently, Stefan has jumped into a 105 Series LandCruiser for touring duties, complete with a 1HD-FTE Toyota turbo-diesel conversion handled by Total Care 4WD in Sydney. And that leaves us with Tiny, this simply stunning Land Rover Defender Stefan uses solely for technical driving. And no, it isn’t a trailer queen … Stefan has worked tirelessly to ensure this vehicle is engineered and road-legal in NSW.

 

This thing gets driven to the hardest tracks in NSW, and back home again. And not just once a year for the annual catch-up; Stefan tells us he tries to do a trip once every week or so. As well as being a keen 4WDer, filmmaker and off-road trainer, Stefan is also a martial arts expert with over 25 years of experience teaching. So if you are camping near him, maybe turn your music down if he asks politely…

 

The Vehicle

This vehicle started out as a 1995 hardtop (like a panel van) Land Rover Defender that received a full ground up build back in 2005. Stefan purchased it just two years ago, and set to work ironing out any bugs and making it his own. The brief was to have a super reliable, extremely capable and simple off-roader that would go anywhere Stefan asked it to. Stefan purchased the vehicle essentially built, with what he estimates $250,000 worth of parts and labour put into it by a genuine Land Rover specialist. He has since spent considerable more time and money making it perform to his extremely demanding needs. Another interesting point that shows you how much effort Stefan has put into this Defender: he services it every 40 hours, not every 5,000km. He treats it with that much respect.

 

So, the elephant in the room … there is a problem with Tiny. It lacks space for Stefan’s camera gear. So it’s sadly up for sale for the princely sum of $69,999. If you are looking for one of the most capable 4X4s money can buy, this one is for you. And if you were serious about such a vehicle, you would know it would cost five times that amount to build your own. If you are interested in buying Tiny, check out those regular on-line auction sites… you won’t miss it.

 

The Modifications

Writing custom 4X4s is usually really fun, but it must be said that this one was daunting. Nearly every nut and bolt has been customised on this Land Rover, which is why we filmed an interview with Stefan to get all the details. Engine conversion? Yep, 2.8L turbo-diesel International motor running twin alternators, and a TD5 intercooler backed up by a four-speed ZF4HP22 automatic mechanical gearbox with ZF4HP24 internals and a heavy-duty torque convertor. Portal axles? Yep, Maxi-Drive units with custom 24-spline input shafts instead of the 10-spline units that came with the portals … oh, with rear steer too. Told you this thing is nuts! These portal axles have been laminated for strength and provide a 5-inch lift. They are also stuffed with Maxi-Drive axles and diff locks for the ultimate in traction and strength according to the Land Rover community.

 

Tyres are 37-inch BFG KM2s mounted on Walker Evans alloy wheels, but knowing Stefan these will change before long. Not because he has a problem with them, he just seems to like trying new things. An LT230 transfer case with 49% straight cut reduction gears mates well with the auto and 1.3:1 reduction in the portal gears to provide a very desirable crawl ratio. A GNK Overdrive unit has also been fitted, meaning Tiny can sit on the highway at a buck-ten with no issues.

 

Not only is there just an extra cab conversion, but many hours were spent designing and fabricating custom bar work front and rear and all over, to be honest, to allow for the best approach and departure angles. A rather unique swing-out rear wheel carrier on gas struts swings from the side of the tray, which is a much neater solution than having the spare on the back.

 

A rear-mounted radiator keeps mud out of the way of the cooling system, while allowing for easier fitment with the engine conversion. On the front of Tiny, you’ll find a Warn XP9500 winch with synthetic rope controlled in-cab thanks to the use of an Albright solenoid.

 

Suspension wise, Tiny runs a fairly basic system as the portal axles provide the clearance required. A set of Flexi Coils are retained top and bottom to prevent a coil shooting out under droop; shock absorbers of choice are long-travel Koni Raid units that provide all the travel Stefan requires. Six-degree HD radius arms on the front provide additional strength, and prevent Tiny steering like a shopping trolley on the open road.

 

A custom alloy dash has been fabricated, which neatens up the interior while providing a simple mounting solution for the myriad of switches and gauges littering the cab of this Land Rover. You will also find a 40L Waeco fridge nestled between the driver and passenger seat. Oh, and better not forget the joystick which controls the hydraulic rear steer. One of the coolest and certainly most unique features of the whole build.

 

Rounding up the list of modifications (I’m sure there are thousands more) is a Boss HD air compressor that lives under the seat, a set of 105W DOT approved LED headlights and a 220W LED light bar on the front-end which provides enough spread for slow speed night drives. The tray area also houses two lockable boxes filled with spares, tools, a second battery and a 40L auxiliary fuel tank. Phreww, what a list! What a build! Don’t know about you, but I need a nap now.