There are three certainties in life – death, taxes and singing competitions on the TV. No matter what guise the show takes, the format is the same. Fame hungry wannabes belting out murdering original hits with karaoke cover versions week after week. “You’ve really made that your own” is the standard refrain. But it’s not that easy to take someone else’s classic and leave your own stamp on it. It’s easier to get it wrong that take a classic and improve it, in every possible way.
The same rule applies to cars. There are very few enduring automotive icons, but the original Land Rover is definitely one of them. The silhouette has remained broadly the same since it first hit the roads and lanes in 1947. Throughout the life of the machine, fundamental changes were few and far between. The most obvious occurring when the headlamps moved position from the grille to the wings. Even then, the Land Rover still managed to look the same.
However, Geddis Redman and Andy McMaster both believed that they could take the humble Land Rover to new levels, whilst still ensuring that the vehicle retained the essential DNA. The heart of Geddis’ beast is a thumping Cummins diesel unit, more commonly found powering lorries. Nestled under the bonnet of Andy’s machine is an American LS motor, the driving force behind many a high output muscle car.
Geddis story starts with the purchase of a 130 Crewcab, with no engine or gearbox. The self-confessed Landrover aficionado first thoughts were to build a machine for towing duties but in his words “I could never get a 300 TDi or TD5 to perform the way I wanted” so the diesel plan was hatched. A 5.9-litre engine, formerly resident in a DAF truck, was acquired for the build. The unit and power train were stripped, inspected and rebuilt. The next trick was to make the whole thing fit.
Pop the bonnet and the big derv block looks right at home in the nose of the Land Rover. The main reason for this is the incredible attention to detail and fantastic fabrication, undertaken mainly by Geddis to make everything work. Custom engine mounts and gearbox mounts were made, the bulkhead was trimmed and lots of little adjustments were made to accommodate ancillaries like the water pump. As the Cummins lump was much, much bigger than the original engine, even the driver’s foot well had to be chopped and a new piece welded into place.
The chassis also received the same loving care and attention. The frame was stripped and fully galvanised. No chance of future rust issues. Given the obvious potential for the Cummins to make big torque, Geddis attention turned to ensuring that the venerable 130 could cope with the hike in power. The front differential is a heavy duty M.O.D.-spec forged cross pin item, whilst power is transmitted to the axle with an Ashcroft pegged locker.
All the suspension turrets were galvanised and the shock absorber mounts were relocated. The purpose for that relocation is now abundantly clear. A very special Land Rover needs very special suspension. Or in this case, air suspension with bags capable of 14 inches of travel.
With the suspension and drivetrain sorted, attention turned to the unlocking the full potential of the engine. A larger intercooler and uprated injectors were joined by a mammoth Holset HX35w turbo. The diesel pump has received a few tweaks and the end result is an engine that’s good for over 300bhp.
The exterior is unmistakably Land Rover, but neat touches like LED lights and DRLs add an up to date twist. The very rock sliders that protect that body and add an element of decoration and protection were designed by Geddis. Heck, he even painted the body of the 130 himself. It really is the ultimate home garage conversion.
By contrast, Andy McMaster’s beast has followed a different path to V8 power. Despite having owned a range of responsive and agile performance cars, Andy’s thoughts always returned to Land Rover ownership. Over the years, various models of M-powered BMWs came and went and even a dalliance with a GT-R satisfied his power urge for a while. But nothing ticked his boxes like the rugged looks and Tonka truck ability of the Defender.
Andy spotted a beautiful low mileage Corris grey XS Station Wagon for sale and snapped it up. A raft of factory options meant the Landy was kitted out with a full leather interior, sound upgrade and the expedition roof rack, ladder and guards.
Andy’s initial period of ownership centred on making a mountain of subtle interior and styling enhancements. Rear Recaro seats were added to match the front, the interior was re-trimmed, electric rear windows were added… the list goes on. The modifications made this the last word in luxury with the definitive multimedia package to match. The Defender was perfect in many ways, but Andy missed the grunt and the ability to hustle along a back road. But he had a plan.
Wildcat Automotive made their name re-engineering Land Rovers to compete in rally raids. Success off road led to success on the road, as demand grew for motorsport orientated Defender parts and performance upgrades. The ultimate upgrade Wildcat offer involves replacing the stock diesel engine and gearbox, with a GM derived 6.2-litre petrol V8. Andy was sold. The performance of the Wildcat Rally car, the comfort of a luxury SUV and the street cred of the iconic Land Rover Defender in one package.
The 600-mile road trip saw the LS installed. The Wildcat conversion results in the 6-speed gearbox being mated seamlessly to the engine with a unique inbuilt ‘intelligent’ control module. The existing vehicle management system is reprogrammed to the new engine and gearbox, resulting in all existing instruments and controls being run as used in the standard vehicle. The work didn’t stop there. As the LS would be chucking out around 430 bhp and more than 540 NM of Torque, the stock brakes and suspension were never going to cut it. A 362mm AP Racing big brake kit was installed, Bilstein suspension from the specialists at Twisted and a full heritage edition style font end for good measure.
The end result is a chunky 4×4 which sounds like a NASCAR racer, accelerates like a missile, but can conquer Everest. The rumble on tick over makes internal organs wobble, whilst on wide open throttle, it’s a wailing, rasping animal. Wildcat quotes a 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds and there’s no reason to doubt those figures. Andy’s Land Rover is mind blowing and defies conventions. You know a Land Rover shouldn’t sound like that, but it does.
After spending the time money and effort perfecting two polar opposite conversions, you could forgive Andy and Geddis if the Landys never saw anything tougher than a side street speed hump. But not a bit. Both guys planned their builds to be enjoyed to the full and relish the opportunity to take on everything that mother nature has to offer, off-road. After all, with 14 cylinders and over 900 lb ft of torque, there isn’t much that’s going to stand in their way.
Special thanks must go to Walter at Ireland Offroad Experience which is based within the stunning grounds of the Clandeboye Estate, for providing the perfect backdrop for the two vehicles.
Pictures by Graham Curry