RR of the Day: 1985 Land Rover 90

UPDATED history posted after the jump!

Admittedly, none of the writers at Autoblog HQ are dedicated off-road hoons. But that doesn't mean we don't occasionally dream of fording streams, crawling over condo-sized rocks or just scaling the median on our commute to work. There's a short list of vehicles we'd assign to those fantastical tasks and this 1985 Land Rover 90 is one of them.

Owned by Autoblog reader and Flickr member tarheelvolvos40, this four-wheelin' gem is the picture of pure functionality. Equipped with both Hella fog lamps and 4000 Euros, a Dixon-Bate 5-ton tow jaw in the rear, an OME HD suspension, diff protectors, a Brownchurch roof rack and side ladders, it begs to be driven in the most abusive way. Power comes from a '93 Rover V8, mated to the stock LT77 transmission, which sends power down to BFGoodrich AT/KO tires.

A vehicle like this confirms that our little world shouldn't just be about powerslides, massive G's and big dyno numbers, but about the all 'round motoring experience. We're smitten, but we're pushovers like that.

As mentioned previously, we won't be having a theme for this week's RR of the Day, but next week, it's on. Submit your turbocharged and supercharged vehicles to our Flickr pool by following the directions after the jump. We want to see them all, whether it's a home-brewed Civic hatch or a modded Cummins diesel, all are welcome

The history of this vehicle is very cloudy. It was a grey market import back in the late 80's into the US. It spent most of its life in Minnesota until I bought it from the original owner. The odd thing about it, though, is that Land Rover has no records of this car ever being made!

What my father and I have deduced is that this car was registered in the US illegally as a 1965 Series II to pass by the DMV. Soon after those vins were taken off and never replaced. When it was tranferred down to my home in North Carolina there were no VIN plates on it. After much time spent trying to scratch out a VIN number on the very rusted (thanks to the lovely salted roads of the upper mid-west) chassis to no avail we eventually called Land Rover HQ in England to try and track it down. According to the record keepers at Solihull there is no record of the car being made with the vague description we gave him and the few VIN numbers/letters we did have. They told us that the number/letter combinations we did have fell in line with the records of the vehicles from that time but yet there was no positive match. The only logical explanation that could be made was that this was a Special Vehicle built for a Land Rover event and never meant to be registered for road use.

So Land Rover decided we were nice enough and issued us a set of VIN plates so we could have it registered. A few months later, however, we were doing some work on the vehicle and I noticed a unusual yellow undercoat to the paint in certain areas. This of course leds me to think this was a vehicle used the 1985 or 1986 Camel Trophy as those were the only two years that the event used Land Rover 90's. Of course this is all speculation and I have no proof to back up such a statement but based on the information from Land Rover HQ and the odd paint it seems logical enough and creates a fun story!

After I aquired the Land Rover 90 it went through a series of restorations. First was a new Chassis and suspension setup as both were close to breaking. We decided to use a stronger steel ladder frame chassis than the original and also an upgraded suspension setup to handle the trails it was bound to find itself on. Next was to sand blast and refinish the BrownChurch Roof Rack (also Camel Trophy equipment). A trip to the Military surplus store gained a set of Sand Ladders for those sticky situations where traction was lost. THe dimming lights and finiky wiring (thanks Lucas) led to the addition of extra lighting both front and rear with the help of Hella 500 Fog Lamps on the bumper, Hella 4000 Euro Beams up top and Hella 500 Fog Lamps on the rear of the roof rack for recovery situations. We also added a set of Jate Tow Rings up front for a solid recovery point and a Dixon-Bate 5-Ton Tow Jaw in the rear in case we needed a quick yank out of the muck. Finally we added some proper tires in the form of BFG A/T KO's for all around use and an extra set of Super Swamper SSR's if we were tackling some serious mud.

The engine was transplanted before I bought the vehicle and is a 1993 Land Rover 3.9L V8 that is found in the early Discoveries that came to the US. But, the old LT85 Tranny was kept as I would assume funds were not available for a LT77 or LT77S or even an R380. This meant that the torque was more powerful than the tranny could hold most times as the LT85 was meant for a 2.5L engine, not the honking 3.9L V8. It was a blessing in disguise however as it played very well for off-roading as I could power over anything in 1st gear as I got full torque in a lower RPM due to the gearing.

Alas, this setup would not last and the clutch had to be replaced which was the Land Rover 90's ultimate demise. We had to special order the clutch as nothing else would fit that was readily available in the states. The operation did not go well and soon after the clutch began to heat up and loose friction so the engine would just rev while I would go no where.

It is currently sitting at home awaiting funds for a much larger operation of replacing the whole transmission and hopefully an underdrive unit that whould give me a nice 4-wheel drive low ratio of 116:1 for serious crawling. It has served me very well and will always have a place in my heart for its unique indentity and character that defines Land Rovers and their owners.

How to submit to RR of the Day:
Create a
Flickr account if you don't already have one. Search for and join the group called ' Autoblog RR of the Day '. Upload up to three photos of your ride to your own account at a size no larger than 450 pixels wide if possible and include as much information about it and yourself as possible. Even if your ride is sweet, it will not be chosen if there's not a lot of info accompanying it. Click on each photo and just above the picture it will say "Send to group". Click that and select the Autoblog group. You're done, that's it!

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