Building a 1995 Land Rover Discovery Expedition Vehicle
Nathan Hindman’s first forray into the world of Land Rovers was with the building of a rock crawling Defender 90. This heavily modified truck was great at conquering the most challenging off road trails and obstacles but the modifications made it highly impractical as an overlanding and expedition vehicle. It was replaced with a 1995 Land Rover Discovery Series 1 which, over the course of three years, was built it into a highly-capable expedition vehicle.
The base vehicle for this project was a green 1995 Land Rover Discovery SE7. The original intent of the project was to build the truck as a Camel Trophy replica vehicle. However, after expedition and trail use during the building process, the project deviated course and the truck was turned into a unique overland vehicle which used the Camel Trophy Discovery as merely an inspiration.
The vehicle was purchased in late June of 2001. Its maiden voyage was scheduled to be a trip to Belize for La Ruta Maya beginning the 14th of July. We had only a few short weeks to change it from its stock form into an expedition-ready vehicle.
The first change was to repaint the truck Sandglow, the color of the Camel Trophy vehicles. This color is similar to the NAS market’s AA Yellow, except that it is a bit more muted with a warmer slightly more orange-ish hue. If you haven’t seen this paint in person, it’s actually a very cool, unique color.
To ensure that the vehicle was painted properly, as though it came from the factory that color, all of the windows and door trim were removed. With all of the doors, jambs and trim painted to match, the only hint that this vehicle was a different color was through decoding the VIN. While the truck was in the paint shop, the Mantec snorkel and a set of steel wheels were also painted sandglow to match the vehicle, similary to the way that the Camel Trophy vehicles looked. Since we were planning to add a roof rack to the vehicle, a Land Rover Genuine rear ladder was installed on the rear door for easy access to the roof.
While the truck was back from the paint shop and being re-assembled, a number of other functional parts were added to the vehicle. A matte black bonnet blackout was added. While adding to the “Camel Trophy” look, this fuctional accessory had the added benefit of reducing light glare off the bonnet (hood) for the driver, especially once the roof rack mounted lights were installed. This also theoretically reduces eye fatigue during extended driving sessions.
To handle the heavy loads this vehicle would carry on expedition, the factory stock Land Rover suspension was discarded in favor of a heavy-duty Old Man Emu suspension kit. We opted for OME 751 springs in the front, and OME 762 springs in the rear, along with the corresponding N115 and N44 OME shocks. The lift this suspension provided also gave us room to install oversized off-road biased tires. We spec’d out then brand new Goodyear Mud Terrain tires, in 235/85/16 size. Theoretically this size would be about 31.7″ tall but Goodyear appears to oversize this tire. Our set measured almost 32.5″ once installed and inflated to road pressure, helped to add significant ground clearance compared to the factory 29″ tires. In addition, we had the center lugs on the Goodyear tires siped, a small modification that helps to overcome the two minor shortcomings of this tire. The first being traction: while impressive in almost all conditions (mud, rocks, dry pavement), snow and ice performance for this tire is a bit sub par. Siping adds substantially more gripping edges, noticably increasing this tire’s traction in winter driving conditions. The second shortcoming is tire wear: tire wear is not awful for an MT-R, but siping the tires also helps to dissapate heat, extending the life of the tire.
The tires were originally installed on a set of 16×8 aftermarket steel wheels. However, the wheel offset was incorrect on these wheels causing significant rubbing even in on-road situations, so the tires were remounted on a set of Land Rover “Tornado” style wheels that had been painted black. This wheel is the style most commonly found on stock NAS Defender 90s. The factory offset tucked the tires in more and eliminated almost all of the tire rubbing. The only other place a tire of this size would rub is in the rear quarterpanel, but this is an easy fix; you have to do a minor trim to the rear quarter panel that is commonly called the “Camel Cut”.
Next, the factory air filter was ditched in favor of a K&N Air Filter. While there are claims that this filter adds horsepower, the effect of a few extra horsepower on a 6,000 GWV vehicle would be minimal at best. We opted for this because of ease in serviceability, especially in the field.
On top of the vehicle, a Safety Devices Expedition roof rack was installed. This rack is the same design as those used on the Camel Trophy competition Discovery, except for vehicle mounting. While this rack mounts to the roof rails, the Camel spec racks mount to the internal roll cage through the roof.
On the front of the vehicle, a set of Camel Trophy style bonnet pins were installed to replace the factory hood latching system. For front end protection, an ARB bullbar was installed along with a Warn XD9000 winch for vehicle recovery.
For nighttime visibility, the stock headlights were upgraded with an IPF heavy duty wiring loom, while the bulbs were replaced with high output PIAA light bulbs. On the bullbar, we mounted a pair of Hella 550s, which were take offs from a 1992 Camel Trophy vehicle. For additional lighting, a set of IPF SuperRally 900 lights were added to the front of the roof rack. These lights are about the same size as the Hella 1000s added to the Camel Trophy roof racks, but with a substantially higher light output. For rear vehicle lighting, a Hella double-reflector work lamp was mounted above the rear door.
The Safety Devices Expedition roof rack comes with excellent marine grade plywood flooring for the roof rack. We also added mounts to the rack for a set of galvanized steel sand ladders (aka PSP or perforated steel planks).
For perishable food storage, we installed an Engel 42 quart freezer/fridge in the rear cargo area. To handle the extra power consumption from the fridge and winching duty from the Warn XD9000, the standard battery was replaced with an Optima Yellow Top Battery. This dry-cell, deep-cycle battery is better suited for the discharging and recharging that comes with these battery draining accessories.
Gear storage was handled by way of a set of Pelican waterproof cases. A Land Rover Genuine Dog Guard was installed to help secure all the gear in the back.
Despite the extremely short time frame and a few minor setbacks, Camel was ready to go with a few days to spare before we took off for Guatemala and Belize.