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by Patrick Cruywagen, 19th January 2017

When Foley SV build a bespoke Defender it needs to be both timeless and fixable in the wilderness. That's why they fit Tdi engines...

There are certain things in life that are timeless and if kept in good nick they hold on to their value. In some cases they actually might increase in value. These include Rolex watches, Levi 501 jeans and... a 300Tdi-powered Foleys Defender.

Why the latter? Well, after spending the day at Foleys SV in Essex with this month's LRM cover car I have decided that it most definitely falls into that timeless classic category. Especially with that uncomplicated Tdi engine under the bonnet. “When you purchase a Land Rover from us it is for life and not just for Christmas. You can put this Land Rover into a garage for 30 years and it will not date,” says sales director, Stuart Foley. And I believe him. It’s for this very reason that we are here. LRM have always admired Foleys' handiwork. Right now I only have eyes for a 1998 LHD Defender 110 that they have built, using a new 300Tdi engine. Foleys SV was founded in 1966 by Stuart’s father, Peter.

Initially their core business was breaking down Land Rovers for spares, as there was a massive demand for this at the time. But today they are in the business of buying, selling and creating new and original-looking Land Rovers. And as they are trying to sell Land Rovers that last and are easy to fix they prefer the older engines to some of the newer ones. The timeless appeal of Land Rover's legendary  Tdi turbodiesel engines impresses them as much today as it did when they took the world by storm in the 1990s. It is good to know that a prestigious company like Foleys agrees with us that Tdis still rock – and rule – after all these years. Stuart explains there is a very good reason for this, not least because they export vehicles to some rather remote parts of the world, such as most African nations. “We don’t like the modern-day Defenders with the Puma engines," he says.  "You need a computer to work on one, which means that they cannot be serviced in places such as Sierra Leone or Outer Mongolia.” Plus, of course, there's the very appealing notion that Land Rover got it right with the brilliant Tdi engine all those years ago and it would probably still be the beating heart of domestic Land Rovers today if it wasn't for daft European laws that caused its premature demise in this neck of the woods.   Thankfully most  Africans – this one included – have got more sense. Turning a RHD Defender into LHD is a procedure Foleys SV have performed on many a Defender. “If I have to estimate we have done about a 100 of these. It is easy enough to do, though finding the correct LHD plastic bits is the hard part,” explains Stuart.

Today LHD models are in short supply so it looks like Foleys SV will be making many more of them in the future. The reason for converting this vehicle to left-hooker is that it's built for a client in North America who wanted something with an ever-so-slightly military look. Today, every Dick and his dog seems to have taken to messing with the original design and look of the Defender –  and as a result there are some very interesting bespoke vehicles out there – but when you look at this one it is very special indeed. Stuart explains the look they are trying to achieve: “Anyone can bolt new bits onto a Land Rover, but that is not us. This market will only last for as long as Land Rovers are being made. This Defender looks as if it has come out of the factory which is what we have set out to achieve.” The first thing that I notice about this green 300Tdi machine is that it stands slightly higher than a standard Defender. This is thanks to the one-inch lift courtesy of a full Terrafirma suspension kit. If the customer doesn't want lifted suspension, Foleys use standard Land Rover springs and shocks. While out on the photo-shoot I take a look underneath. The chassis and bulkhead are both new and galvanised. Other new components on the underside are the axles, props and exhaust system. The standard Defender wheels have been replaced with green Wolf rims and for rubber they have gone for the Dakar 265/75/R16 tyre.

This is all part of achieving that pseudo-military look. Most of the external accessories are black, which go nicely with the colour of the vehicle, including the Land Rover roof rack, Mantec rear swingaway wheel carrier, rear ladder, front bumper and the NAS rear step. One accessory that I have not seen before are the Foley side lockers on both sides of the vehicle. Each one of these houses two 20-litre jerry cans, so you can safely tuck away 80 litres of extra fuel or water. If you get into any trouble or need to recover somebody, there is a Superwinch with plasma rope on the bumper which also has its own heavy-duty recovery points. The best thing about all these changes is that they are massively understated, so you won’t attract any undue attention from the Land Rover fashion police. Each panel on this Defender has been individually painted. The production methods that they use over here are pretty labour and-time intensive but the outcome is massively satisfying.

What you get does not come cheap but in all essence it’s a new Land Rover. “Cost is irrelevant. It is about what people want,” argues Stuart. As they prefer to use the 300Tdi engine, a Foley product will never dated. The only compromise is speed. But who's in a hurry to get anywhere in a Defender this good?  “There is nothing not Land Rover about what you see here," says Stuart. "We build with care because people come to us with their money and Land Rover dreams.  We provide them with quality." When you climb in behind the steering wheel and sit on the black leather seats you get to experience this quality for yourself. Logical thought and the desire to keep it looking totally original have dominated the creation process. Foley SV have gained a global reputation for building brilliant Defenders. That they build them with 300Tdi engines is the icing on the cake.  There is no such thing as a perfect Land Rover, but judging by this nut-and-bolt Foley SV rebuild they get pretty darned close.

Defender 110: How did they do it?
• 300Tdi engine
• LHD • New Axles
• New props
• New exhaust
• New Galvanised Chassis
• New running gear
• Mantec rear swing away
• Land Rover Roofrack and ladder
• Rear NAS Step
• Dakar 265/75/R16 tyres
• Wolf Rims
• Clear front headlights
• NAS rear lights
• Front Black Leather seats
• Black Leather Rear WOLF Bench seats
• Internal Roll Bar Hoop
• Air Conditioning
• New Front doors
• New Rear door
• Terrafirma suspension
• Two Foley Side lockers
• Radio CD Ipod,
• Rubber mats
• Top side windows
• New Turbo
• Recon Gearbox
• Galvanised bulkhead
• Bonnet spare wheel mount
• Superwinch Winch and bumper, plasma Rope
• Steel Cubby box with cup holders and covered in Black Leather
• Alloy steering Guard
• New headlining
• Stainless bolts used


For more details go to www.foleysv.com or phone 01279 793500.

Pics: Adam Swords

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