Gary Hennessy went for the custom car look on his Ninety – and he did it with a lot of help from his friends
in a world seemingly full of people modifying Land Rovers, we reckoned we’d seen it all. But just when you think every avenue of Defender modification has been explored, along comes Gary Hennessy with his custom car-style Ninety.
There can’t be many 1989 truck cabs that turn as many heads as Gary’s Candy Apple Green creation. And the most remarkable thing about it is he did it all himself – albeit with a lot of help from his friends. In these days of quick fixes, with a Defender modifier seemingly around every corner, it is sort of reassuring to know that it took Gary (and his mates) eight years to complete his labour of love. But this story starts even earlier, back in 2005 when he bought the vehicle upon which he would later heap so much time and affection.
“I bought it from a fellow in Brighton,” recalls Gary. “I think he just used it as a run around. It cost £2000 and was pretty rough, with the usual oil leaks, plus a leaky diesel cap that meant I could never fill the tank right up. It also had rotten doors and a smoky 19J Turbo Diesel engine. But that didn’t matter because I really only wanted a road legal one to drive to the fields where I went shooting. The reason I brought a truck cab was so me and my mates could stand in the back to shoot when we went lamping with rifles. So it did the job really.” Gary, who lives in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, was happy to use his Ninety as a shooting hack for the next few years. But like so many of us who initially buy our Land Rovers as workhorses, his enthusiasm for his Land Rover grew into a bit of an obsession... He explains: “As I now owned a Land Rover, I thought why not go to a few weekend Land Rover shows? After all, the camping out would be a blast, so that's what me and my shooting mate, John, did. He enjoyed it so much that he also brought a Land Rover, a Series III. “So now we both had one and the love of Land Rovers began there. We started going to lots of shows and enjoyed seeing all those stunning Land Rovers.
I was inspired by all the beautiful Land Rovers I saw around and I took a lot of different ideas from them. “I started buying a few bits for mine. One thing led to another and I began the process of turning my battered old 1989 Ninety pick-up into what it is now. “Because I was spending so much money on my project, I decided it would make sense to have a galvanised chassis so that I could start from a solid base. “By now my obsession was now well and truly in full swing and I already had a vision of what I was wanting to achieve. It was something I had never seen at any of the shows: a customised Land Rover. “The rebuild was slow – eight years in total – as me and my friends did it in our spare time at lots of different places, including my son-in-law’s drive and my neighbour’s garage. That's when we put the 200Tdi engine in. It came from a Defender that had only 65,000 miles on the clock. “We also did a fair bit of the work on my best mate Ian’s drive – mostly the electrical stuff, like the lights and all the cab dials. And as he's an engineer he was very handy for all the fabrication stuff, of which there was quite a lot.
The whole rear tub was chequer-plated by my pal Brian. “On the whole I've had very good people around me building it, so it's been fun. I never felt like giving up, but I did get a bit down when it was finished and silly little bits started going wrong – like the clutch going because of a fault in the release fork. It was painful having to take out the chequer plate that Brian had done such a great job of, but I have fitted a new heavy-duty clutch now, so it should last a bit longer. “None of the rebuild was difficult, because I had really great mates helping me. I'm lucky to have such good friends pitching in on so many different areas of the rebuild. It's been a good laugh and we've all had fun doing it, although I don't think my wallet enjoyed it! “I had all the panels and arches blended in and then sprayed in Candy Apple Green by my mate Gaz, who owns West Herts Customs – a great firm who specialise in custom car paintwork and fabrication. It took a lot of work to get my Landy looking so great, but Gaz and the team did me proud. “I didn't do anything to the transmission, which is just standard. It's done me well, so why change what I was happy with? But I did fit new gas shocks and new coil springs. I’ve also replaced all the bushes with Polybush replacements and every nut and bolt has been replaced with stainless steel ones.
The exhaust is also stainless steel. “The bucket seats were upholstered in green leather by Sam’s Trim and the roof lining and other part of the cab were re-covered in matching green leather. The tyres are Cooper 285/75/16s on deep-dish modular steel wheels, which are painted in green metal flake to match the chequer plate around the truck and also the rear tub, which was completely chequer-plated. “I think it's finished – for now anyway! I don’t take it off-road and I don’t even take it shooting. It’s not for getting muddy! I’ve got a 4x4 buggy for that.