Back to the Defender 90 Section

1994 NAS Defender 90 Soft Top
Rust repairs and Upgrades

This 1994 NAS Defender 90 soft top has come to us from Martha's Vineyard. It has low miles, but that harsh island environment is taking its toll on the Rover, and so are the local repair shops on the island. It has some pretty serious issues with rust and poor repairs, but the good news is that we can fully sort this 90 out to be safe and reliable for more summer fun on the island. To develop a base line for the vehicle, we have completed a full evaluation of the 90 and have discussed that list with the customer to find out what she does and does not need done. Once this list is compiled we start in on the project to get it back into shape.

Rust, rust and more rust. The frame on this D90 will last a few more years, but a number of the steel parts underneath have given up from salt water beach use and the island air. Above you can see the fuel tank skid plate, or what is left of it.

A gentle kick later and the remains of the skid plate fell onto our shop floor... leaving the fuel tank loose to move around inside the Rover. Obviously this is completely unsafe so we will be getting rid of this mess and installing our aluminum fuel tank skid plate that will not rust, so this will not happen again.

Some of the local experts decided they needed to change the fuel pump on this D90 the hard way. So instead of doing it right, they cut a huge hole in the rear tub to gain access to the fuel pump. Not a bad idea, if you did it properly, but there are reasons why you can't do this.

With the tin plate they screwed to the floor removed you can see they cut not only the floor, but the support braces that hold up the floor (purple arrows). The glitch is that the brace is part of what holds the fuel tank in place, so without it the fuel tank is able to move around and that is completely unsafe. To add insult to injury in this hack-job repair the experts didn't even install the right fuel pump! They installed the Disco 1 fuel pump that is not only too short to reach all the fuel in the tank, but also does not have a fuel vent outlet (green arrow), so instead of getting the right pump they just installed it anyway and left the fuel vent line loose in the car... meaning no fuel vapor vent for this 90. Remember the owner of this truck had to pay good money for this "repair", so next time you think ECR might be a little too far away and your local guys are just as good... think about this fuel pump job.

That's enough bad news, now for some good news. We can fix it all. So to make that happen we have removed the rear floor of the tub. We will install a new cross brace and fabricate a new floor section from alloy to return the 90 to stock. Above you can see the rear tub with the floor section removed.

We have fabricated a new floor section and we will now install it and a new, galvanized, cross brace to undo what was done in the "fuel pump job". Once everything is installed it will all look completely stock and be tough as nails as we are using a slightly thicker than stock floor material.

The rear cross-member on the 90 is also getting rusty, but it isn't rusted through yet. The 90 has a few more years before it will need a new galvanized frame, so we will be knocking down the existing rust and giving this area some epoxy primer and paint to help it last as long as possible.

The rear step/tow bumper is another story, it is past the point of paint and primer. Above you can see we have removed it from the 90 to be able to paint the entire rear cross-member and work on the rear bumper itself.

The rust on the edges is deep enough to be a through hole and there is no saving this type of rust. The only way to save the part is to cut out the rust completely and put in new steel.

A little while later you can see the same rear step/tow bumper with the rusted areas cut away and all new steel put in its place. Now we will send this bumper off to be coated and it will look good as new when its back on the Defender 90.

Rust has also taken hold on the hinges of this Rover, so we have removed the old rusty hinges and we will be replacing them with the updated version that are far more rust resistant.

Rust again... here you can see the brake line on the RH front brakes. The line has rusted so badly than the retainer bracket has rusted off the retainer base and the lines are starting to leak brake fluid. This is unsafe, so we will be installing new brake pipes and lines. The brake pipes however will not be just stock units that can rust again, we will instead be installing our all stainless steel pipes (stainless pipes and fittings, unlike others that only have stainless pipe). The new lines will make sure this sort of rust issue is a thing of the past.

Rusted rear axle case. Yes, we know, running rust theme here.
In this case it is the axle cover that has rusted enough for the gear oil inside it to start leak out through the rust holes. We will be cutting off the rusted cover and installing a new heavy duty replacement that will cure this issue without the need for a costly entire axle replacement and it will cure the leak.

Because of age and dry rot we have removed the factory oil cooler lines and updated them to the ROX performance units that you can see installed above.

These units move the oil cooler lines away from the hot exhaust manifold (remember this system is meant to cool the oil, not super-heat it by running it by one of the hottest things in the engine compartment). The original lines pass right by the exhaust manifold where the green arrow points. You can see how far away the new ROX lines are. This will help the system work better and will help avoid the all too common Defender fire. Go here for details.

The work on this 90 is more mechanical in nature than a lot of the complete restorations we do, but that doesn't mean we can't make the 90 look a little better. To that end we have replaced the damaged front bumper with a good used unit. This gives the 90 a less "beat" look and doesn't break the bank.

Here you can see the brake system repairs starting to come together. The new flex lines have been installed along with our ROX stainless brake pipes. We have also repaired the mounting bracket and checked all the rotors and pads. The rear rotors and pads were toast from the beach use, so they have been replaced as needed. Once completed all these stainless and new parts will make the all important braking system safe again.

In the image above you can see the fuel tank ready to go back into the Defender. The correct fuel pump has been installed and we have added a set of our ROX stainless steel fuel lines (both hard pipes and flex lines being SS in our kits) so that this rust issue won't be coming back anytime soon on this 90, and when the time comes to replace the frame on this 90... all the upgraded parts we are installing now will cross over, nothing will need to be thrown away. One more note from the fuel pump "repair" done on this 90: As we started to wire up the new Alpine sound system going into this 90 we found that the "shop" that made such a mess of the pump install also cut the wires to the fuel pump inertia switch and just attached them to a relay power point, instead of finding the actual problem.

Here you can see how nice our ROX CNC made SS brake pipes fit the D90. The bends are all correct and they even fall correctly into all the factory brake pipe clips (yellow arrow). A piece that is hard to see, but will help this 90 greatly is the ROX stainless steel exhaust system (green arrow). This is a full 304 stainless steel system (unlike the other guys 516 stainless system that rusts) with performance cats. This system adds performance and longevity to your 90 or 110 and those are 2 factors we strive for at ECR. The good news for this customer is that they won't be having to replace the exhaust all the time due to the beach use, the performance gains are just a nice side benefit.

Out back on the 90 you can see more of the SS brake lines and how nicely they fit, as well as the new A arm link that had to be installed, the new shocks and the new rear diff cover that has been installed to replace the old rusted/ leaky one. You know your Rover is starting to get real rusty when the axles themselves leak. One by one we are knocking out the rust issues on the 90 and it will soon be ready for more summer fun on the island.

The sound system in this 90 had been upgraded once before, but it was a typical "car" install. It wasn't set up for the rigors of what a soft top Defender90 can do to an audio system. The amplifier was mounted in an area that sees lots of water. The speakers were installed so that they would break the door panels and center cubby box had been screwed shut in order to make some sort of way too small subwoofer. After some years of island corrosion, none of it was any good anymore, so we are installing a nice simple system that will handle the environment better. Above you can see that we have installed a new set of Alpine 6" speakers in the doors. We have skipped the Alpine speaker covers that scream "look at me, steal me" and instead we have installed the upgraded speakers hiding behind factory speaker grills. That way if a thief takes an interest in the Rover he'll think the speakers are not worth the effort, and it also gives a nice stock look to the interior of the 90 instead of seeing boy-racer stereo gear everywhere.

To keep the radio head unit secure, and to replace the butchered up and broken original cubby box, we have installed a new Tuffy center console. This unit locks securely and also covers the radio itself to keep it out of the elements when not in use. It also makes a great addition to a soft top D90 because it gives you a truly secure place to lock small items like cell phones and such. In a stock D90 there is no safe place to store items.

If you flip open the face of the cubby box after unlocking, it exposes the new Alpine radio. This nice and simple unit is expandable and makes for a clean and neat installation.

In the storage area of the cubby box we have added an iPod connection so that all your MP3 songs can be played directly through the head unit. All the iPod controls are accessed from the radio itself. You just plug in your iPod and tuck it away in the cubby box and access all your tunes from the head unit itself.

Another rust issue on the 90 was the door hinges. We have removed the old original style that are prone to rust and painted and installed a new set of updated hinges with stainless steel hardware. These resist rust much better and especially on a white Defender, give a nice clean fresh look. For more on hinges go here.

At the rear of the 90 we have started to remove as much rust as possible so that we can get the primer and paint on the rear cross-member. This D90 already has a stainless hardware kit, so we have saved all those items to re-install later.

The replacement rear floor is also now finished, complete with a new galvanized under tub crossmember. This area will now be primed and then headed to the Rhino-Liner for a full coating in the rear to make this cargo area easier to clean and ready for any use or abuse the owner sees fit, no matter if that is hauling heavy gear or sandy kids home from the beach.

Here you can see the ROX alloy fuel tank skid plate in place. The fuel tank is back in with the correct fuel pump and stainless lines, and the engine is up and running again correctly. The ROX fuel skid plate will not rust like the original, so if future repairs to the fuel pump are needed we sure hope those doing the work don't cut down through the new floor! On the far side of the truck you can see the exit pipe of the ROX 304 stainless steel exhaust system. The ROX system even uses stainless steel clamps and hangers for a truly long lasting system.

Now that the mechanical systems have been sorted out on the 90, it is time to finish up the rest of the Rover's upgrades. In the image above you can see we have installed a new gutter kit for the upcoming new soft top. This gutter kit makes a nice tight seal all the way around the door, eliminating leaks and air gaps, making the 90 a much nicer place to be on those rainy days.

Now back from the Rhino-Liner the rear area of this Defender now looks normal again (no huge hole). The bed liner will help the 90 stand up to the beach use and make it much easier to get the sand and debris out of the back of the 90. Bring on those sandy feet... the 90 is ready for it now.

Here you can see we are re-installing the rear jump seats and seat belts so that the rear passengers can ride in the back.

This image shows the rear of the 90 now complete. The repaired rear step/tow bumper is back from powder coat and looks like new again. The rear crossmember has been painted up and the small items have been put back into place. The rear of the 90 now looks good again and with all the new and upgraded items it will stay this way for a good long time.

In the front of the 90 we have installed some ROX alloy kick panels to replace the junky cardboard ones and installed some new floor mats to hold the sand and keep as much of it as possible away from the bulkhead. We also treated the bulkhead to make it as rust resistant as possible. Down the road we can replace the bulkhead with a galvanized unit, but the bulkhead is still in good shape, so no need for that at this time.

Here you can see the rear end of the 90 and all the rust and damage repairs have been completed. Compare this picture to the one at the top of this page for a scary "before" and a nice "after".

This image shows the interior all buttoned up. The rear seats are back in and the heavy duty floor mat in the rear is back in place. The 90 is ready for the island.

The last item to install is the new upgraded soft top. Here you can see the gutter kit in action. Once the top is on, the area around the door seals nicely, unlike the factory design.

The top itself is constructed better and made from better materials, not that terrible plastic of the factory tops, so it will look better, work better and last longer. A win, win situation for the customer.

Here you can see the completed 90 ready to head back to MA, then out to Martha's Vineyard for many more summers of fun. The upgrades done to this Defender will be with it long term and we have made sure the Rover is ready for the customer by test driving it for a good number of miles so that we know when it arrives with the owner it will be ready for duty. It now has almost all the rust resistant upgrades we offer and all the previous back-yard mechanic repairs have been built out of the 90 using Genuine Land Rover parts or better, and our attention to detail, so we know it will perform correctly like a Rover should.

If you have needs for your Defender, from routine service to wild modifications, contact ECR. We'll be happy to help make your Defender everything you want it to be.

Contact info