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Thread: 1986 Defender Engine Swap

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Houston, Texas

    1986 Defender Engine Swap

    Hello From The New Guy! I picked up a 1986 2.5L Diesel Defender and want to know if anyone can recommend a motor swap. Lot's of questions and new to the Defender world, wondering if anyone has done a motor swap, is there a Vintage Air System for the trucks. What lifts are available and what will need to be upgraded on the trucks for gearing and transfer case, etc.

    Just looking to play with the truck but the engine is in need of replacing. If anyone can recommend someone in the Houston, Texas area would be much appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Kelseyville, Ca.
    I'm not much of an expert on diesels but I believe a 200 Tdi is a direct bolt-in swap for the 2.5. An upgrade to a 300 Tdi requires (I think) different motor mount perches to be welded in as it sits further forward and higher than a 200 or a 2.5, due in part to the different transmission required. The 200s were used with an LT77 and the 300 with an R380, and I don't think they were interchangeable (at least, not easily.)

    Vintage Air...I don't think so, but since many Defenders were air conditioned for the US market (and other hot climates) you can generally find original Land Rover A/C to swap in, from a wrecked/parted truck. Won't be cheap though. Lifts can go from a slight lift of maybe 1/2" or 1" all the way up to the limits of your wallet. 2" is generally enough to give good tire clearance for larger tires and still keep it streetable, 3" is the practical limit for stock suspension components and anything above that requires extensive mods, and becomes a bit unwieldy for street use. Stock gearing is 3.54, which is good up to 33" tires but even with 33s a change might be wanted. You should have either the 1.4 or 1.6 transfer case, with the 1.6 you could leave the stock 3.54 gearing in place with 33" tires with no problem, and probably even the feel comfortable enough to do so with the 1.4 T-case. I've driven a 200 Tdi powered 110 with 33s and the 1.6 and it felt pretty good, able to accelerate well (for a diesel) and to cruise on the freeway comfortably at 65. I could push it to 70 but it didn't feel quite so happy there, I had no tach in the truck and didn't know what the revs were so I kept it at 65.

    As for the transfer case, the LT230 is one of the best transfer cases ever built. Many people with non-Rover vehicles swap them in. There were improvements over the years, but I wouldn't remove a good working LT230 just to swap in a newer one, especially if it seemed to be suitable ratio-wise to gears and tires I was running. Most Defenders had the 1.4 ratio, I think some diesel 110s had the 1.6 and most everything else (Disco, RRC up to '89) got a 1.2, which is the most common unit available due to there being so many Discos imported. Starting in '97 the LT230 in the DI was upgraded to a quieter unit with the gears cut differently, and finer teeth. Also, there was an upgrade to the input gear, cross drilling it for better lubrication to the transmission output shaft splines, and longer splines on the input gear to provide more contact area. There were more upgrades and changes to the LT230 for the DII, and my familiarity with them stops at 2004 with the last DII and the last Rover we got in this country with the LT230. I really know nothing about what other upgrades and changes might have been made to them after that as they continued production for use in the Defender in other markets.

    Hope there's something of use to you in all this...!
    Last edited by TigerDan; 04-12-2015 at 08:58 AM.
    '91 RRC-4.2, R380, LT230, GDE bumper with Smittybuilt 8K winch, Custom 3" lift, 33's, Equipe trailing arms, Rock Ware sliders, Custom diff guards, Maxyedor HD steering, TT/Detroit, Rovertracks axles
    '61 Series II 88"
    '95 D90
    '94 RRC County LWB

    "There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading, the few who learn by observation and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves." -Will Rogers

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Oak Park, CA
    Get a Tdi from a Defender not a disco/rrc, since the turbo was mounted differently. Other than that should be fairly straightforward as Dan mentions, I mean, some tinkering is needed for sure, but not too bad... I've even seen them in Series too and it's alright.
    I am not sure with the boxes LT77/R380, I think they should be an "easy" swap, but I am not positive. I could inquire, I know people that have done it...

    With all said, the only thing I would do to it, would be, *maybe*, an engine swap for a Tdi and overdrive or 5 speed box if not present, to keep the engine revs down when driving on the freeway...
    <DCProven >
    <1977 Land Rover Santana, Series III, 2.25 Diesel>
    <1995 RRC, LWB, 4.2 V8>

    "Information is not knowledge,..." Frank Zappa

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Bay Area CA
    So I did this to mine(technically paid someone to do it but should have done it myself), a 200tdi is a straight swap. You will want the 1.4 or 1.2 behind it as the tdi will over rev the 1.6. I had a Land Rover ac unit added. Works ok for the front, added a drop curtain and now the second row seats feel it. The 200 is easy to work on and parts are easy enough to get. I do recommend going through the engine and replacing the head gasket, timing belt and giving it a full overhaul before slapping it in. Make sure all the push rods etc are ok. I have the LT77 but when that goes I'll swap it for the R380, make sure you get the diesel one (Ashcrofts in the UK is probably the best for these). Let me know if you have questions.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    London, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    If its any help here is our page for just this:-

    We can offer advice (that's free). We have engine kits available. We have shops in Kentucky, Ohio, Colorado and an agent North Carolina who can fit our kits for you. or call me on 240 249 0507 (eastern time)

  6. #6
    Its difficult to swap the engine of 1986.! not works

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