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Project Henry - This Land Rover Series II with a 6.2-litre V8 engine is what SUV dreams are made of

Land Rover's new Defender will be one of the status vehicles of 2020, but for some enthusiasts of the brand, their money is better spent elsewhere. 

Although the new Defender represents a considerable progression in terms of comfort and engine performance, ardent Land Rover fans are still investing big money into classic Defenders.

Some of the most committed Land Rover fans are found in America, which is ironic, as Defender was discontinued there way back in 1997. For most Americans, the classic Defender remains a novelty and symbol of automotive individuality. And East Coast Defenders (ECD) is the company which makes dreams come true, for wealthy Land Rover enthusiasts. 

One of the ECD's most impressive projects was recently completed. Like all its commissioned work, this Land Rover Series II has a name, 'Project Henry.' And if you like your restomods subtle (as they should be), Project Henry is nearly perfect. 

Project Henry: Land Rover Series II. Image: East Coast Defenders

A Series Two like no other

ECD started with a donor Land Rover Series IIA as the Project Henry platform. Keen to preserve all that is cherished about these period Land Rovers, the EDC team added modern mechanical functionality without compromising the glorious Series II exterior proportions or design details. 

You'd have to scrutinise very carefully to notice that those round headlights now have LEDs inside, improving one of the classic Land Rover's most significant weaknesses: illumination. Between the headlights is a proper braai-grid style grille. 

Around the rear, there are original 1976 Series IIA lights. Why not LED upgrade? Well, rear lights don't have to beam a huge field of illumination, so ECD consider the period lights quite sufficient.

Project Henry: Land Rover Series II. Image: East Coast Defenders

Keeping it true

The Project Henry exterior was left mostly in its original aluminium rivetted magnificence, with some quality Chawton white paint and new hinges helping to tidy it all up a touch.

And yes, those ridiculously tiny Series II wing mirrors, mounted on the front fenders, have not been upgraded. Inside the Project Henry, there is a classic Land Rover tri-spoke steering wheel, with its large diameter and thin rim, while the seats are vinyl – as they should be.

If you are looking for all manner of modern infotainment upgrades and outlandish speakers, then don't bother – as ECD knew these upgrades would ruin the essence of its Project Henry. 

Project Henry: Land Rover Series II. Image: East Coast Defenders

Big power gain and better suspension

Where this Series IIA's modernisation is most noticeable, is the Project Henry's powertrain. Lift the heavy bonnet, weighed down with a full-sized spare wheel, and you'll be staring at Chevrolet Corvette's V8. The engine is an LS3 type fuel-injected 6.2-litre, good for 320kW.  

The other mechanical specification upgrade ECD applied, was to swap out the original Series IIA leaf-sprung suspension for coils. 

Best of all? Those solid 16-inch steel wheels. They look so much cooler than any contemporary alloy spoked wheel and work better in dune driving. If you've ever done a lot of off-road driving in thick sand, you'll know how a bit of moisture can make it stick to the inside spokes of a magnesium wheel.

And that asymmetric rotating mass can cause an annoying vibration once you get up to speed again. With Project Henry's solid steel 16-inch wheels, there's no risk of getting moist sand clumped between the spokes. Clever.

In the world of restomod Land Rovers, the original way is sometimes still the best. 

Project Henry: Land Rover Series II. Image: East Coast Defenders