110 Soft top project – Nightingale

As my project to stretch my Defender 110 “Elsa” progressed, it became clear that I’d have enough bits left over to make another vehicle. Elsa was stretched by taking my existing 110 Hardtop and combining it with parts from a donor 130 crewcab. So logically there would be plenty of stuff left in the mix to make a rather neat second Defender. This is what we did – again, Black Paw 4×4 in York did the build work – and did it very well.

The 110 chassis and drive train was left from the original 110, so we found a rear pickup tub and bolted that onto the chassis. Onto the front end we added the body panels from the 130 donor vehicle, together with the leftover bulbar and winch originally on Elsa – somewhat rusty, but OK “for now”. Ben sourced a Rest of World-spec hood and hood sticks, and Kev Mackman gave me a military roll bar. The whole setup was overhauled and serviced, and sprayed in Corston White.

The result was a rather cool Defender 110 soft top, which I decided to call “Nightingale” – keeping to the Born Free theme I’d started with Elsa. Nightingale is the name of the 109 Series 3 station wagon in which George Adamson was murdered as he went to the aid of a German woman in the Kenyan bush in 1989. The original Nightingale is preserved at Elsamere on Lake Naivasha.


I took her on a shakedown run to the Outer Hebrides recently and she performed excellently – though of course the soft top caused vehicle security issues.

On Benbecula 4

Beach camp, Benbecula

Loch Indaal on Islay

Loch Indaal, Islay

Parking rules, North Uist pub

Parking rules applied, Westport Inn, North Uist

On Benbecula 1

Beachfront property – Benbecula

Tailgate kitchen 1

Tailgate kitchen, Glen Coe

She has the 200tdi and gearbox from Elsa, the engine of which is about 400,000 miles old so needs a bit of attention. The clutch hydraulics are leaking at the moment and the heater doesn’t work, but these are high-mileage issues and easily fixed.

She has the David Bowyer BRB bull bar and uprated Superwinch X9+, again from Elsa’s previous build, and these are showing their age. Therefore I have ready back in the UK a galvanised winch bumper and a Superwinch Husky 8 to mount in their place.

She’s a tremendous hoot to drive – the 200tdi has a large intercooler and a Range Rover transfer box with higher gearing – so for an old diesel Defender she really shifts! Very pleased


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