GREYSTONE
Four Wheeler|September 2021
Land Rover Defender 90 with Cummins R2.8 power!
Jered Korfhage

Cummins power to turn 35s on the highway? Check. Compact enough to navigate the trees and rocks of the Vermont Overland Trophy event? Check. Self-contained and packed to sustain over a week of travel? Also, check.

Kraig Mackett’s plans were interrupted—in a good way—when he was selected to beta-test the Cummins R2.8 engine. His ’91 Land Rover Defender 90 would be one of the first vehicles to put the new Cummins powerplant to work in the field, but that’s not where his fascination with Rovers began.

Despite previously owning many makes and models of vehicles, after Kraig traveled to North Africa and spent time driving around in a Defender 110, he knew he was drawn to Land Rovers. “I’ve owned nearly 50 of them over the years and currently have more than 20 Land Rovers in various states of being,” Kraig explained. But the ’91 Defender 90 you see here is special. It was originally sold in Italy as an uncommon left-hand-drive vehicle with the sought-after 200Tdi powerplant. After searching the globe, Kraig discovered this particular Rover for sale in Ottawa, Canada. With a combination of import paperwork and a car trailer, he eventually got it onto United States soil, and his project began. Kraig’s idea was to maintain the Rover’s patina while creating a reliable suspension system and driveline capable of turning and articulating big tires.

Frame rot. It’s cancer known to old Land Rovers, but Kraig’s was a fairy tale-worthy exception. When the body was lifted and the non-corroded frame was discovered, he was quick to have the whole thing galvanized. What came next was just as much an honor as it was a complete derailment to Kraig’s plans—partnering with Cummins to test the R2.8 turbodiesel. “We didn’t know if it was possible or how we’d go about doing it,” he said about the amount of researching and figuring that went into wedging the new engine between the frame rails, but it happened. Behind the diesel, Kraig wanted a GM 6L80E and a Land Rover LT230 transfer case, which turned out to be “stuffing a lot of hardware into a small bit of real estate.” Though it took a hearty serving of custom fabrication and a few different combinations of radiators and intercoolers, the Defender eventually came to life.

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