In 2009, Mike Sandone and his soon-to-be wife, Sofie, took an epic road trip across the mountains, beaches, and salt flats of Sonora, Mexico, in an old Jeep Wrangler.
They wanted to be highly mobile, so most nights they slept in the cramped car. Sandone kept a checklist of what he’d want in his ideal overlanding vehicle: a higher payload capacity to avoid stressing the driveline, Lego-like interchangeable components, and a simple turbo diesel engine that wouldn’t require dealer software to fix. “And we wanted more room,” he says. “No rooftop tents or anything—just enough to be able to comfortably sleep in the back.”
He found all these features in the Land Rover Defender 110 series. Problem was, only around 500 were ever imported into the U.S., all of them in 1993. But 110’s are common in much of the rest world, and vehicles 25 years or older can be brought over without much hassle.
After buying one in England and restoring it, Sandone, who had been making his living refurbishing vintage cars, founded North America Overland, a business dedicated to old Rovers that he runs out of his 18th-century farmhouse in rural Connecticut.
Sandone offers left-to-right-hand drive conversion and installs stock British turbo-diesels, but he urges his customers to skip aesthetic “upgrades” such as oversize tires and lift kits that can tax the vehicle and be difficult to repair in the field.
“People don’t realize how capable these already are,” he says.
The Land Rover Defender 110 series was so named for the length, in inches, of the wheelbase.