NAS ST to POE Conversion

D901560

Active member
I know not too many people are modifying NAS trucks these days, but I thought I’d post this here anyway. I bought this 1994 D90 soft top in 2004 and immediately started modifying It for off road use. I’ve driven it cross country, to the beach, and to many off road events and rover rallies. Despite this, it’s still in pretty good shape as it’s been in Texas and hasn’t seen any road salt or winter weather. However, with the badly worn Super Swamper tires and original Tickford top with rips and broken zippers, it’s pretty awful to drive and I usually just take it out enough to keep it running.

I’ve always loved Defenders and have had a long history with this one, so I decided I want to start driving it again and build it into a nice daily driver I can occasionally take off road to do some moderate trails with fellow LR enthusiasts. My ideal configuration would be a easy to remove hardtop for use most of the year and go topless or surrey top in the summer. I attempted this about 10 years ago when I bought a Land Rover plastic / fiberglass top, but it did not hold up well to being installed and removed every year. The plastic top was also pretty loud, and I didn’t particularly like the way it looked on the truck either. I sold the top after a few years.

My inspiration for the build is the late 94 POE trucks with the spartan interior. I figured if Land Rover could convert these trucks at the dock I should be able to build it in my back yard. This spring I acquired a top from a mid-2000s td5 Defender, a Series liftgate of unknown vintage and Safety Devices SW roll cage and started the conversion.

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D901560

Active member
I was not sure what to expect removing the cage since I don’t think it’s ever been removed, but it was very easy to take off. I started at the back and worked forward. In all it took less than 30 minutes or so to remove. The lower part of the cage that connects to the frame extends through the tub capping. The original POE trucks left the lower cage in place with no interior roll cage connecting to the external cage. A SW internal cage will fit and bolt to the same mounting location under the tub, but it does require removing the lower ST cage. I didn’t really want that much work swapping between hard and soft top configurations, so I opted to leave it in and cut the top to allow the lower cage to pass through.
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D901560

Active member
The tub capping of a NAS ST is way different than a ROW hardtop and it wasn’t readily apparent how it was going to attach to the body. The LR parts book shows specially shaped studs that fit into specially shaped raised openings in the capping. The NAS ST capping is solid and smooth. I started in the rear corners and initially drilled the top to pass a bolt through into the lower cage piece. This was not a good idea and it was difficult to get the corner alignment correct. I was also worried about drilling too many holes in that area of the top to compromise its structural integrity. I pulled it apart again and decided to make some custom brackets to attach to the corners. The bracket bolts to the lower rear cage legs and the bolt allows the stock mounting location of the top to be used.

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D901560

Active member
The front mounting was no problem. Again there was no raised hole in the capping to use the LR mounting stud, but I used a regular automotive stud along with a nylon spacer. Once things were aligned I drilled the tub capping.

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D901560

Active member
The rear corners next to tailgate were also easy to mount. With the speakers removed a hole was drilled in the capping and the stock LR brackets used.

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D901560

Active member
The last mounting point is in the center of the roof sides. The tub capping had an exiting slot shaped hole with a square opening beneath to add a nut plate. Unfortunately, it did not alight perfectly with the existing hole for the bracket in the top. I drilled another hole in the top and cut a small plate to spread the load of the bolt and cover the exiting hole in the top for a cleaner look.

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D901560

Active member
In the front, no modifications were needed. I just removed the machine screws holding the ST header bar and replaced them with hex head bolts of the same size. These will bolt into the exiting rivnuts in the windshield frame. To make installation and removal a little easier it’s a good idea to add a spacer or stack some washers so a wrench fits in the opening better as the bolt tightens.
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D901560

Active member
Once the top was in place and aligned, I installed the front portion of the Safety Devices SW cage and drilled the roof panel. The original POE trucks retained the ST front cage hoop and they just added a curved end piece to attach the cage to the top. The ST front cage is a bit shorter than the SW version and as a result the original POE trucks had a slant in the side sections of cage above the doors. My OCD will not allow this. The SW cage sides are parallel to the roof and door tops and if I want to mount a rack to the cage in the front it will fit better.

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D901560

Active member
I was able to get a mostly complete Series liftgate set up that was only missing the glass and the gas struts. I got some struts and strut mounting hardware from McMaster-Carr and drilled the top to test fit everything.

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D901560

Active member
After much deliberation, I was not entirely comfortable without an interior roll cage. Rather than fit the SD interior hoop, I had a custom cage piece made that ties into the lower ST cage and the external cage pieces using the SD internal hoop brackets. I have a friend with a off road shop that builds a lot of custom cages, tube buggies etc and he did a fantastic job. In addition to tying into the lower ST cage and upper external cage, it also has diagonal supports that utilize the existing holes from the ST diagonal cage piece. It’s a one-piece assembly can be removed and installed with the roof section on. This will allow me to remove the entire hard top as one piece. It’s a tight squeeze getting it in and out with the top on though, so this may not work as planned if I reinstall the rear seating.

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D901560

Active member
I had a headliner to install and after test fitting, I decided against using it. I was going to have to cut the rear section to fit around the lift gate brackets. Now I know why the original POE trucks only had the front headliner section installed. I also did not want to have to reinstall and store it every time I take the top off. I wanted to have some sort of sound deadening to tamp down some of the road vibrations and reduce the tin can feel. I ended up buying the Spectrum product from Second Skin. The top already had some acoustic material that was in rough shape. It pulled off pretty easily, but to my dismay there were several pieces of Dynamat underneath. I ended up leaving the top in the sun on a hot day to soften the backing and taking a plastic drywall putty knife to pull and scrape it off. The left over tar residue I was able to get off with PB Blaster and heavy scrubbing. This was probably the worst part of the whole project.

I opted to spray in the sound deadener for a more uniform application. It takes about two weeks to fully cure before it can be painted.

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D901560

Active member
The paint on my truck is in fair condition. At some point I’d like to get a few dings removed and have it professionally resprayed, but for now I figured I’d save a few bucks a do the paint myself. I’ve restored a couple of vintage bikes and have a decent HVLP spray gun so I’m not a complete novice, but I’ve also never done automotive painting. I went with the classic Alpine white roof and body matched green sides. I painted the top first and I found the single stage paint hard to work with and it was difficult to put down without leaving some light orange peel. I ordered single stage green paint using the correct LR paint code and it was not a good match to the tub. The paint shop had a color matching service, but only offered it on base / clear paint and I reluctantly tried it. It was a good color match and laid down smother than the single stage, but even with only two coats of clear the sheen was way too glossy. I let it cure for a few days and then wet sanded the sides and lift gate with 2000 grit paper to remove some imperfections and the sheen and then used polish to bring the shine back to better match the existing single stage paint.

The overall result I think turned out pretty decent, but my takeaway from trying to do it myself is to leave painting to the professionals and I wont balk at a $7,000 plus quote to respray my truck now that I know how much work is involved. I let the freshly painted parts off-gas for a couple of months over the summer while I ordered some the remaining parts needed like new seals needed to assemble the top.

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D901560

Active member
Here’s the final build. I also got the original LR alloys out of storage and put some less aggressive tires on. I’m very happy driving it so far. The top is a huge improvement over the LR fiberglass top in terms of comfort and noise level. Its durable, easy to remove, and only required 4 holes drilled in the tub capping to be installed.

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JimC

Super Moderator
Staff member
Looks good,the next stage down this primrose path is the latest spec doors with roll up windows...
 

Jeff B

Well-known member
Nice write up.

Looking at your teardown pictures makes me think I should but my next used truck in Texas... salt-belt states suck.



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JimC

Super Moderator
Staff member
I appreciate you posting this here, it saves me having to copy over my stuff from the other site. I went ahead and added this thread to the FAQ section.
 

JimC

Super Moderator
Staff member
Here are some misc pix of my conversion. The station wagon top proved itself useful soon after its installation.

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