Soft top Conversion


These guys were the cheapest most complete solution with everything you would need when I looked at this years ago.
 

Dipodomys

Active member
This video does an excellent job describing what's involved with converting a civvy Defender from hardtop to soft top, and the pros and cons of doing so:

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I converted my 1997 Defender 90 Wolf from hardtop to soft top after I brought it over from the UK last year. I acquired all the parts in the UK and had them shipped over. The concept would be the same for civvy models, but I have no experience with them. Notably, the Wolf is different from civvy models because it uses the integrated roll cage to support the soft top rather than hood sticks. That said, you still need to acquire the Wolf-specific door frames, a tailgate and hinges (also Wolf-specific), a header rail, and the Wolf-specific soft top itself. There were also a lot of brackets and other fixings that had to be acquired. The Wolf already has the two-piece front doors, so I didn't need to change doors. I basically looked at the Wolf parts catalog and figured out everything I would need. There was one part that was nearly impossible to find, and I feared I might need to fabricate my own, and that was the driver's side (LHD) vertical door frame. I finally found one after several months of searching. I'd say I probably spent the following:
  1. Soft top - Genuine NOS Land Rover from P.A. Blanchard's. $700. These are also available from Exmoor Trim, but to purchase them in the U.S. you have to go through Rovers North and they are $1,700.
  2. Door frames - Genuine Land Rover, two pieces per door, so four total; three came from P.A. Blanchard's and one from a guy I found on eBay UK who had one stashed away in a container. They were about $300 each, so $1,200 total.
  3. Header rail - Used from P.A. Blanchard for about $75. I cleaned and repainted. These are also available from Exmoor and Rovers North, but are $$$.
  4. Tailgate - Genuine Land Rover from P.A. Blanchard's. $300. I also had to come up with the hinges, which I oddly enough procured from Rovers North for $80. Hinge brackets, anti-luce latches, and various other fixings for the tailgate were maybe another $120. The tailgate also had to be painted (an often overlooked additional expense and hassle), which I had done in the UK before the vehicle shipped.
  5. There were a bunch of other Wolf-specific brackets and other bits I had to come up with. I got all of them from P.A. Blanchard's for maybe another $150.
So all in I spent about $2,800 on parts, plus shipping, so call it $3,000+. All parts were Genuine Land Rover, down to bolts and washers. Procuring everything in the UK and shipping it (no VAT required) made it a lot less expensive. Shipping really isn't that bad if you're dealing with a pro like P.A. Blanchard's. They use DHL for shipping, which is fast and reliable, and is actually pretty reasonable. Rimmer Brothers would be another good option for civvy Defenders, and there are other vendors as well. Rovers North would be a good choice for a civvy Defender, but they can be pricy for some of the items you'd need.

The installation itself was a breeze. Wolfs were configured as either hardtop or soft top, but provisions were made for both. As such, all the holes for the various brackets, the tailgate hinges, etc. were already in place, and it was essentially a bolt-on operation that took me three or four hours. That's the beauty of a "classic" Defender...you can switch parts at will like an Erector set.

I absolutely love it. I still have the hardtop and rear door, but I honestly doubt I'll ever put them back on. I live in Arizona, and winters are mild, so running the soft top year-round is no big deal. In the summer I roll up the back and sides, remove the door tops, and enjoy the breeze.

One issue to consider is what to do with the hardtop while it is off the vehicle. They are large and awkward and take up a lot of space. I have an inside storage unit I use so it won't turn into a packrat nest or be destroyed by the elements. The Wolf tops are a one-piece fiberglass type of deal rather than the multi-piece hardtop that comes on civvy Defenders.

I stayed with the standard drop-down tailgate. It's great for camping as it provides a work surface, but it does make accessing the load area rather difficult as it sticks way out from the back of the vehicle when in the down position. Wolfs could also be retrofitted with a swing-away tailgate with a kit that was issued to units that wanted to make the conversion. Basically some new side hinges, and you use your same tailgate. I have the kit but prefer to keep the drop-down setup as it suits my needs better.

I've attached a few pics, one showing the vehicle with the hardtop in the Yuma Desert on the way back home after I'd picked it up at Port Hueneme. A few others show the vehicle after the conversion. Another one shows another Wolf (not my vehicle) with the top off showing the Wolf-specific door frames and the rollcage which acts in the place of hood sticks. The conversion concept would be similar with civvy models, and you could probably do it without busting the bank, but if you wanted to you could probably spend a fortune. True for most things with these machines.
 

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@FlyersFan76 Is that the Exmoor top or does AWT make a top as well? Does the Exmoor hood that RN sells work with the AWT cage?

Also looking for any tips/tricks/advice on how to peel apart the roof and sides as well as remove the NAS 110 roll cage.
 
Last edited:
@FlyersFan76 Is that the Exmoor top or does AWT make a top as well? Does the Exmoor hood that RN sells work with the AWT cage?

Also looking for any tips/tricks/advice on how to peel apart the roof and sides as well as remove the NAS 110 roll cage.
AWT makes the top. I am not sure if they make the hoop set or if they farm them out. Not sure on the hood compatibilities between all what is available.
 
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