The Process: Restoring Classic 4x4s and Off-Roaders

 Nice combo! Working on a Range Rover Classic and an Fj40.

Nice combo! Working on a Range Rover Classic and an Fj40.

Legacy Overland reimagines and rebuilds classic off road vehicles such as Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40s & 60s, Range Rover Classics, Land Rover Defenders, Mercedes Gs and International Scouts. Man Made DIY sat down with founder Robert Madeira and team to find out more about who they are, and what it takes to preserve such iconic machines while maintaining functionality for the practical uses for which they were intended.     

Why classic 4x4s?

 Bahama Gold 1973 Range Rover Classic in all its fully restored glory.

Bahama Gold 1973 Range Rover Classic in all its fully restored glory.

Land Cruiser FJ40s, Land Rover Defenders and 1970s Range Rovers were always there throughout my life. Those on our team that have a bit more gray hair share our heritage of riding around in these amazing trucks, learning to drive in them, and enjoying the best of times with them.

The trucks that we work on never really went out of style for me, they were just forgotten by many people for a long time. Over the past years, there’s been a global reawakening of interest in these icons. To me, it's just nice to see more people waking up to these timeless classics.

In a way I feel like we work on these dinosaurs; utilitarian form, determined functionality, unmatched ruggedness – and just such an inspiration for getting away, taking the path less explored. This is just something I had to be an active part of, shaping in my own unique way, not just be an innocent bystander!

To me, these off-roaders are not just about transportation, it’s about living the life you want, or aspire to realize. The trucks not only have immense inherent presence and a purpose that is functional, but also provide a feeling of excitement to our clients that only something really special can. To me personally, they capture that ethereal feeling of excitement as you travel, or maybe sometimes, arrive, somewhere.

 Land Rover Defender builds in progress.

Land Rover Defender builds in progress.

Our builds are personal and each individual client has their own style that they want to bring into the icon. It’s about making each truck special and unique for their owners, that’s what’s important to me. But it is also fun, that creative process, visual, tactile and mechanical — it’s what gets me looking forward to each build. True, we stray from the strict original and sometimes “go big”; from museum-quality build to something extraordinarily luxurious. This said, even in our extremes we don’t stray too far from the classy purpose that we are committed to deliver on. I don’t like bling, I don’t like rock-crawling – those are just not my things. Our builds reflect this – and clients we work with respond to this vision – and that is our art. 

 Not just a quick paint job. Engines are completely rebuilt, including planing, sleeving, porting — new everything pretty much.

Not just a quick paint job. Engines are completely rebuilt, including planing, sleeving, porting — new everything pretty much.

I love the thrill of the deconstruction of the project vehicles at the start, the launch of a truck re-imagines. Then the excitement builds as you start to see the emergence throughout the design and build process — this is something that rallies the team and me every time. Seeing craftsmen take leather and raw sheet metal and muscle it into these amazing shapes is a never-tiring cycle that I look forward to every time. I take each build personally. Perfection doesn’t have compromise and is non-negotiable. Obsession is a powerful motivator, but that’s what it takes to get it where I want it to be.

Why vintage off-roaders and not, say, supercars? 

Our team and garage has worked on cars for decades, not only vintage trucks, but all sorts of cars.  When we kicked off the dedicated Legacy Overland brand in the US, we ended up working a lot on Toyota Land Cruisers — FJ-40s, BJ-40s, HJ-45s — because clients asked us for these. And we love their timeless, rugged cool factor that is just so high.

 It’s not just ‘wash and go’. Each component is examined and restored.

It’s not just ‘wash and go’. Each component is examined and restored.

We are also working on a couple really high-end Land Rover Defender 90 and 110 builds. These are some really, really neat concepts that will be super-distinct. There are a lot of Defenders out there that sort of pick bits and parts from different off-the-shelf suppliers, but we don’t do that. Our approach is much more personalized to build distinct and unique Defenders. Our clients don’t want to pull up next to a Defender and go ‘oh, another one’…

So while we have done some classic builds — and will continue doing so upon request — we will still add the Legacy Overland touch to these to kick it up a few notches. Generally though, we go further and strive to deliver exciting new designs — this is an opportunity to explore and personalize.

Additionally, we also do a fair amount of work on two-door Range Rover Classics. One of our favorites is a gem of a 1973 Range Rover Classic that we built in 2017. This vertical grille marvel is just such a classic line and I think for a long time neglected neglected in the history of SUVs – it is the granddaddy of them all! This Bahama Gold project just oozes 1970s retro-cool, one of our current pet projects. Very few frills above concourse-level restoration, maybe the only real step into the 2000s is a special built Grundig Emden radio unit with upgraded Bluetooth and iPod connection. This is a build for the books! 

 Coming right up! 1973 Alfa Romeo GTV 2000

Coming right up! 1973 Alfa Romeo GTV 2000

To date, we have kept other makes and models at a lower profile within the Legacy group. For now we will keep focused and not have any ‘style drift’ in our Legacy Overland work, which is our dedicated vintage 4x4 effort.

But I have my personal projects also in the sports car segment in parallel with the overlanders. I like the same type of cool and classic new vintage motors and look at Jaguar E-types, Porsche 356 and 911s (1960s and 1970s), Alfa Romeos etc. This is something that we are bringing to market under a different effort, separately branded under the Legacy Vehicle Design builds so as not to mix business and pleasure as it were!

Are these just collector pieces for the well off?

 Prep and then more prep. And then some more. Perfection takes time.

Prep and then more prep. And then some more. Perfection takes time.

No way. As a lifestyle brand, in addition to performing frame-off restorations, we offer off-road packages. There are a lot of shops that build great cars, and while we also do that, we want to combine this with unique driving experiences through our “Live It” luxury off-roading journeys.

No matter how much you go on about how cool a vintage off-roader is and what it’s capable of, you won’t know until you Live It. I felt it decades ago and the memories still echo to this day. The dust in the air, the rockiness of the road, the mud on the tires… Now, we want our clients to discover it too. Our goal is to offer them an exceptionally restored overland vehicle as a springboard for unforgettable adventures – get out there and go off-roading! 

 All new hardware adorns a perfectly restored Defender 90 frame. Galvanization, prepping and careful painting applies here as well.

All new hardware adorns a perfectly restored Defender 90 frame. Galvanization, prepping and careful painting applies here as well.

These adventure tours, organized in Portugal and Spain, are an immersive way to take our classic truck restorations to that next level, beyond the machine and into a tailor-made, once-in-a-lifetime experience. We get that city streets are a great place to drive our builds. But why stop there? 

Additionally, we just launched our accessories and apparel brand to further help our adventurers on their journey. The clothing items, made with premium quality mélange yarn in 100% cotton, were thought out to carry on the classic overland legacy. We sat down on a regular Saturday afternoon iand surrounded ourselves with cutouts from retro magazines and old car parts. Slowly, ideas of off-roading days, dreams and childhood references all came together, and we forged original artwork meant to bridge the gap between vintage feeling and modern design. We never had a gender or age in mind. Everybody needs to escape. So we thought of a global tribe, united by the drive to explore; a community of ageless souls who long for endless, adventurous journeys.