Manlio Musarra’s Black D110 custom

ByUnsealed 4X4June 26, 2018
Manlio Musarra’s Black D110 custom

Some 4X4 owners build their rigs with a single focus in mind. Rock crawling, mud plugging, camper trailer touring, desert crossing or beach fishing, perhaps.

Then there’s Leo. After years of design evolution, Leo has given this Defender 110 the credentials of a mountain goat crossed with a Kenyan ultra-marathon runner and a Spanish café, all in one darkly handsome vehicle. This machine features the best balance of off-road upgrades, touring reliability and camping comforts without becoming glamping uncool. Although … it does have a coffee machine and whiskey bar!


The owner

Leo stands as proud as his Defender

 Manlio Musarra hails from the Gold Coast in Queensland, where he works in the aftermarket 4X4 industry. Leo has been driving off-road for 23 years, first with an early Land Rover Discovery, which was replaced with a 2008 Nissan Patrol that he only kept for a year. The black beast has been Leo’s ride ever since, and perfectly suits his fascination with accessorising and desire to travel the lesser seen parts of Australia.

Early trips were with his wife and young daughters, often with the Land Rover Club of Victoria, although he has made plenty of solo vehicle trips too. Nowadays he travels with his wife or with mates – we can only imagine how much they would appreciate Leo’s taste in accessories!

Leo’s favourite destination is understandably the Victorian High Country – there’s always somewhere different to explore and the views never get old, hence getting back there at any available chance.

The vehicle

Leo loves the camaraderie of fellow Rover owners; he says it makes him feel part of a big friendly family.

Leo’s ‘Toro Salvaje’, or Wild Bull, is a 2008 2.4-litre Defender 110 that has quickly grown to be the refined bush battleship-come-kitchen you see today. Leo chose the Defender due to loving the style and shape, adaptability and size. But more than anything, he just always wanted one. Leo also loves the camaraderie of fellow Rover owners; he says it makes him feel part of a big friendly family.

The Defender represented an empty slate to Leo, where he could add and subtract and build his ideal long distance tourer that could handle the rough stuff easily.  Despite feeling a world away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, on a trip Leo can still enjoy the things he values at home – good food, good coffee and a comfortable night’s sleep.

Leo’s no fool. Defenders aren’t renowned for the most robust driveline, so he has upgraded a fair few components with quality aftermarket parts. There’s an Ashcroft air locker, CV joints, axles and drive flanges on the front, while a Maxi Drive vacuum-operated locker, axles and flanges strengthen the rear. Ashcroft also feature in the transfer case, while Gwyn Lewis supplied the heavy duty double cardan front drive shaft. The tail shaft is custom too, with wide angle universal joints fitted to cope with the suspension travel and lift.

The Bull is a weighty beast; to give it more poke Leo has had the engine remapped with a Stage 2 tune by M. R. Auto in Brisbane. The remap gives significantly more power and torque from the turbo-diesel engine, making it far more driveable.

Leo has upgraded the radiator and hoses, and done a bit of exhaust work, to keep the engine cool and breathing well, which also aids in reliability.

Keeping it off the bump stops, Leo has fitted Wild Bear HD radius and trailing arms and a two-inch suspension lift courtesy of King Springs and Tough Dog Ralph shock absorbers.

The suspension had been a bit of a bugbear for Leo, as the initial spring and shock absorbers weren’t up to the increased weight. It took a bit of tuning before the Tough Dog and Kings combo was settled on, certainly changing the dynamics in a great way, and Leo is very happy with the outcome. Even with all the traction aids and suspension travel, Leo has chosen aggressive Cooper mud terrains mounted on Dynamic rims, which he absolutely loves.

The modifications

More orderly than troops at Dunkirk

Momo steering wheel gives quick steering and a comfortable grip

There’s even room for a subwoofer!

The old maxim of ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ has never held truer. Leo has taken the accessorising of his Land Rover to a new high, reading like a who’s who of quality aftermarket companies.

Leo started with some fundamental comfort improvements, by fitting Dynamat Xtreme sound and heat proofing to the cabin area. MUD UK armrests, MSA lumber support, Exmoor seat covers and a Waeco driver’s seat cooler provides comfort on hot trips. The handbrake was also relocated away from the driver’s leg, something all Landy owners can appreciate.

RAM mounts in the cab give Leo good view of his Hema HN7 and HX-1 navigation aids and an Outback roof console keeps a plethora of GME, Garmin and Barrett communication devices within reach.

But the bits that make Leo’s Defender exceptional aren’t for driving: it’s the Mulgo pop-top with memory foam mattress for a good night’s sleep; the Alu-Cab awning for living space and the shower room with the Glind pump and Road Shower 4 hot water system.

There’s 160L of pressure-pumped drinking water in sill tanks for extended trips. Leo’s gone all out and fitted a 12V Travel Buddy pie oven, Ecoheat Induction cook plates, a microwave, bar and storage … the icing on the cake? DeLonghi coffee machine. The Wild Bull’s kitchen is contained within the passenger side rear door opening and a gullwing window in a custom-built fit out that even keeps the whiskey bar essentials and pantry rattle and shatter free. Waeco keeps the raw materials fresh with a 90L fridge and 11L freezer on board too.

Now all those appliances take a fair bit of power, so a pair of flexible 120W solar panels feed through a Redarc battery management system to three Fullriver AGM batteries linked to 4kW and 12kW pure sine inverters with GPO outlets in useful locations.

Organised storage in any 4WD can be difficult to use and maintain, giving Leo reason to fit cargo nets, roof nets, a MUD UK safe box and a custom-built load space fit out. Everything is thought through on this 4X4 and all space is extremely well utilised.

We all know projects are never really finished, and for when the 2.4-litre Ford engine retires from punting the ‘fender around Australia, Leo daydreams of fitting a Cummins C510GV 5.9-litre powerhouse! A match made in heaven…