’86 Tophat Defender

430HP LS3 6-speed

“Prototipo #001”

In 2012 Tophat Defenders envisioned their ultimate Land Defender and set into motion a plan to build it in 2015. The project started with a rust free ’86 Defender 2.5 68HP (Non-Turbo) Diesel from Rome, Italy. To create the ultimate Defender, a nut and bolt restoration was carried out incorporating numerous in-house drive-train, chassis and body refinements. 

This vehicle was developed with four key aspects in mind; Looks, power, handling and comfort.

The Build

Neither power nor reliability should be lacking and so a 430HP LS3 Corvette engine was installed in the car mated to a manual 6 speed Tremec T56 magnum gearbox to ensure the ample performance was readily available.  Bespoke parts were CAD-CAM designed and manufactured like the transfer case and tail piece. Having increased the power output by some 400% the entire drivetrain was strengthened to suit with heavy duty prop- and half shafts. Limited slip differentials were fitted in front- and rear axles and in the transfer case. The braking system was developed in partnership with the Dutch subsidiary of AP Racing. With an overall  vehicle weight reduction of some 70KG together with improved weight distribution, stopping power is substantially improved. In cooperation with KONI an adjustable air-suspension system featuring Koni’s FSD Technology was developed specifically for this application and installed on the Defender. It goes without saying that this is not just an LS-3 engine swapped hot-rod, but a thoroughly developed fast and capable vehicle which while very driveable, offers intimidating and accessible performance  road holding and braking.

Drivetrain & Suspension

TopHat Classics was founded in 2012 specialising in the sales and restoration of Land Rover Defenders. Following the build of the “Prototipo #001″ some 25 TopHat Defenders have been built to similar specs and mainly sold to US customers at a price point north of $200,000. Currently Tophat has presence in both Europe (The Netherlands) and the United States (Arizona).

Please check video of the founders of Tophat Classics:



  • Engine Assembly, LS3 Long Blk
  • Oil Pan Assembly, LS2/LS3 Style
  • Harmonic Balancer, Pioneer LS3/Truck
  • Intake Manifold Assembly, LS3 Style
  • Thermostat, 186 Degree
  • Billet Water Neck for thermostat
  • Water Pump Assembly, Camaro Style
  • Alternator
  • Power Steering Pump Set, Camaro
  • Coil Pack Assemblies, LS2/LS3/LS7
  • ECM, GM E38
  • Wiring Harness, LS3/7 58T
  • Flywheel
  • Dual plate clutch
  • Air Filter, K&N RC-4680 LS14in
  • Coil Cover Kits, LS3 Black
  • Starter, All LS inc shield
  • T56 Magnum 6 speed manual transmission
  • Stainless steel fuel lines
  • Bosch Fuel Filter Assembly
  • High flow fuel pump
  • Holley Fuel Pressure Regulator
  • Stainless steel braided fuel hoses
  • Stainless steel fuel lines
  • Tophat oil filled engine mounts to eliminate engine vibrations
  • Tophat transmission and transfer case mountings
  • Upgraded Tophat cooling system
  • Tophat custom oil cooler
  • Power steering cooler
  • Sanden AC compressor
  • Custom stainless steel full exhaust system with headers


  • Upgraded Tophat transfer case
  • Limited slip differentials front, rear and in the transfer case
  • Upgraded heavy duty halfshafts, CV joints and drive flanges
  • High performance AP front and rear disc brake upgrade for 18″ wheels
  • 364mm vented and grooved discs with 6 pot calipers in front
  • 330mm vented and grooved discs with 4 pot calipers in rear
  • Stainless steel brake lines
  • Improved steering geometry
  • 18″ Boost wheels
  • Cooper ZEON LTZ 285-60-18 tires
  • HD Steering arm and track rod
  • 30mm wheel spacers
  • Upgraded front and rear drive flanges
  • Upgraded transfer case with sleeved casing and limited slip diff
  • Upgraded front and rear pegged differentials with limited slip diff


  • special KONI/TOPHAT shock absorbers
  • Air suspension with 4 pre- programmed height settings
  • Upgraded steering damper
  • Upgraded swivel housing with upper and lower swivel pin bearings


  • Recaro seats with Carbon fiber seatbacks
  • Seats upholstered in Black Nappa leather with charcoal Alcantara inserts.
  • Seats are heated and ventilated
  • Re- upholstered dash in black Nappa leather with contrast stitching
  • Charcoal Alcantara roof liner
  • Charcoal Alcantara window trim
  • Nappa leather door cards with contrast stitching
  • Nappa leather cubby box with contrast stitching
  • Automotive grey windows in front and privacy glass in rear

Video of US customer talking about the build and buy process


The interior has been appointed with a blend of Nappa leather and Alcantara and fitted with bucket seats with exterior matched carbonfiber backs. Upgraded airconditioning was fitted and the interior finished with bespoke materials.


The Yellow Prototipo’s exterior was finished in a 3-layer pearlescent paint coat.

As the development vehicle for Tophat’s Defender upgrade program this chassis has driven approx. 9.5K miles suitably refreshed. The Yellow Prototipo has been featured in several international media outlets including Road & Track,  See the attached video racing GT3’s at the Zandvoort track at 2:47:


The Netherlands (TopHat HQ)

(Build price, 193,000 euro)


Alfa Romeo GT


Image Street Classics is a Dutch based media production house specialized in film, photography, design and copywriting for classic cars in the medium and higher price range ($/€ 100k - 500k).

Each commissioned car is presented in it's own designated online environment under the umbrella of imagestreetclassics.com.