David and Pamela Blair are well known in B.C.’s off-road community, and in 2015 they decided to prepare for full-time life on the road. Retirements were organized, Land Rover club duties were transferred, and an unassuming Defender 110 was fitted, re-fitted and rebuilt for an around-the-globe adventure. But their multi-year plan to depart in 2020 would turn out to be more challenging than they ever imagined.

“It took two years to locate the right truck, and another couple of years to configure it to be up to the task of taking us around the world,” says Dave. “The plan was always to drive a Land Rover because that’s who we are. For us, there was no other option.” Their first choice was to import something like a Defender 130 – the longer wheelbase is the top choice for building a habitat on – but finding a good one proved more difficult than they thought. Lucky for the Blairs, they are well connected in the Land Rover world and eventually found a spacious ex-military 110 two-door that was being sold by good friends. Why do they call it Fitz? “Because when we got him and started planning, everything fell into place and ‘fit.’”

A moment of triumph on Fitz’s journey came early. Determined to stick to the plan despite global shutdowns and restrictions, Pamela and Dave set off in August of 2020, on the road through a fractured world with an uncertain future. In hindsight, it might even seem like the right decision. After all, when met with the unknown, overlanders are often the first people to head straight in. As protocols and procedures shifted, the Blairs were even able to make it to Yukon territory and the Arctic Circle in the Summer of 2021. The goal, however, was to leave Canada and venture through the USA and Mexico for the colder months. With growing rumours about the land border opening, and snow and frost on the horizon, they positioned themselves not far from a crossing in the Fraser Valley.

Land Rovers and reliability are a topic of much debate. Those unfamiliar with the near-75-year-old marque will quickly quip about tow trucks and oil gushes, but the fully initiated know that an old Land Rover is an investment – and pays dividends as a result. “Aside from the typical Land Rover issues of the odd leak, squeak or rattle, Fitz has been a champ getting up every morning ready to roll, and supporting us on our adventure,” says Dave. “It has performed admirably and reliably in less than perfect conditions.” This is, of course, the essence of a Land Rover – and is why they continue to be popular overlanding vehicles.

During preparations the factory roof was removed, and in its place an AluCab Icarus pop-top was installed. Along with that came an interior load space conversion with storage, seating, and utilities like power, water and diesel-fired heat. Underneath the Defender benefits from upgraded Terrafirma suspension arms, HD OME suspension, custom drive shafts, and extra fuel storage. The venerable 300TDi diesel found in Land Rovers of this era is a reliable, well-respected, electronics-free powerplant, and Fitz’s motor benefits further from an upgraded head, improved cooling, new timing belt, and a few other refreshed or rebuilt components that were suspected to cause trouble down the road. Along the way they also collected a custom-built trailer, which offers more versatility in camp setups and a lot of storage space.

So far, they haven’t experienced any serious trouble. David always makes sure to keep up on maintenance and mechanical checks – the most common issues on a Land Rover take a while to develop, so it helps to have a look underneath regularly to avoid surprises. As far as travel trouble is concerned, Pamela and David had hoped to reach Tuktoyaktuk. “Our most frustrating moment so far was not being able to get all the way north to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean,” says Dave. “At some point in the future we are determined to return to the Dempster Highway.” Certainly, they won’t be the only ones – many overlanders were disappointed to learn that the Northwest Territories would not be opening to any kind of tourists for 2021.

This air of uncertainty led them to adopt a new strategy: “Full time overlanding during a pandemic presents daily challenges and some disappointments, but we’ve learned to adjust and adapt and not to plan ahead more than a week or two at a time.” Overlanding or not, many of us have adjusted to the same attitude over the last two years. Fortunately, the U.S. border opened to land crossings in November of 2021, and the Blairs were able to escape to the Southwest and, eventually, Baja California.

What’s in store for the future? They’ll be enjoying an envious winter plying the streets and trails of Central America – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama are all on the list. As for Fitz’s layout, that’s subject to change: “What you see right now may not be what you see in a few months,” says Pamela. “That’s where the bolt-together reconfigurability of the Defender platform comes in handy!”

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64,144km Travelled

4,650 Bridges

358 Swans

46 Ferries

31 Burros

12 Whales

8 Wild Boars

3 Countries

Categories: Driver Plus, Off-Road Plus