Proud Rhino D90
Lucky 8’s New Ultimate Defender Build
Lucky 8 Off-Road continues to unlock the full potential of modern Land Rover vehicles for proper off-road and overland adventures with Proud Rhino. Its approach to vehicle modification is all about functional upgrades that work in harmony with the OEM vehicle systems and are nearly all reversible to OEM spec. That all sounds easy, but it is anything but to do correctly.
Proud Rhino is Lucky 8’s in-house Land Rover parts brand. The latest build to get the Proud Rhino treatment is this 2022 Defender 90 V8 Carpathian Edition. Justin Monnin, Lucky 8 founder and lead troublemaker, says they “set out to make the Defender to dominate overland trails and class 4 roads, while still being able to play in the rocks at the off-road park before a speed run to Starbucks for a latte.”
A new V8 Defender 90 with all the bells and whistles from the factory, as well as the full Proud Rhino treatment by Lucky8, makes this one of the most comfortable and capable Land Rovers on the planet. Monnin says this might be his forever Land Rover, and he has—and has had—just about every Rover there is to have.
A Basis For Greatness
This build starts with a $115,000-plus top spec D90. That means it has a 5.0L V8 putting out 518 hp under the hood, good for a sub-5-second 0-to-60-mph time. It also means massive 22-inch wheels with equally massive brake calipers and 15-inch front brake rotors. Inside you get loads of suede and leather and all the latest tech for comfort, safety, and off-road capability.
“…They ‘set out to make the Defender to dominate overland trails and class 4 roads, while still being able to play in the rocks at the off-road park before a speed run to Starbucks for a latte.’”
This spec Land Rover Defender 90 offers up 1,255 pounds of payload capacity, which is important to consider when adding accessories. It also has adjustable air-ride suspension, with 11.5 inches of ground clearance in off-road mode and 8.4 inches in standard height mode.
As with all Lucky 8 Proud Rhino company builds, this new D90 was optioned in a grey paint—Carpathian Grey to be exact—and then wrapped in the orange and black mountain range livery.
With a vision to do everything and be super capable off-road for the build, tires were the first item to figure out. Monnin decided that 35×12.50 BFG KM3 mud-terrains were the best tire for the job. He used that as the starting point to dictate the lift, fender liner modifications, bumpers, and sliders.
“No proper off-road Land Rover would be complete without four large lights on the roof. A Proud Rhino light pod is used to mount four 9-inch ARB Solis LED lights.”
Monnin couldn’t bring himself to change out the beautiful, and massive, Xenon-blue front brake calipers that come on the V8, in order to fit smaller, more off-road appropriate wheels. The best option Monnin found was a 20-inch Redbourn Alston wheel with a 25mm offset. Not ideal for off road, but the best compromise to make everything work, and considerably better than the 22s that come on the truck from the factory.
A small 1.5-inch lift, accomplished with Proud Rhino lift rods, made clearing 35s in the rear of the truck a non-issue. They do rub a bit under full compression, but Lucky8 is working on a ‘SYA’ (Save Your Ass) kit to help with that, like they offer for other modern air suspension Rovers.
The front end was another matter, as anything larger than a 33×10.50 tire takes a lot of work to make fit. This is because the supplementary intercoolers tucked in the front fender wells behind the bumper are in the way. In the past Lucky8 has relocated the coolers forward a little bit and trimmed the bumper, but that would not work for this project, as a full winch bumper was planned. Instead, this required making special brackets and reworking some of the intercooler plumbing.
The end result of all that intercooler relocation was the ability to fit 35s and have a cooler compatible slimline winch bumper. The Proud Rhino bumper features a Warn Zeon 10s winch, a Factor55 fairlead and UltraHook, as well as swivel recovery points. It also features a large skid plate that flows into the factory underbody skids.
Next up was the all-important lower body protection provided by sliders. Proud Rhino bolt-on rock sliders act as both impact protection and side steps.
“This spec Land Rover Defender 90 offers up 1,255 pounds of payload capacity, which is important to consider when adding accessories.”
Another unique problem with these new Defenders is the aluminum rear A-arms that tend to get hung up on rocks instead of slide over them. Steel Proud Rhino A-arm sliders were installed that easily glide over trail obstacles.
Functional Good Looks
Now that the D90 had the capability and armor improvements sorted, it was time to add functional accessories to make life on the trail and around camp that much easier.
Up top, a factory roof rack is fitted with a set of ARB Tred Pros, a Proud Rhino Aluminum Shovel, an ARB Jack, a Pelican case housing a Starlink internet system, and a Gazelle ground tent. To access all the roof goodies a rear Proud Rhino Ladder was installed.
No proper off-road Land Rover would be complete without four large lights on the roof. A Proud Rhino light pod is used to mount four 9-inch ARB Solis LED lights. To complete the look, and keep branches off the windshield and lights, Proud Rhino Limb Risers are installed from the light pod to brackets that utilize factory mounting points under the hood.
Inside, the rear seats have been removed and replaced with a custom mounting plate. On that plate is mounted an ARB Fridge Slide, 12V fridge/freezer, and secure tie down points. Those tie down points are used to secure luggage, ARB camp chairs, a Front Runner camp table, and a Factor55 Recovery Kit.
Completing the Proud Rhino D90 is Lucky8’s carbon trim piece kit that swaps out the black plastic trim on the steering wheel, doors, center console, and dash for real carbon pieces. To finish off the interior, Land Rover seat covers help protect the suede seat inserts on muddy and dusty adventures.
We were lucky enough to join Justin in his new D90 build for its inaugural adventure. We drove the 100-mile Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway in Kentucky. This is a public road route but entails everything from highway to narrow paved backroads and deep muddy steep two track to big boulder climbing. It even has a few solid water crossings and starts and ends with a cool tunnel through a mountain.
At the beginning of this overland adventure, the D90 only had 281 miles on the odometer and the final parts had been installed less than 24 hours earlier. In the past we had brake failures and airbag line leaks that disabled older Land Rovers on the trip, the brand-new D90 never skipped a beat. One plastic lower body cladding popped off—we saved it and it popped back on after the trip—one felt fender liner tore due to a massive stick intrusion, and there was some solid pinstriping in the beautiful new paint. Otherwise, the new Defender came away from the trip unscathed.
All the new parts also worked as intended. The limb risers continually pushed tree limbs up and over the vehicle on tight overgrown sections of the trail. The sliders and skid plates protected the body and undercarriage from rock impacts. The winch helped scale a big boulder without any vehicle damage. The big 35-inch mud-terrains provided the clearance. It also has traction to drive over and through nearly everything we encountered with ease.
Proud Rhino D90
Only time will tell if this impressive build stays in the Lucky8 stable long-term. We’re guessing it will unless someone offers Monnin a too big-to-refuse check for it, which isn’t too likely an outcome. These V8 Defenders are extremely hard to come by and won’t be made for much longer.
2022 Proud Rhino D90
Platform: 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 Carpathian Edition
Engine: 5.0L P525 Supercharged V8
Wheels & Tires: 20-inch Redbourn Alston Wheels; 35×12.50R20 BFG KM3 tires
Suspension: Proud Rhino 1.5” Lift Rods
Accessories: Proud Rhino Intercooler Relocation Kit; Proud Rhino Front Slimline Winch Bumper; Warn Zeon 10S Winch w/Factor 55 Fairlead and UltraHook; Proud Rhino Rock Slider; Proud Rhino A-Arm Sliders; Land Rover Roof Rack; Proud Rhino Rear Ladder; ARB Jack; Tread Pros; Gazelle Tent; Proud Rhino Aluminum Shovel; Pelican Case w/Starlink System; Proud Rhino Roof Light Mount; (4) ARB Solis Lights; Proud Rhino Limb Risers; ARB Fridge on Fridge Slide; (2) ARB Camp Chairs; Front Runner Camp Table; Factor55 Recovery Kit; Land Rover Seat Covers; Lucky8 Carbon Interior Trim Kit.