Defender 4′ x 5′ (half) Roof Rack

I’ve been in the market for a roof rack for some time now, both as a mounting point for antennas/lights, and to carry bulky (but light) gear like sleeping bags and tarps. Since my needs are very small and I really like the view out of my sunroof, I really wanted a half-length rack. I also wanted it to sit nice and low, close to the roof’s surface. There are only a few off-the-shelf options available for a roof rack on a Discovery, and almost all of them are full racks. In fact, the only half-rack option I was able to find is by a company that has an awful reputation on the various Land Rover forums.

Ultimately, I opted to go with a unit from Defender Rack and figure out some other way to handle mounting. Defender makes a model that is 4 feet wide (perfect on a Discovery) and can be had as short as 3 feet—I went with a 5-foot one-piece welded model. The build-quality is top-notch, but it could have used another trip through the powder coater as it is already showing (slight) signs of rust from this year’s rain.

Gutter mount seems to be the industry standard for just about every Discovery rack out there. Admittedly, the gutters on a Discovery are relatively stout and abnormally wide, but it seems like every picture I see of a Discovery with a gutter-mounted rack has a bent gutter. Despite this, I made the mistake of ordering a set of Thule super-high feet. Honestly, I cannot understand how anyone could possibly be happy with them as it has to be one of the poorest gutter-foot designs ever created. It is also downright irresponsible of the company to continue making an unsupported gutter-foot this tall, it is simply impossible to make it stable. Fortunately, Amazon agreed with me, thus forever ending my gutter-mount fiasco.

That left me with one option: custom mounts.

Defender Rack 02Defender Rack 03

This actually proved easier than anticipated. The front mounting points of the 5-foot rack line up just perfect with the 4 holes already provided for the OEM Land Rover load bar when the back of the rack is lined up with the back of the roof. Of course, the existing holes are front-to-back while the rack’s holes are side-to-side, so a cross-bar had to be made first (see: Antenna/Light bar OTC). From there it was a simple matter to attach the front end of the rack.

The middle and back mounting points required a little more thought. Fortunately, there is a support beam running front-to-back on each side of the roof right between the rear sunroof and the “Alpine” windows. Once again, Metals Depot provided me with an inexpensive source for T6061 aluminum, and I soon had a reinforcing sandwich of 1/4 x 1-inch flat bar on the underside and 1/8 x 3-inches on top. The extra width on the topside, along with an extra bar on the bottom of the rack, help to distribute the weight more evenly. The final connection to the rack is made with four mounts I picked up from Advanced Antivibration Components, essentially miniature motor mounts.

To ensure a water-tight seal I also picked up a UV-stabilized silicone mat from Advanced Antivibration Components and cut it to fit the 3-inch-wide aluminum bar. The bolts are then force-fed through this and secured nice and tight. Gasket maker would be another option here, but it is messy and difficult to remove later. The final product is covered in Rustoleum’s bed liner, which has a finished texture very close to that of the factory roof bars. After a thorough road test at highway speeds on rough pavement, washboarded dirt roads, and gravel I’m proud to say there is zero noise from the rack. There is also zero movement in the roof’s surface when I climb up on the rack to use it as an observation platform—the weight distribution plan worked perfectly.