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Land Rover Defender
Land Rover
aka Ninety
One Ten
Production 1983 - present
Class Off-Road Utility Vehicle
Body Style Ninety/Defender 90 - Pick-up, Hard top, Soft top, Station Wagon
One Ten/Defender 110 - Pick-up, Crew Cab Pick-up, Chassis Cab, High Capacity Pick-up, Hard top, Station Wagon, Utility Station Wagon
127/Defender 130 - Crew Cab Pick-up, Chassis Cab
Length length - type here
Width 70.5 inches (179cm)
Height Height - type here
Wheelbase Ninety/Defender 90 - 92.4 inches (236cm)
One Ten/Defender 110 - 110 inches (279.4cm)
127/Defender 130 - 127 inches (322.6cm)
Weight Weight - you get the point
Transmission 4-speed ZF automatic/4-speed LT95 manual/5-speed LT85 manual/5-speed LT77 manual/5-speed R380 manual/6-speed Ford MT82 manual
2-speed LT230 permanent 4WD transfer box with lockable center differential
Engine 2.3L I4 Petrol
2.3L I4 Diesel
2.5L I4 Petrol
2.5L I4 Turbo Diesel
2.5L I4 Direct Injection Turbo Diesel (200Tdi/300Tdi)
2.5L I5 Turbo Diesel(Td5)
2.4 I4 Turbo Diesel (Ford Tdci)
3.5L V8 Petrol
3.9L V8 Fuel-Injected Petrol
2.8L I6 BMW M52 Petrol
Power N/A hp @ N/A rpm
N/A lb-ft of torque @ N/A rpm
Similar Jeep Wrangler
Mercedes-Benz G-Class
Toyota Land Cruiser 70 series
Nissan Patrol
Designer Designer (lead designer if it was a team effort)

The Land Rover Defender is a British four wheel drive Off-road utility vehicle. It is the product of continued development of the original utility Land Rover Series I launched in 1948. Using the basic yet robust underpinnings of a ladder frame chassis and aluminium body it is infinitely adaptable depending upon the required use, be that farm, commerce, rescue or recreation.

The Defender was not an entirely new model at launch. It used engines and body panels carried over from the Series III Land Rover; gearbox, axles and suspension from the Range Rover.

See Autopedia's comprehensive <MODEL> Review.

Recent Changes

  • For 2009, Land Rover added a 110 counterpart to the 90 Defender SVX special edition line. Worldwide, only 1800 units will be available. It will feature the same trim and livery as the aforementioned 90. [1]
  • In Late 2007, Land Rover quietly unveiled the Land Rover Defender SVX 200-unit (140 Defender 90 soft-tops and 60 90 station wagons) special edition at the British Red Cross Ball to commemorate Land Rover's 60th Anniversary. The refreshed iconic off-roader will sport a metallic black livery with subtle satin black decals and is available in 90 soft-top and 90 station wagon versions. The front fascia is facelifted with a bare aluminum finish, clear lens headlights and a new front grille. The body recieves tubular side-steps, 'diamond turned' five spoke alloy wheels and reinforced aluminium front undershield while the rear fascia will be updated with LED rear lights.

The interior features Recaro sport seats, alloy gear knobs, satellite navigation, iPod dock, a Premium sound system caged in a metallic silver tubular rollcage that also supports a tailor-made, removable black fabric roof. Each SVX will have a numbered plaque with the first one already donated to the British Red Cross for auction. Production is set to begin in the Spring of 2008.[2]

  • In September 2006, Land Rover released information on a series of long-anticipated changes to the Defender, most of which were implemented to meet upcoming emissions and safety legislation. The biggest change was to the drivetrain. The Td5 engine will be dropped, being replaced by an engine from Ford's DuraTorq line, built in their factory in Dagenham. The engine chosen was from the ZSD family, being a version of the 2.4-litre four-cylinder unit also used in the highly successful Ford Transit and the famous London taxi built by Manganese Bronze. The engine's lubrication and sealing system has been adapted for use in wet, dusty conditions and to maintain lubrication at extreme angles in off-road use. Re-tuning the engine means that the power level will remain the same (122 horsepower), but with a lower power peak speed to provide better performance when towing and better acceleration. Torque output will rise from 221 lb-ft to 265 lb-ft due to the fitting of a variable-geometry turbocharger. This also helps produce a much wider spread of torque than the Td5, from 1500 rpm to 2000 rpm.
  • The engine will be mated to a new 6-speed gearbox. 1st gear is lower than the previous gearbox for better low-speed control, whilst the higher 6th gear is intended to reduce noise and fuel consumption at high speeds. A new transfer box will also be fitted, but using the same ratios as before.
  • The other major changes will be to the interior. The current dashboard layout is essentially the same as that used on the original One Ten from 1983 (which was in turn very similar to that used on the Series III from 1971). 2007 will see an all-new dashboard, with a full-width facia and different instrumentation. Instruments come from the Discovery 3, and some of the centre panels come from the recently-facelifted Ford Transit. Some switchgear is carried over from the previous interior. A brand new heater/ventilation system will be fitted, improving de-misting and heater performance. Noise levels will also be reduced.
  • Other interior changes are to the seating layout. Upcoming legislation from the European Union will outlaw the inward-facing seats used in the rear of previous Land Rover Station Wagons. The 2007 Defender will replace the 4 inward-facing seats currently used with two forward-facing seats. This will make the Defender 90 Station Wagon a 4-seater vehicle (reduced from 6 or 7), and the Defender 110 Station Wagon a 7-seater (reduced from 9, and in previous years as much as 12). Whilst this is a big reduction in capacity, it brings the Defender in line with its competition, which have generally used this layout for many years. The new rear seats fold up to maintain cargo capacity.
  • The only external changes are detail changes. The bonnet has been redesigned, needing a bulge in the bonnet to allow the new engine to fit in the engine bay whilst meeting pedestrian safety rules, which dictate a certain distance between the bonnet and the top of the engine. The new dashboard and ventilation system has required the removal of the distinctive air vent flaps underneath the windscreen which have been a feature of all previous Land Rover utility models. Whilst the flaps have been deleted, the bulkhead pressing remains the same, so the outlines of where the flaps would be are still present.

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Engine and Transmission

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"Often, fourth isn't enough to get you up a hill; drop to third and it feels like you've been hit with a wrecking ball. You're doing 55km/h, making the noise like the birth of the universe and almost at a dead stop. What's more, there isn't room for anyone with shoulders or legs, it's as bouncy as a small dog at suppertime, and as a result it's as much fun to drive as a punctured wheelbarrow." Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear

"It weighs 2.7 tonnes - and that makes it heavier than a Rolls-Royce Phantom. It's so heavy, that if you were to load it up with stuff, and then hitch up a trailer to the back, technically you'd need an HGV licence." Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear


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Current Generation: (2007–present)

The last major change was the fitting of another diesel engine. The Tdi could not meet Euro III emissions regulations, bound to be introduced in 1999, so in 1998 the Defender was fitted with an all-new 2.5-litre, five-cylinder in-line turbodiesel engine, badged the Td5. This replaced the Tdi as the only available power unit. The engine used electronic control systems to provide 11 horsepower more than the Tdi, and much improved refinement. Traditionalists were critical of the electronic systems deployed throughout the vehicle, fearing that these would fail when used in extreme conditions. This has not proved to be the case, but the increased complexity means that repairs and upgrades to the engine have to be done by someone with necessary electronic equipment, which has led home mechanics to prefer to buy second-hand Tdi-powered vehicles. However the Td5 as of 2007 is to be replaced by the Ford Transit's DuraTorq engine to comply with emissions regulations also the seating layout has been changed to comply with new seat belt regulations and the traditional air flaps will be removed and replaced with air con to the distress of many fans all over the world.

Another new vehicle is the Defender 110 Double Cab, featuring a station wagon style seating area, with an open pick up back. Although prototypes had been built in the series days, it was not until the late 1990s that this popular and adaptable vehicle got into production.

Now, more than ever, there is a strong division in sales pitch between the Station Wagon versions and the commercially-intended Pick-Ups and Van-bodied versions. Modern vehicles can be very luxurious. The "XS" Station Wagon was introduced in 2002 as a top-spec level, while the "County" package can now be applied to every model in the line-up. XS models come with many "luxury" features, such as heated windscreen, heated seats, air conditioning, electronic traction control and leather seats. These are popular with buyers in the UK and other developed countries, who either use the vehicle for on-road duties such as towing or people-moving, or simply as an interesting and fashionable alternative to an estate car.

At the other extreme, basic models are still popular with farmers, industrial and commercial users, as well as the emergency services. It finds willing buyers in over 140 countries. Land Rover still provides a staggering range of special conversions such as hydraulic platforms, fire engines, mobile workshops, ambulances and breakdown recovery trucks.

The Defender is very much an anachronism in today's vehicle marketplace. It is still largely hand assembled, and unlike most modern cars and trucks, all the major body panels and sub-assemblies simply bolt together. A Defender can literally be broken down to its chassis with simple hand tools — there is no unibody structure. This is actually an advantage when used extensive for off road travel — unibody vehicles can weaken over time, but there are no such stress points on a Defender. This feature allowed Land Rover vehicles to be shipped anywhere in the world as "CKD" ("completely knocked down") kits, but has become a liability because of the high cost of labour in the UK where the vehicles are primarily manufactured today.

Both enthusiasts and commercial users appreciate the bolt-together construction of the vehicle, for it not only means that modifications and accessories are easy to fit, but dented or damaged panels can easily be replaced with replacements. It also means that the bodywork of the vehicle gives absolutely no structural strength (it can be completely removed, leaving just the chassis and bulkhead/firewall if needed). This has its advantages in that modifications, damage or corrosion in the bodywork cannot compromise the vehicle's strength, but also means that the upper bodywork offers little or no protection in the event of the vehicle rolling over. Roll-over cages are popular modifications fitted by many users, and were standard fitment to all North American Specification (NAS) and 50th Anniversary Defenders. The simple construction of the vehicles has another advantage, which is that given a basic set of spanners, an individual vehicle can be switched between many of the various bodystyles available. For example, it is not uncommon for enthusiasts to fit a "Soft Top" canvas hood during the summer months, switching to an aluminium panel "Hard Top" van-back during the winter. Only long-wheelbase Station Wagons cannot be changed to other body types because of their unique five-door arrangement, the lack of any lateral interior bulkheads and a differently-shaped chassis to accommodate the central row of seats. Whilst these procedures could in theory still be carried out on even the latest vehicles, the amount of interior trim, panelling and electrical wiring carried in the roof and side panels of a more modern Land Rover means that such swapping is not as quick or practical as it once was.

The 127 and 130

From 1985 Land Rover introduced a third wheelbase to its utility line-up, a 127-inch twin-axle vehicle designed to accommodate larger, heavier loads than the One Ten. Naturally called the Land Rover 127, it was designed specifically with use by utility and electrical companies in mind, as well as military usage. In its standard form it is a five-door six-seater consisted of the front half of a One Ten Station Wagon, and the rear of a One Ten High-Capacity Pick Up (HCPU). The logic was that this allowed a workcrew and their equipment to be carried in one vehicle at the same time. The 127 could carry up to 1.4 tons payload, compared to the 1.03 tons payload of the One Ten and the 0.6 tons of the Ninety.

127s were built on a special production line, and all started life as One Ten Station Wagon chassis. These were then cut in two and the 17-inches of extra chassis length welded on before the two original halves were reunited. 127s did not receive their own dedicated badging like the other two models, instead they used the same metal grille badges as used on the Series III 109 V8 models, that simply said Land-Rover.

Although the standard body-style was popular, the 127 was a popular basis for conversions to specialist uses, such as mobile workshops, ambulances, fire engines or even flatbed transports. In South Africa, the Land Rover factory there offered a 127 Station Wagon with seating for 15. Land Rover also offered the 127 as a bare chassis, with just front bodywork and bulkhead, for easy conversion.

Initially held back by the low power of the Land Rover engines (other than the thirsty V8 petrol engine), the 127 benefited from the improvements to the line-up, and by 1990 was only available with the two highest power engines, the 134-horsepower 3.5-litre V8 petrol, and the 85-horsepower 2.5-litre Diesel Turbo.

With the introduction of the Defender name in late 1990, along with the 200Tdi engine, the 127's name was changed to the Land Rover Defender 130. The wheelbase remained the same; the new figure was simply a tidying up exercise. More importantly, 130s were no longer built from "cut-and-shut" 110s, but had dedicated chassis built from scratch.

The 130 remains available with only the 6-seater HCPU bodystyle as standard, and followed the same engine and other technical changes as the rest of the Defender range, including the fitting of a new interior and 2.4-litre Ford DuraTorq engine in 2007.

Second generation (1990-2006)

Defender 90 and 110

The biggest change to the Land Rover came in late 1990, when it became the Land Rover Defender, instead of the Land Rover Ninety or One Ten. This was because in 1989 the company had introduced the Discovery model, requiring the original Land Rover to acquire a name. The Discovery also had a new turbodiesel engine. This was also loosely based on the existing 2.5-litre turbo unit, and was built on the same production line, but had a modern alloy cylinder head, improved turbocharging, intercooling and direct injection. The 200Tdi as it was called produced 107 hp (111 in the Discovery), and 188 lb·ft of torque (195 lb·ft in the Discovery), which was nearly a 25% improvement on the engine it replaced. The reason for the engine being detuned was to reduce engine stress and improve service life under prolonged periods of high engine speeds, such as when engaged in heavy towing, which the company reasoned were more likely to be encountered with a utility Land Rover than with a Discovery.

This engine finally allowed the Defender to cruise comfortably at high speeds, as well as tow heavy loads speedily on hills while still being economical. At a stroke Land Rover removed all the other engine options (now redundant in the face of such a good package in a single engine). Some enthusiasts consider the 200Tdi to be the best engine fitted to the vehicle.

1994 saw another development of the Tdi engine, the 300Tdi. This was the same capacity, and both the Defender and the Discovery had engines in the same state of tune (111 ho, 195 lb·ft), and had the same basic layout, but had over 200 changes to improve the refinement and on-road performance of the engine. However, in the process the economy of the engine was reduced slightly, as was the ability for it to be serviced by the owner.

Throughout the 1990s the vehicle climbed more and more upmarket, while remaining true to its working roots. If ordered without any optional extras, the Defender was a basic working tool. If the owner wanted, any number of accessories could transform it into a vehicle that was perfectly acceptable as an everyday method of transport, while still retaining excellent off-road abilities. This was epitomised by the limited edition 50th Anniversary Defender 90 from 1998 which was equipped with automatic transmission, air conditioning, roll-over protection cage and powered by the Range Rover 4.0-litre V8 engine.

First Generation/Origins (1983–1990)

Land Rover Ninety and One Ten

The Defender name was adopted in 1990 as a measure to distinguish the utility Land Rover model from the Discovery and Range Rover, which were moving rapidly up-market — especially in the US. Production of what is now referred to as the Defender began in 1983 as the Land Rover 110, a simple name which refers to the 110 inch (2794 mm) length of the wheelbase. The Land Rover 90, with 93 in (2362 mm) wheelbase, and Land Rover 127, with 127 in (3226 mm) wheelbase, soon followed.

Outwardly, there is little to distinguish the post-1983 vehicles from the Series Rovers which had been in production since the late 1940s. A mild facelift of revised grille styling and the fitting of wheel arch extensions to cover wider-track axles are the most noticeable changes. Also the windscreen was changed from a two, to a one panel screen. Defender was, however, a complete modernisation of the former Series platform. Specifically:

  • Defenders use coil springs on all four wheels, whereas Series vehicles had leaf springs. This gave a more comfortable ride when the vehicle was lightly laden and improved axle articulation to some degree.
  • The new range featured a permanent four-wheel drive system as used since 1970 on the Range Rover, featuring a two-speed transfer gearbox with a lockable differential. Series Land Rovers (with the exception of the first generation of Series I models and the 109-V8 types) had selectable four-wheel drive, so were only capable of being driven in two-wheel drive on the road.
  • As part of the radical update, a new series of progressively more powerful and more modern engines were designed, although the Series III engine line-up remained in place when the vehicles were first launched.
  • The interior was modernised, and a one-piece windscreen replaced the traditional split-screen of the Series models. Other details included the removal of the distinctive "Safari Roof" (see above).
Note on names and badges
Between 1983 and 1990 the coil-sprung utility Land Rovers were officially known as the Land Rover Ninety or One Ten, with the number spelled out in full in advertising and in handbooks and manuals. These vehicles carried badges above the radiator grille that (rather confusingly) said Land Rover 90 or Land Rover 110, with the number rendered numerically. From late 1989, following the introduction of the Discovery, the front badge simply said 90 or 110. From 1991, when the Defender name was adopted the vehicles became the Defender 90 or the Defender 110. These carry front badges that say Defender, with a badge on the rear of the vehicle saying Defender 90 or Defender 110. Just to add to the confusion, the 127-inch wheelbase available from 1985 was always marketed with the name rendered numerically (i.e. as the Land Rover 127). Following the adoption of the Defender name, it became the Defender 130, although the wheelbase remained unchanged.

Most of the changes to the Ninety/One Ten models were minor detail changes. The One Ten was launched in 1983, and the Ninety followed in 1984. From 1984, winding windows were fitted (Series models and very early One Tens had simple sliding panels), and a 2.5-litre, 68 hp (51 kW) diesel engine was introduced. This was based on the earlier 2.25-litre engine, but had a more modern fuel-injection system as well as increased capacity. A low compression version of the 3.5-litre V8 Range Rover engine was available too which transformed performance at the expense of fuel economy.

From 1985 a new chassis type was available, the 127-inch (see below). This was the first time such a specialised chassis had been built in-house. Previously, even longer vehicles had been built, many featuring 6-wheel drive, but all by private conversion companies. The new 127 was part of Land Rover's plan to improve profitability by taking in such work to its own Special Vehicles Department, which was developed from the Special Projects Department that had been in existence for many years.

This period saw Land Rover begin to market the utility Land Rover as a private recreational vehicle. While the basic pick-up, Station Wagon and van versions were still working vehicles, the County Station Wagons, with improved interior trim and more comfortable seats were sold as multi-purpose family vehicles. This change was reflected in Land Rover starting what had long been common practise in the car industry - the slight changing of County model from year to year to constantly attract new buyers and to encourage existing owners to trade in for a new vehicle. These changes included different exterior styling graphics and colour options, and a steady trickle of new "lifestyle" accessories that would have been unthinkable on a Land Rover a few years ago, such as radio/cassette players, styled wheel options, headlamp wash/wipe systems and new accessories such as surfboard carriers and bike racks.

1986 saw an important development. For many years Land Rovers had been criticised for their low-powered engines. The concept of a simple, low-stress, low power engine had worked for decades, but modern buyers demanded more. A turbo-diesel engine, closely based on the 2.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine already used, was introduced. This unit produced 85 hp (a 13% increase over the naturally-aspirated unit, and 150 lb·ft of torque at 1800 rpm, an impressive 31.5% increase. This finally provided a powerful yet economical powerplant for the vehicle. The engine was only intended to be a short term solution to compete with more advanced Japanese competitors, but was quickly adopted as the standard engine for UK and European markets. The engine was marketed as the "Diesel Turbo" (to differentiate it from diesel-engined Range Rovers, which used Italian VM Motori engines badged as the "Turbo D"). Early engines gained a reputation for short service lives, with problems such as bottom-end failures and cracked pistons. Small changes made in 1989 solved many of these problems, but the engine is still avoided by some. It is ironic that Land-Rover has developed a 2.5-litre 5 main bearing Turbo Diesel engine as early as 1962 for the 129-inch Truck prototype.

This was a period of change and success for the company. The new vehicles, with their more modern engines, transmissions and interiors reversed the huge decline in sales that took place in the 1980s (a 21% fall in a single year, 1980-81). This growth was mainly in the domestic UK market and Europe; African, Australian and Middle-Eastern sales failed to recover significantly. The company itself adopted more modern practices, such as using marketing campaigns to attract new buyers who would not previously have been expected to buy a Land Rover. The operation was streamlined, with most of the satellite factories in the West Midlands that built parts for the Land Rover being closed and production brought into the Solihull factory, which was expanded.

To maximise sales in Europe, Land Rover set up the Special Vehicles division, which handled special low-number conversions and adaptations to the vehicles. The bulk of the division's work was the construction of stretched-wheelbase mobile workshops and crew carriers for British and European utility companies, often including 6-wheel-drive conversions, but more unusual projects were undertaken, such as the construction of an amphibious Land Rover Ninety used by the company as part of its sponsorship of Cowes Week from 1987-90. The Special Projects division also handled specialised military contracts, such as the building of a fleet of 127-inch V8-powered Rapier-missile launchers for the British Army. The Rapier system actually consisted of three Land Rovers: a 127 which carried the launching and aiming equipment, and two 110s which carried the crew and additional equipment.


Replacing the Defender with a new model has been in the planning stages for many years. The current design is over 20 years old in its current form and, in some ways, directly evolved and updated from the Land Rovers of the 1940s. As modern private and commercial vehicles offer increasing levels of performance, comfort and refinement, the Defender is again in competition with Japanese products. These offer less off-road ability but are much more comfortable.

New methods of building the Defender have made the model profitable again (since the 1990s, the hand-built vehicle had been made at a loss), so its replacement has been less of a priority. Total replacement will be needed by 2010, when new regulations regarding crash safety for pedestrians will render the current design obsolete.

At present, the Defender does not reach the safety requirement for the USA, and only small batches of specially modified (and very expensive) vehicles have been sold there in the past. A replacement vehicle will almost certainly be designed to be legal in America.



Defender 110 patrol vehicles

Land Rover Defender vehicles have been used extensively by many of the world's militaries, including the US in some limited capacity, following experience with the vehicle during the first Gulf War, where US forces found the British Army's Land Rover patrol vehicles to be more capable and more suited to operation in urban areas and for air-lifting than the Humvee. The British Army has used Land Rovers since the 1950s, as have many countries in the British Commonwealth of Nations. The British Army replaced its Series III fleet with One Tens in 1985, with a smaller fleet of Nineties following in 1986. Both used the 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated diesel engine. These older vehicles are reaching the end of the service lives, with many being sold onto the civilian market from the late 1990s.

In 1994 Land Rover created the Defender XD (XD= eXtra Duty) to replace and complement these vehicles. Powered by 300Tdi engines, the XD has a much stronger chassis, with fibre webbing around the welded joints in the chassis and around stress points to massively increase load capacity. The XD was available both in Defender 90 and 110 forms, and was developed under the name "Project Wolf". British Army "Wolves" are usually 110-inch High Capacity Pick Ups or Hard Tops, and are used for patrol, communications and supply duties. 90XDs are less common, but are generally ordered as Soft Top or Hard Top vehicles for light liaison and communications. Short-wheelbase vehicles lack the load capacity needed by modern armies, and the increased power of heavy-lift helicopters has made the larger 110s easily air-transportable- a historic advantage of the smaller, lighter 90. The Italian army uses heavily-modified 90XDs for special operations due to their superior off-road ability and manoeuvrability.

Land Rover always offered its military Defenders with the 300Tdi engine rather than the more powerful but more complicated Td5 engine offered in civilian vehicles. Before the 300Tdi engine was introduced, military Land Rovers were offered with 2.5-litre petrol and diesel engines, as well as the 3.5-litre V8 petrol. Although trials with the Td5 engine proved it to be reliable in battlefield conditions, it was decided that servicing and repairing its electronic control systems should they fail was too complicated and reliant on having diagnostic computers available. Land Rover were also unable to guarantee they could make the Td5 resistance to electro-magnetic interference. The Australian Army also tested the Td5 and found it to be reliable, but was concerned that the extra performance and speed that the engine gave would result in more accidents and vehicle damage on rough tracks when driven by inexperienced drivers, so opted for the older engine as well. With 300Tdi production stopping in 2006, Land Rover is currently gearing up production of a military version of the 4-cylinder DuraTorq engine that will also be used as a replacement for the Td5 in civilian vehicles.

The British Army's Land Rovers have been the subject of much criticism following recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The majority of British Service Land Rovers carry no armour-plating and even the composite armoured SNATCH landrover is not immume to the larger roadside bomb and rocket attacks. Some have called for British troops to be equipped with Humvees, or other such vehicles. However similar criticisms have been levelled at thise American utility and it is only much larger and more heavily armoured trucks or armoured vehicles that provide any greater measure of protection.

There have been many rumours about a replacement vehicle type. This is most likely the larger, higher-capacity 4x4 or 6x6 Pinzgauer forward-control vehicle very similar to the now disused Land Rover 101 Forward Control, given that the current Land Rover design is also reaching its weight limits given the increasing amounts of communications and weapons gear used by modern patrol forces.

Special editions

In recent years Land Rover has occasionally produced Special Editions of the Defender. These have usually been little more than a vehicle being fitted with certain option packs and equipment, although more bespoke Editions have been produced. Mostly they have been aimed at the more lucrative 'lifestyle' market than the Defenders usual commercial and off-road markets. The first example of this thinking was a concept car produced in 1988 called the 'Cariba'. Based on a V8 Ninety Soft Top, the Cariba featured two-tone metallic blue paintwork, a roll-over cage, oversize tyres and extra lighting.

In 1992 the first Special Edition Land Rover Defender was produced, and it closely followed on from the Cariba concept. Called the 90SV (SV stood for 'Special Vehicles', as all the vehicles were produced by Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations departments), they were painted turquoise and were fitted with a black canvas Soft Top with standard door tops. Alloy wheels]] were also fitted, together with rear disc brakes (at that time a first for a Land Rover). Despite the vehicle's sporty looks, it used the standard 200Tdi turbodiesel engine. Only 90 were made.

For Land Rover's 50th anniversary in 1998 two special editions were built. The first was the Defender 50th ('50th' editions of all the models in the Land Rover and Range Rover range were built). This was essentially a USA-spec Defender 90 Station Wagon. It was powered by a 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine and was the first Land Rover outside North America to be fitted with an automatic transmission. Air conditioning made them very comfortable vehicles too. They were painted Atlantis Blue, a dark green/blue flip-flop colour and had roll-over protection bar for the front seat occupants.

The second 1998 Special Edition was the 'Heritage', intended to hark back to the early days of Land Rover in the 1940s. Available in 90 or 110 Station Wagon form, the Heritage was only available in the two original colours offered by the company- the dark Bronze Green or the light pastel Atlantic Green. A metal mesh-effect front grille, body-coloured alloy wheels and wing mirrors and silver-painted door and windscreen hinges were all employed to make the Heritage look similar to the original Series I of 1948. Inside special instruments were used, with black-on-beige displays. The powertrain was the standard Td5 diesel engine and 4-wheel-drive transmission.

Possibly the most famous Special Edition was the Tomb Raider of 2000, built to commemorate Land Rover's role in the first film of that franchise. Unlike the previous editions, the Tomb Raiders were designed to be off-road expedition vehicles. Painted dark metallic grey with special badging and details, the Tomb Raiders cames fully off-road equipped with a roof rack, roll-cage, additional spot lights, winch, bull-bar and snorkel. They were available either as a 90 Station Wagon or a 110 Double Cab, both with standard Td5 engines.

Following the first Land Rover G4 Challenge in 2003, G4-Edition Defenders were available. As well as the distinctive Tangiers Orange colour of the competition vehicles, yellow and black versions were also produced. Defender 90 and 110 Station Wagon versions were available, with front A-Bar, roll-cage, side-steps and front spotlights as standard, as well as G4 badging.

Since then, Land Rover have produced less extravagent Special Editions. The Defender Black was a 90 or 110 County Station Wagon with metallic black paint, roll cage and dark-tinted rear windows. The Defender Silver was a 110 County Station Wagon with silver metallic paint, front A-bar and spotlights, metal wing-protector plates and winch. The X-Tech was aimed more at the commercial market, being a 90 Hard Top fitted with County-style seats, alloy wheels, wing protector plates and air conditioning.


The Defender in the USA

In 1993 Land Rover launched the Defender in the North American (i.e. the United States and Canada) market. Although the Range Rover had been sold there since 1987, this was the first time utility Land Rovers had been sold since 1974. To comply with the strict United States Department of Transportation regulations, ranging from crash safety to lighting, as well as the very different requirements of American buyers, the North American Specification (NAS) Defenders were extensively modified. The initial export batch was 500 Defender 110 County Station Wagons, fitted with the 3.9-litre V8 petrol engine and 5-speed manual transmission. The engine was fitted with emissions control gear. All the vehicles were white, and sported full external roll-cages and larger side-indicator and tail-lights. All were equipped with the factory-fitted air conditioning system.

This initial batch sold quickly, and for the 1994 and 1995 model year Land Rover offered the Defender 90, fitted with a 3.9-litre V8 engine and a manual transmission which was very obviously intended to compete with the Jeep Wrangler. Initially, the Defender 90 was only available as a soft-top, but later version was offered with a unique, removable, fibre-glass roof panel or regular Station Wagon hard-top.

In the final year of US production the engine was improved, designated 4.0 and mated to a 4 speed automatic transmission. In 1998 regulations changed to require the fitment of airbags for both front seat passengers in all vehicles, as well as side door impact requirements that did not lend itself to non-unibody cars. The Defender could not be fitted with these without major modifications, which given the small numbers of NAS vehicles sold in relation to Land Rover's global sales, were not economically viable. Land Rover retired its utility vehicles at the end of 1997 to focus on its more upmarket Discovery and Range Rover models, as well as the newly-launched Freelander.

The Land Rover in Australia

Australia has always been an important export market for Land Rovers of all sorts, but especially the utility models. 80-inch Series I models were imported by the Australian government in the late 1940s for work on civil engineering projects such as dams and road construction, which brought the vehicle to the buying public's attention. Large sales followed and in the 1950s Land Rover established a factory in Australia to build CKD kits shipped from the Solihull factory. The Land Rover continued to sell well throughout the 1960s in Series II guise, commanding some 90% of the off-road market, and with practically every farm having at least one Land Rover.

The Series III continued this success in the early 1970s, but from the middle of the decade sales declined. A combination of increasing competition (mostly from Japanese vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser) and increasingly poor quality of the parts being shipped from Britain meant that Land Rover's dominance slipped. The problems faced by Land Rover were the same throughout its export markets- compared to the Japanese competition, the Land Rover was underpowered, unreliable and slow with a poor ride quality, despite their superior off-road ability. Poor rust-proofing and low-quality steel in comparison to the Japanese vehicles turned the buyers away in large numbers and by 1983, with the introduction of the One Ten, the Land Cruiser was the best selling 4x4 in Australia.

In the early 1980s, Land Rover Australia had made some changes to the vehicle to try and combat this sales decline. As well as the fitting of the V8 petrol engine in the 1979 "Stage One", as in the rest of the world, Australia also received the same vehicle with the option of a 3.8-litre 89 hp Isuzu diesel engine. This helped slow the sales decline, but the rest of the vehicle's shortcomings let it down. The One Ten was also available with this engine, which was later turbocharged to produce in excess of 100 horsepower.

The Australian Army had continued to buy Land Rovers to support Australian manufacturing and because they had the means to fully service the vehicles. In 1983 they launched "Project Perentie" (after the Perentie lizard), which invited manufacturers to tender to produce a more heavy-duty vehicle than the standard Series III vehicles currently used. Land Rover produced a version of the One Ten fitted with 6-wheel drive and powered by the Isuzu diesel engine, which was tested over many thousands of miles by the Army, and was eventually awarded the contract, as well as for a large fleet of standard Nineties and One Tens. Land Rover Australia even developed a highly specialised Long Range Patrol vehicle based on the Perentie 6x6. This had the Isuzu engine, but leaf-sprung twin rear axles. The axles were wider than the standard items, requiring the bodywork to be altered accordingly. Low-profile cut-down bodywork was fitted and the chassis altered so that a spare wheel could be mounted under the rear floor, as well as two more spares being fitted in special side-pods. A 250cc motorcycle was mounted on the rear of the vehicle, and a machine gun mounting fitted to the rear load bay. In total, 27 LRPVs were built, and following this civilian 6x6 models (based on the standard Land Rover 130) were also sold with the Isuzu turbodiesel.

Despite this, civilian sales of the vehicle remained poor in comparison to their heyday in the 1960s. The introduction to the Defender to Australia in 1992 helped stabilise sales, and the Range Rover and Discovery also managed to hold on to small but steady sales. Land Rover has not recovered from its reputation for poor reliability and build quality in Australia. The Series vehicle's traditional weak point – the rear axle half-shafts – is still very much in the buying public's mind, despite this problem being all but fixed in the early 1980s.

In 2003 Land Rover withdrew the Defender 90 from the Australian market due to unsupportable low sales. It continues to offer the Defender 110 and 130, which have actually seen a small sales increase in recent years, although Land Rover still trails the Japanese companies by a long way. The new Discovery 3 impressed the Australian press with its comfort, build quality and off-road ability, much to the surprise of many of the publications, winning "4x4 Of The Year" from the magazine 4x4 Australia.

Design quirks and oddities

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See Also

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Tata Group

Tata Motors | Jaguar | Land Rover | Hispano Carrocera SA | Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle | Daewoo Bus

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Concept Cars: Land e · Range Stormer · LRX Concept · Llama


Military Vehicles: 1/2 ton Lightweight · 101 Forward Control · Wolf · SNATCH Land Rover ·

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