The Land Rover
Defender is a British four wheel drive off-road utility
It is the result of continuous improvement
from the first Land Rover Series I launched in 1948. It is built
on a strong ladder frame chassis with an aluminium body on top.
It's available in a large assortment of body types with more
specialist variants such as fire engines.
|This 4x4 is often associated with expeditions
travelling in difficult territory and is used in farming, the
military and industry. More recently it has lost its utilitarian
aspect and for many has been used only as a private vehicle.
The Defender name was not adopted until 1990 as a measure to
distinguish the utility Land Rover model from the Discovery and Range Rover.
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 also carried badges above the radiator grille which read 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. The current model, from 2007, still has the space above
the radiator for the badge, but is simply blank. These have Land Rover
spelt out across the leading edge of the bonnet in raised individual
letters. At the rear is a new Defender badge with a underlining
'swoosh'. On these current models there are no badges defining the wheelbase
model of the vehicle.
The 127-inch (3,226 mm) wheelbase Land Rover 127 available from
1985 was always marketed with the name rendered numerically. Following the
adoption of the Defender name, it became the Defender 130, although
the wheelbase remained unchanged.
In the United States and Canada, North American Specification (NAS)
Defenders sold between 1989 and 1997 said only 'Land Rover' with no '90' or
'110' numeric designation.
Ninety & One Ten
Production of the model now known as the Defender began in 1983 as the
Land Rover One Ten, a simple name which reflected the 110 inch (2.794 m)
length of the wheelbase. The Land Rover Ninety, with 93 inch (2.362 m)
wheelbase, and Land Rover 127, with 127 inch (3.226 m) wheelbase, soon
Outwardly, there is little to distinguish the post-1983 vehicles from the
Series III Land Rover. A full-length bonnet, revised grille, plus the
fitting of wheel arch extensions to cover wider-track axles are the most
noticeable changes. While the engine and other body panels carried over from
the Series III, mechanically the Ninety and One Ten showed significant
- A 3.2 litre V8 Petrol engine (before the upgrade to the far more
common 3.5 litre version)
- Coil springs, offering a more comfortable ride and improved axle
- A permanent four-wheel drive system borrowed from the Range Rover,
featuring a two-speed transfer gearbox with a lockable centre
- A modernised interior
- A taller one-piece windscreen
In addition, a new series of progressively more powerful and more modern
engines were designed for future use.
The One Ten was launched in 1983, and the Ninety followed in 1984. From
1984, wind-up windows were fitted (Series models and very early One Tens had
sliding panels), and a 2.5 litre, 68 hp (51 kW) diesel engine was
introduced. This was based on the earlier 2.3 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 in
conjunction with a 5 speed transmission which transformed performance.
This period saw Land Rover market the utility Land Rover as a private
recreational vehicle. Whilst the basic pick-up, Station Wagon and van
versions were still working vehicles, the County Station Wagons were sold as
multi-purpose family vehicles, featuring improved interior trim and more
comfortable seats. This change was reflected in Land Rover starting what had
long been common practice in the car industry - detail changes and
improvements to the County model from year to year in order to attract new
buyers and to encourage existing owners to trade in for a new vehicle.
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. The switch from leaf spring to coil
spring suspension was crucial to the new models' success. It offered
improved off-road ability and load capacity for traditional commercial
users, whilst the improved handling and ride comfort now made the Land Rover
attractive to the general public.
The 127 and 130
From 1983 Land Rover introduced a third wheelbase to its utility line-up,
a 127-inch (3,226 mm) 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 consisting 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 work crew 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.
Land Rover 127
127s were built on a special production line, and all started life as One
Ten Station Wagon chassis (the model was initially marketed as the One Ten
Crew Cab, before the more logical 127 name was adopted). These were then cut
in two and the 17 inches (432 mm) 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
Although the standard body-style was popular, the 127 was a popular basis
for conversion to specialist uses, such as mobile workshops, ambulances,
fire engines or even flatbed transports. In South Africa, the Land Rover
assembly plant 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 hp (100 kW) 3.5 litre V8 petrol, and the 85 hp (63 kW)
2.5 litre Diesel Turbo.
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The original One Ten of 1983 was available with the same engine line-up
as the Series III vehicles it replaced, namely 2.25 litre petrol and diesel
engines, and a 3.5 litre V8 petrol unit (although a small number of 3.2
litre V8 were produced). The intention had always been to provide more
powerful engines as soon as the new vehicles had found their feet and the
Series III had ceased production. Indeed, in 1981 the 2.25 litre engines had
been upgraded from 3- to 5-crankshaft bearings in preparation for the
planned increases in capacity and power.
The 2.5 litre version of the diesel engine, producing 68 hp (51 kW), was
introduced in both the One Ten and the newly-arrived Ninety. This was a
long-stroke version of the venerable 2.25 litre unit (the new version
displaced 2495 cc), fitted with updated fuel injection equipment and a
revised cylinder head for quieter, smoother and more efficient running. A
timing belt also replaced the older engine's chain.
In 1985 the petrol units were upgraded. An enlarged 4-cylinder engine was
introduced. This 83 hp (62 kW) engine shared the same block and cooling
system (as well as other ancillary components) as the diesel unit. Unlike
the diesel engine, this new 2.5 litre petrol engine retained the
chain-driven camshaft of its 2.25 litre predecessor. At the same time, the
114 hp (85 kW) V8 was also made available in the Ninety- the first time a
production short-wheelbase Land Rover had been given V8 power. The V8 on
both models was now mated to an all-new 5-speed manual gearbox.
1986 saw an important development. For many years Land Rovers had been
criticised for their low-powered engines, which, despite the recent
improvements, still lagged a long way behind much of the competition.
Designed to be simple and durable, the engine had worked for decades, but
the venerable engines began to feel old-fashioned and underpowered in an era
of high horsepower motors. Drivers were less inclined to use the gearbox to
compensate for the older motor's relative lack of power. The "Diesel Turbo"
engine was introduced to make up for this long-standing shortfall.
engine was essentially a lightly-turbocharged version of the existing
2.5 litre diesel, with several changes to suit the higher power output,
including a re-designed crankshaft, teflon-coated pistons and nimonic steel
exhaust valves to cope with the higher internal temperatures.
Similarly, an 8-blade cooling fan was fitted, together with an oil cooler.
The 2.5 diesel, 2.5 petrol and Diesel Turbo engines all shared the same
block castings and other components such as valve gear and cooling system
parts, allowing them to be built on the same production line. The Diesel
Turbo produced 85 hp (63 kW), a 13% increase over the naturally-aspirated
unit, and a 31.5% increase in torque to 150 lb·ft (203 N·m) at 1800 rpm.
This finally provided a powerful yet economical power plant for the vehicle.
Externally, turbo diesel vehicles differed from other models only by having
an air intake grille in the left-hand wing to supply cool air to the turbo.
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.
Land Rover Defender 130 Crew Cap
Early turbo diesel engines gained a reputation for poor reliability, with
major failures to the bottom-end and cracked pistons. A revised block and
improved big end bearings were introduced in 1988, and a re-designed
breather system in 1989. These largely solved the engine's problems, but it
remains (like many early turbo diesels) prone to failure if maintenance is
neglected. Well-maintained engines are capable of long service lives in
excess of 150,000 miles (240,000 km).
Despite its early problems, the Diesel
Turbo was a popular engine choice in its time, especially since it offered
improved power, torque and economy over the 2.5 litre petrol engine.
Contemporary road-testers compared the engine favourably to its Japanese
competitors, despite the age of the basic design. Whilst not being able to
match the performance of a V8-engined Land Rover, the Diesel Turbo provided
adequate performance for most commercial and private buyers and was a key
aspect in Land Rover's sales revival (see below).
At the same time that the Diesel Turbo was introduced, the V8 engine was
upgraded. Power was increased to 134 hp (100 kW), and SU carburettors
replaced the Zenith models used on earlier V8s.
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, 1980-1981). 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
(3,226 mm) 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
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 turbo diesel 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
turbo charging, intercooling and direct injection. It retained the block,
crankshaft, main bearings, cam belt system and other ancillaries as the
The breather system included an oil separator filter to remove
oil from the air in the system, thus finally solving the Diesel Turbo's main
weakness of re-breathing its own sump oil. The 200Tdi as the new engine was
called produced 111 hp (83 kW) and 195 lb·ft (264 N·m) of torque, which was
nearly a 25% improvement on the engine it replaced (although as installed in
the Defender the engine was de-tuned slightly from its original Discovery
specification (111 horsepower) due to changes associated with the exhaust).
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. In theory it only replaced the older Diesel Turbo engine in the
range, with the other 4-cylinder engines (and the V8 petrol engine) still
being available. However, the Tdi's combination of performance and economy
meant that it took the vast majority of sales. Exceptions were the British
Army and some commercial operators, who continued to buy vehicles with the
2.5 litre naturally-aspirated diesel engine (in the Army's case, this was
because the Tdi was unable to be fitted with a 24 volt generator). Small
numbers of V8-engined Defenders were sold to users in countries with low
fuel costs or who required as much power as possible (such as in Defenders
used as fire engines or ambulances).
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.
1994 saw another development of the Tdi engine, the 300Tdi. Although the
200Tdi had been a big step forward, it had been essentially a reworking of
the old turbocharged diesel to accept a direct injection system. In contrast
the 300Tdi was virtually new, despite the same capacity, and both the
Defender and the Discovery had engines in the same state of tune, 111 bhp
(83 kW), 195 ft·lbf (264 N·m).
Throughout the 1990s the vehicle attempted to climb 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 so
wished, any number of options and 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
limited edition vehicles, such as the SV90 in 1992 with roll-over protection
cage, alloy wheels and metallic paint and the 50th Anniversary 90 in 1998
equipped with automatic transmission, air conditioning and Range Rover
4.0 litre V8 engine.
A new variant was 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 finally reached production.
In 1998 the Defender was fitted with an all-new 2.5 litre, five-cylinder
in-line turbodiesel engine, badged the Td5. The Tdi could not meet upcoming
Euro III emissions regulations so the Td5 replaced the Tdi as the only
available power unit. The engine used electronic control systems and
produced 11 hp (8 kW) more than the Tdi, with improved refinement.
Traditionalists were critical of the electronic systems deployed throughout
the vehicle, but concerns that these would fail when used in extreme
conditions proved unfounded.
From Spring 2007 a series of long-anticipated changes were made to the
Defender, most of which were implemented to meet emissions and safety
legislation. The biggest change was to the drivetrain. The Td5 engine was
replaced by an engine from Ford's DuraTorq line, built in their factory in
Dagenham, making the Td5 the last Land Rover engine to be built in-house at
Solihull. 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
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 remains the
same at 122 hp (91 kW), but with a lower power peak speed to provide better
performance when towing and better acceleration. Torque output rose from
221 lb·ft (300 N·m) to 265 lb·ft (359 N·m) 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 is 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.
The other major changes were to the interior. The dashboard layout of the
original One Ten from 1983 (which was in turn very similar to that used on
the Series III from 1971) was replaced with a full-width fascia and
different instrumentation. Instruments came from the Discovery 3, and some
of the centre panels come from the Ford Transit. Some switchgear was carried
over from the previous interior. A new heater/ventilation system vastly
improved de-misting and heater performance.
Other interior changes were to the seating layout. Legislation from the
European Union outlaws the inward-facing seats used in the rear of previous
Land Rover Station Wagons. The 2007 Defender replaced the 4 inward-facing
seats with two forward-facing seats. This makes the Defender 90 Station
Wagon a four seat vehicle (reduced from six or seven), and the Defender 110
Station Wagon a seven seat (reduced from nine). Whilst this is a big
reduction in capacity, it brings the Defender in line with its competitors
which have generally used this layout for many years. A new body style was
introduced on the 110 Station Wagon chassis- the 'Utility'. This was a
5-door Station Wagon body but with the rearmost seats removed and the rear
side panels left without windows, producing a 5-seater vehicle with a
secure, weatherproof load space.
The only external changes were detail changes. The bonnet was reshaped
with a bulge to allow the new engine to fit in the engine bay whilst meeting
pedestrian safety rules. The new dashboard and ventilation system
necessitated the removal of the distinctive air vent flaps underneath the
windscreen which had 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.
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. The "XS" Station Wagon was introduced in 2002 as a
top-specification level and the "County" package could be applied to every
model in the line-up. XS models come with many "luxury" features, such as
heated windscreen, heated seats, air conditioning, ABS and leather seats.
Popular with buyers in the UK and other developed countries, who either used
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 were 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 130 remains
available with the 6-seater HCPU body style as standard.
and foreign-built versions
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 525 Defender 110 County Station Wagons. 500 to the United States
and 25 to Canada. They were fitted with the 3.9 litre V8 petrol engine and
5-speed manual transmission. All the vehicles were white (except two
specifically painted black for Marcos J. Soto and Ralph Lauren). They
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 clearly 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 fitting of airbags for both front seat passengers in
all vehicles, as well as side door impact requirements. 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.
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Whilst the Defender has been in use in the Australian military for many
years, as a consumer product it has lagged far behind 4x4 work vehicle
offerings from Toyota and Nissan in popularity. In 2003 Land Rover withdrew
the Defender 90 from the Australian market due to unsupportable sales but
continues to offer the Defender 110 and 130, which have seen a small sales
increase in recent years. Mid 2009 Land Rover expanded the model range to
include 110 and 130 Cab-Chassis, Panel Van and High Capacity Pick-up
versions and late in the year announced they have chosen to re-introduce the
90 inch wheelbase wagon model for sale from early 2010.
licensees and clones
Defenders, derivatives and clones have been built by a number of
manufacturers including Santana Motors in Spain (licence expired), Morattab
in Iran (using parts and molds bought from Santana), Otokar in Turkey (in
the 1980s under licence), and Karmann in Brazil (for three years in the
2000s under licence).
Assembly also occurs in Pakistan, Malaysia and South Africa.
Land Rover Defender vehicles have been used extensively by many of the
world's military forces, 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 vehicles to be more capable and better
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 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 their service lives, with many being sold
onto the civilian market from the late 1990s.
Land Rover Defender 110 patrol vehicles.
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 known to the British Army as
Land Rover Wolfs. Usually 110-inch (2,794 mm) Soft or Hard Tops, they 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.
Land Rover always offered its "Core" 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 resistant 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.
The British police have used Land Rovers (including the Defender) in
their service for many years, they are supplied with the entire range from
Land Rover itself.
In 2004 a fleet of 12 Long wheelbase 110 Td5 Land Rovers were produced
for the central German Government, varying between 110 Vans, 110 Hi-capacity
pick-ups and 110 Station wagons. The German Government did not renew the
supply contract after 2006 instead turning to Mercedes for their logistics
Vehicles produced for the German Government order were produced in
metallic grey with white roofs. The electrical installation on these
vehicles was a special order and kept "luxury" fittings and fixtures to a
bare minimum. Four FFR equipped vehicles were produced to facilitate the VHF
radios in service at that time with the German Government and Police
authorities. Following the change-over to the Mercedes contract, the German
Central Government sold their Td5 fleet.
With 300Tdi production stopping in 2006, Land Rover is currently gearing
up production of a military version of the 4-cylinder DuraTorq engine that
is also used as a replacement for the Td5 in civilian vehicles.
The British Army's Land Rovers have been the subject of criticism
following recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The majority of British
Service Land Rovers carry no armour-plating and the composite armoured
SNATCH Land Rover (originally designed to withstand small arms fire and
hand-launched projectiles as experienced in Northern Ireland) is not immune
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 the American vehicle. Other proposals
include the South African made RG-31 or similar larger and more heavily
armoured trucks or armoured vehicles that provide greater 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 similar to the now disused Land Rover 101 Forward Control, given
that the current Land Rover design is also reaching its weight limits due to
the increasing amounts of communications and weapons gear used by modern
Police Land Rover Defender
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 Defender's usual commercial and
In 1992 the first Special Edition Land Rover Defender was produced.
Called the 90SV (SV stood for 'Special Vehicles', as all the vehicles were
produced by Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations department), 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 the UK
For Land Rover's 50th anniversary in 1998 two special editions were
built. The first was the Defender 50th which was essentially a NAS (North
American Spec) Defender 90 Station Wagon. It was powered by a 190 hp
(140 kW) 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. For the UK and Europe they were
painted Atlantis Blue, a dark green/blue flip-flop colour and had a Safety
Devices roll-over protection cage for the front seat occupants. In total
1071 50th Anniversary Defenders were built; 385 for the UK home market, the
rest for Japan, Europe and Middle East.
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 best known Special Edition was the Tomb Raider of 2000,
built to commemorate Land Rover's role in the first film of that franchise.
The Tomb Raider was designed to look like an off-road expedition vehicle.
Painted dark metallic grey with special badging and details, the Tomb
Raiders came equipped with a roof rack, additional spot lights, winch,
bull-bar and snorkel. They were available either as a 90 Station Wagon or a
110 Double Cab, with standard Td5 engines. The Defender actually used in the
film (now on display at the Motor Heritage Centre, Gaydon) was actually a
highly modified 110 High Capacity Pick Up with a specially fitted and tuned
V8 petrol engine and a non-standard interior.
Following the first Land Rover G4 Challenge in 2003, G4-Edition Defenders
became 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
Since then, Land Rover have produced less extravagant 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 1999 X-Tech was aimed at the
commercial market, being a metallic silver 90 Hard Top fitted with
County-style seats, alloy wheels and Alpine window lights. The second model
year edition in 2003 was better equipped with wing protector plates and air
There have also been various special editions of the Defender created by
the company's overseas operations for sale in their specific markets such as
the 'Sahara' edition and '55th Anniversary' Defender 90s sold in France- the
former being a basic-spec Station Wagon painted in a sand-like tan colour
and supplied with special decals and the latter being a Station Wagon fitted
with numerous luxury options and special badges in the mould of the
factory-built 50th editions. Sometimes individual Land Rover dealers have
created limited editions of vehicles to suite their markets. A dealer in
Scotland created the 'Braemar' edition of 25 vehicles to appeal to local
agricultural and forestry buyers, being a 90 Hard Top supplied ready fitted
with a winch, off-road tyres, spotlamps and worklamps, underbody protection
and chequer plate.
2008 saw Land Rover's 60th anniversary, for which a new series of special
edition Defenders were produced. Branded the 'SVX', three models were built.
All were painted black with 'satin' effect body graphics on the vehicles
sides and bonnet carrying the '60th' logo used throughout 2008 at various
special events and on anniversary merchandise. Bespoke 5-spoke alloy wheels
were used and a new silver-coloured front grille design was used. This also
incorporated a new design of headlamp with the sidelight lamp being integral
with the main headlamp unit, allowing the space previously used for the
separate sidelight to be used to fit a pair of high-intensity driving lamps.
Inside the SVX models gained Recaro bucket seats in the front row, alloy
gearlever knobs and a Garmin GPS navigation system.
The drive train was the
standard 2.4 litre diesel and 6-speed manual permanent 4-wheel-drive
transmission. The SVX edition was available as a 110 Station Wagon (only
available outside the UK), a 90 Station Wagon and a brand new design of 90
Soft Top- the first time a Soft Top model had been available through
showrooms in the UK since 1992. SVX Soft Tops had only the two front seats-
the rear load bay being used to accommodate the spare wheel and a lockable
storage box. A new design of hood was used, sloping down towards the rear
over a jointed folding frame, unlike the standard square-framed hood used on
other Soft Top Land Rovers.
Replacing the Defender with a new model has been in the planning stages
for many years. The design is over 25 years old in its current form and, in
some ways, directly evolved and updated from the Land-Rover of 1948.
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.
A press report by Autocar stated that the replacement, being
developed within Land Rover as Project Icon, will be launched in 2012.
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