Land Rover Defender History

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68 Years Of Our Stalwart Defender

4 x 4 SUVs are becoming more and more popular in cities and towns across the world. With manufacturer’s focusing on luxury throughout most of their lines, it’s not a surprise. So few of these modern 4 x 4s are equipped for the jobs they were born for, though. Or, they’re just too plain expensive to drag through the mud. Land Rover are as guilty as the rest for this, with cars being designed by celebrities and vanity becoming more of a concern.

Land Rover have, however, stayed true to traditional 4 x 4 values with at least one of their model ranges. Their Defender series is well known worldwide as the top dog when it comes to rugged 4 x 4s. Even 68 years after it’s birth, the Defender is still going strong.

The Land Rover Defender is a true 4 x 4, with nearly no pointless gadgetry and addons. It’s key objective is to get the driver from A to B, regardless of what stands in the way. With tons of options and loads of accessories, you can build yourself a rolling outback fortress with a Defender. They’re also very at home on normal roads and boast surprisingly good fuel efficiency across the board.

The Car’s History

Let’s take a little history lesson, and find out the origins of this iconic car.

  • 1948: The Defender’s story begins long before it was ever born. In 1948, Land Rover produced their first production car; the Land Rover Series I. The Series I had a 1.6L, 50bhp engine, and was an incredibly basic car. It was one of the first cars in the world to offer permanent four wheel drive, using parts from parts from Rovers to do the job.
  • 1958: 10 years down the line, with the Series I being a success, Land Rover produced the Series II. This model had a bigger, 72 bhp, engine. And, it was the first over Land Rover’s cars to receive treatment from a professional design team. This lead to styling modifications that we still see on Defenders today, like the rounded roof and curved side windows.
  • 1971: Over the next 13 years, Land Rover upgraded the engine of the Series II multiple times, and added loads of variations to the line. Then, in 1971, the Series III was released. You can see many style ques between the Series III and the modern Defender. This was the first of Land Rover’s vehicles to incorporate a modern dash and the first car they had to compete to sell. This meant that the car had loads of design tweaks during it’s run
  • 1983: This brings us to the birth of the Defender itself. The car launched with several different diesel and petrol engines, and a host of different body styles to choose from. Since it’s release, Land Rover has constantly been improving the Defender, but have yet to change it’s original values.

The original Series I was intended for farm and industrial work. But, it soon got interest from the British military. Britain picked up the Series I nearly as soon as it launched, impressed with it’s agility and reliability in rough terrain. To this day, Britain still uses the Defender, naming it their standard light military vehicle. You can find examples of military use of Land Rover’s throughout the Commonwealth, as well as in Belgium and predominantly Australia.

Modern Specifications

Today, the car can be found in loads of different specification configurations. Here are some of the standard options you can find.

  • Engine: The Defender’s engine comes in a variety of options; ranging from a 2.2L turbo diesel engine, right up to a 3.9L petrol V8. Pre-2012, the cars had a 2.5L turbodiesel as standard. Later models now have a 2.4 or 2.2L Ford Duratorq turbodiesel, as standard.
  • Transmission (Gearbox): Before 2007, the Defender would have either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed automatic one. The popularity of 6-speed transmissions in other cars led Land Rover to update the Defender with a 6-speed manual option, in 2007.
  • Wheelbase: Throughout it’s production, the Defender has featured 3 different wheelbase options. The 90, with a 92.9 in wheelbase, is the standard the option. With the larger 110 (110 in) and 130 (127 in) models available.
  • Four Wheel Drive: The defender is a true 4 x 4, with all of it’s wheel constantly powered by the engine. Other 4x4s use computers to decide which wheels need to be powered, which can be unreliable.

Body Styles

If you’re concerned that the Defender can’t meet your needs; don’t be. A Defender can be built for nearly any job, whether it’s out of the factory or aftermarket.

The body styles vary slightly between the different wheelbase options. With the Defender 90, you can get a station wagon, a pick-up, a hardtop pick-up, and a utility wagon. Each option is tailored to slightly different purposes. The station wagon is for transporting people, whereas the pickups are designed to transport equipment. And, the utility wagon fills the space in between.

With the Defender 110, you can have all of the configurations found on the 90. But, on top of that, you can choose from a single/double cab pickup and a single cab chassis, designed for towing.

The Defender 130 offers the same options as the 110, as well as options to have extra high capacity pickups.

Aside from the factory options, there’s loads of choice after you’ve bought one too. You can find companies to convert your Defender 130 into a campervan, or your 110 into a cafe on wheels.

Get Your Hands On The Legend

You’ll be hard pressed to find a new Defender anywhere, as their production stopped in early 2016. So you’ll have to get one secondhand. Sites like Saxton 4×4 and Autotrader have a host of available models on offer. The price of a Defender ranges so greatly that it’s hard to put a price in. But, that also means that you’re likely to find one within your budget.

It feels good to celebrate a legendary motor, like the Defender. With all that the car has done, and how far it’s come, it’s not hard to see why people revere it so. If you decide to buy a Defender, make sure you do some research and make sure the car you choose isn’t stolen!