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The Land Rover Defender (initially introduced as the Land Rover 110 / One Ten, and in 1984 joined by the Land Rover 90 / Ninety, plus the new, extra-length Land Rover 127 in 1985) is a series of British off-road cars and pick-up trucks. They consistently have four-wheel drive, and were developed in the 1980s from the original Land Rover series which was launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show in April 1948. Following the 1989 introduction of the Land Rover Discovery, the term ‘Land Rover’ became the name of a broader marque, and thus no longer worked as the name of a specific model; thus in 1990 Land Rover renamed the 90 and 110 as Defender 90 and Defender 110 respectively. The 127 became the Defender 130. The vehicle, a British equivalent of the Second World War derived (Willys) Jeep, gained a worldwide reputation for ruggedness and versatility. Using a steel ladder chassis and an aluminium alloy bodywork, the Land Rover originally used detuned versions of Rover engines. The original Defender is still being produced in developing countries despite the arrival of the Land Rover Defender (L663).Though the Defender was not a new generation design, it incorporated significant changes, compared to the series Land Rovers, such as adopting coil springs front and rear, as opposed to all leaf springs on the previous; except for retaining rear leaf springs on high capacity (payload) models. Coil springs offered both better ride quality and improved axle articulation. Adding a lockable centre differential to the transfer case, gave the defender permanent (on-road) four-wheel-drive capability. Both changes derived from the Range Rover. Interiors were modernised too. Externally, a full-length bonnet and full-width integrated grille and headlights, combined with (finally) a single-piece windscreen, plus widened wheel arches that covered new, wider-track axles were the most noticeable changes. Initially the engineering department conserved a part-time 4WD system, like on previous models, but it failed to sell any longer, and this option was immediately dropped in 1984. While the engine was carried over from the Series III, a new series of modern and more powerful engines was progressively introduced. Even when ignoring the series Land Rovers and perhaps ongoing license products, the 90/110 and Defender models’ 33-year production run were ranked as the sixteenth longest single-generation car in history in 2020.In 2020, Jaguar Land Rover introduced the first all new generation of Land Rover Defenders, strongly breaking with tradition, by switching from body on chassis to integrated bodywork, and from live, rigid axles to all around independent suspension. The range was reduced to two wheelbase lengths, and only closed, estate car bodies.


After a continuous run of 67 years production finally ended on 29 January 2016, after a total of just over two million Land Rover Series and Defender models had been built. The two millionth unit was assembled with the help of a special team in May 2015, and charitably auctioned for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) Societies later that year. The last Land Rover Defender, rolled off the production line, with the number plate H166 HUE, a reference to the first ever pre-production Land Rover, registration ‘HUE 166’.A special edition Defender Works V8, with 400 bhp (298 kW), was announced in January 2018. Until 2020 the Defender was last sold in the US in 1997, after which safety regulations prohibited its sale in North America. An all-new 2020 Land Rover Defender made its global debut in September 2019 and is initially offered with two wheelbase options. This new vehicle, which shares no components or technology with its predecessor, has an aluminium monococque body.

Name and badge distinctions

The coil-sprung Land Rover was introduced in 1983 as “Land Rover One Ten”, and in 1984 the “Land Rover Ninety” was added – the numbers representing the respective wheelbases in inches. (In fact the Ninety was nearer 93 inches at 92.9″.) The number was spelled in full in advertising and in handbooks and manuals, and the vehicles also carried badges above the radiator grille which read “Land Rover 90” or “Land Rover 110”, with the number rendered numerically. The Ninety and One Ten replaced the earlier Land Rover Series, and at the time of launch, the only other Land Rover model in production was the Range Rover. In 1989, a third model was brought out by Land Rover to be produced in parallel with the other two: the Land Rover Discovery. To avoid possible confusion, the 1991 model year Ninety and the One Ten were renamed the “Defender 90” and “Defender 110”. These carried front badges that said “Defender”, with a badge on the rear of the vehicle saying “Defender 90” or “Defender 110”. The most recent model, from 2007–2016, still featured the space above the radiator for the badge but was blank. Instead it had “Land Rover” spelled across the leading edge of the bonnet in raised individual letters, in keeping with the Discovery and Freelander. At the rear was a new style of ‘”Defender” badge with an underlining “swoosh”. On these last 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. The North American Specification (NAS) Defender 110 sold for the 1993 model year carried a badge above the radiator grille which read “Defender”, whereas the NAS Defender 90 sold for the 1994 to 1997 model years had “Land Rover” spelled across the top of the radiator grille in individual letter decals. NAS Defenders also carried a cast plaque on the rear tub in the original style of the Series estate cars with “Defender 110” or “Defender 90” below the Land Rover lozenge and the vehicle’s unique limited edition production run number.

Land Rover 90 and 110

Production of the model now known as the Defender began in 1983 as the Land Rover 110, a name which reflected the 110-inch (2,800 mm) length of the wheelbase. The Land Rover 90, with 93-inch (2,362 mm) wheelbase, and Land Rover 127, with 127-inch (3,226 mm) wheelbase, soon followed.Superficially 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. Initially the conservative engineering department insisted that the Land Rover was also available with a part-time 4WD system familiar to derivatives produced since 1949. However, the part-time system failed to sell and was quickly dropped from the options list by 1984. While the engine and other body panels carried over from the Series III, mechanically the 90 and 110 were modernised, including: Coil springs, offering a more compliant ride and improved axle articulation A permanent four-wheel-drive system derived from the Range Rover, featuring a two-speed transfer gearbox with a lockable centre differential A modernised interior A taller one-piece windscreen A new series of progressively more powerful and modern enginesThe 110 was launched in 1983, and the 90 followed in 1984. From 1984, wind-up windows were fitted (Series models and very early 110s had sliding panels), and a 2.5-litre (153 cu in), 68 horsepower (51 kW) diesel engine was introduced. This was based on the earlier 2.3-litre (140 cu in) engine, but had a more modern fuel-injection system as well as increased capacity. A low compression version of the 3.5-litre (214 cu in) V8 Range Rover engine improved performance. It was initially available in the 110 with a Range Rover LT95 four-speed transmission with integral transfer case and vacuum operated differential lock, then later in conjunction with a high strength “Santana” five-speed transmission.This period saw Land Rover market the utility Land Rover as a private recreational vehicle. While the basic pick-up, 4×4 and van versions were still working vehicles, the County 4x4s 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. These changes included different exterior styling graphics and colour options, and the introduction of new options, such as radio-cassette players, Rostyle wheels, headlamp wash and wipe systems, as well as accessories such as surfboard carriers and bike racks. The switch from leaf spring to coil spring suspension was a key part of the new model’s success. It offered improved off-road ability, load capacity, handling and ride comfort.

The 127 (and 130)

From 1983, Land Rover introduced a third wheelbase to its utility line-up, a 127-inch (3,226 mm) wheelbase vehicle designed to accommodate larger, heavier loads than the 110. Called the “Land Rover 127”, it was designed specifically with use by utility companies in mind, as well as military usage. In its standard form, it is a four-door six-seater consisting of the front half of a 110 4×4, and the rear of a 110 high-capacity pick up (HCPU). 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 a 1.4 tonnes (1.4 long tons; 1.5 short tons) payload, compared to the 1.03 tonnes (1.01 long tons; 1.14 short tons) payload of the 110 and the 0.6 tonnes (0.59 long tons; 0.66 short tons) of the 90. Land Rover 127s were built on a special production line, and all started life as 110 4×4 chassis (the model was initially marketed as the 110 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. These models 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 common basis for conversion to specialist uses, such as mobile workshops, ambulances, fire engines and flatbed transports. In South Africa, the Land Rover assembly plant offered a 127 4×4 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 petrol V8 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 turbo diesel .

Engine development

The original 110 of 1983 was available with the same engine line-up as the Series III vehicles it replaced, namely 2.25-litre (137 cu in) petrol and diesel engines, and a 3.5-litre (210 cu in) V8 petrol unit, although a small number of 3.2-litre (200 cu in) V8s were produced. In 1981 the 2.25 l engines were upgraded from three- to five-crankshaft bearings in preparation for the planned increases in capacity and power. The five bearing version was known as the 2.3-litre to differentiate it despite having the same displacement. The 2.5-litre version of the diesel engine, displacing 2,495 cubic centimetres (152.3 cu in) and producing 68 hp (51 kW), was introduced in both the 110 and the newly arrived 90. This was a long-stroke version of the venerable 2.25-litre unit, 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. Despite these improvements the engine was underpowered and unrefined in comparison with the competition. In 1985 the petrol units were upgraded. An enlarged four-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 90- 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 five-speed LT85 manual gearbox. The year 1986 saw improvements in engines to match the more advanced offerings by Japanese competitors. The “Diesel Turbo” engine was introduced in September, 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 eight-bladed cooling fan was fitted, together with an oil cooler. The changes for the turbo diesel were kept as slight as possible, in the aim of making the car saleable in Land Rover’s traditional export markets across the globe.The 2.5 diesel, 2.5 petrol and Turbo Diesel 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 Turbo Diesel 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. 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. 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 remained (like many early turbo-diesels) prone to failure if maintenance was neglected. At the same time that the Turbo Diesel 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.

Sales turnaround

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 – Land Rover had not been immune to the poor reputation caused by substandard build quality and unreliability which had afflicted the rest of British Leyland, of which Land Rover was still part. In these markets Japanese vehicles such as the Toyota Landcruiser and Nissan Patrol gradually took over what had been a lucrative export market for Land Rover for decades. Meanwhile, 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 conversions, adaptations and limited production volume versions. 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 six-wheel-drive conversions, but more unusual projects were undertaken, such as the construction of an amphibious Land Rover 90 used by the company as part of its sponsorship of Cowes Week from 1987 to 1990. 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 additional equipment.


The biggest change to the Land Rover came in late 1990, when it became the Land Rover Defender, instead of the Land Rover 90 or 110. 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, the 200TDi. 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. It retained the block, crankshaft, main bearings, cambelt system, and other ancillaries as the Diesel Turbo. 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, produced 107 hp (80 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 111 hp (83 kW) specification due to changes associated with the turbo position and exhaust routing).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 four-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 and 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 rounding up. More importantly, 130s were no longer built from “cut-and-shut” 110s, but had dedicated chassis built from scratch. The chassis retained the same basic structure as the 90 and 110 models, but with a longer wheelbase. 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 lbf⋅ft (264 N⋅m).Throughout the 1990s the vehicle attempted to climb more and more upmarket, while remaining true to its working roots. This trend 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 4×4-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 vehicle finally reached production.

BMW M52 engine

Land Rover South Africa offered a unique Defender during the period the group was owned by BMW. Between 1997 and 2001, the Defender 90 and 110 were offered with a BMW petrol engine alongside the normal Tdi engine. The engine was the BMW M52 2793 cc, straight-six, 24-valve engine as found in the BMW 328i, 528i, 728i, and the Z3. Power and torque output for this engine was 143 kW (192 hp) at 5300 rpm and 280 N⋅m (207 lb⋅ft) at 3950 rpm. This option was offered due to a demand for a petrol-driven alternative to the diesel engine after production of the V8 Defender had ended. The vehicles were built at Rosslyn outside Pretoria. Total production for the 2.8i was 1395, which included 656 Defender 90s and 739 Defender 110s. This is an estimate based on sales figures from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA). Early models were not speed-restricted, but later models were limited to 160 km/h. According to Land Rover South Africa, “After the ground breaking amalgamation of the Rover Group with BMW internationally, the Defender 2.8i became the priority project of the two companies in February 1996 with the approval of both Land Rover UK and BMW AG. It is the first joint development since Land Rover South Africa was formed in January 1995.” Some of BMW’s top engineers including Frank Isenberg, head of BMW Driver Training and the F87 M2 project, were part of the development team. The project was initially top secret and in 2 to 3 weeks’ time they had converted a Defender 110 that originally had a 3.5-litre V8 into the first 2.8i.To adapt the BMW M52 engine to the Defender chassis, the engineers were able to utilize some of the parts from the recently developed BMW M51 diesel-powered Range Rover 2.5 DSE. They used the clutch housing, clutch, flywheel, and slave cylinder from that vehicle to connect the engine to the R380 gearbox, but they had to produce a new clutch housing adaptor (bell housing) for the petrol M52 engine in the Defender. The unique clutch housing adaptor was necessary because the petrol M52 engine is tilted 10 degrees compared to the diesel M51 engine and it needed to be longer to match the input shaft of the R380 gearbox borrowed from the 300Tdi Defender. Due to the large diameter gearbox input shaft, the standard BMW pilot bearing could not be fitted, so a unique pilot bushing made of Oilite bronze was developed. It had an inside diameter of 7/8-inch with an outside diameter of 32 mm. A mixture of non-metric and metric specifications are common on Land Rovers. Other unique parts that were developed for the 2.8i were the air intake ducts both before and after the Donaldson FPG RadialSeal™ air cleaner, engine mounts, radiator cowl, cooling hoses, fuel lines, clutch lines, air conditioning system, engine wiring, tachometer gauge, exhaust system, and a specially tuned Siemens MS41.0 DME with a Lucas 10AS alarm in place of the Drive Away Protection system (EWS) used on BMWs. Because the M52 generates the most power in the middle and upper ranges of its power band, engineers fitted the 2.8i with a 1.667:1 gear ratio LT230 transfer box. The readily available power made the vehicle particularly well suited for traversing a wide range of gruelling terrain such as sand dunes. The high gear ratio also helped the 2.8i sprint from 0–100 km/h in 9.3 seconds, making it the fastest production Defender ever made.To make the vehicle ready for production, prototypes were subjected to extensive testing. According to Land Rover South Africa, “The development of the Defender 2.8 i engine included high speed testing, off roading, wading, high impact durability, trailer towing, hot and cold climate testing, high altitude and sea level tests as well as intensive component testing, both in South Africa and in the United Kingdom. No less than six vehicles underwent more than 500 000 km [sic] of on and off road testing.” The new BMW M52 Defender performed better than the V8 Defender it replaced in nearly every test.At least three of the original six 2.8i prototype vehicles were an NAS 1995 Defender 90 soft top that had been built right hand drive and received the BMW M52 engine in place of the 3.9-litre V8. One of those prototypes, the very first 90 2.8i which was painted Coniston Green and nicknamed “Green Mamba” by BMW engineers, was sold to a private individual in South Africa, while the other two were sent back to the UK for additional tests.There were some major changes made to the 2.8i for the 2000 model year. It received a variety of updates including new instrumentation with new gauges with improved illumination and switches, an updated chassis, and new electrical systems similar to the Td5. It also received an updated cooling system with an aluminium radiator to help solve overheating issues experienced with the older brass radiator, and an updated fuel system consisting of nylon fuel lines in favour of steel lines that have a tendency to rust, as well as a new fuel tank, pump, and filter with quick-connect fittings.Land Rover South Africa also built 26 50th Anniversary edition 90s featuring the BMW M52 engine. The vehicles were painted Santorini Blue with special decal graphics on the sides. They also featured “colour-coded wheel arch mouldings, spot lamps, spare wheel carrier, free style alloy wheels, stainless steel A-frame Bullbar, two-tone solid paint, Willards welding and side runners” as well as “leather seats, radio and CD player, leather steering wheel and gear lever as well as a cooler box.” Each was randomly numbered between 1 and 50, as 24 50th Anniversary edition 110s were also built, but with a diesel engine. The special 110 was called “Safari” and was painted in a limestone green colour. It featured everything included on the 50th Anniversary 90 with the addition of “a roof rack and step ladder, as well as a wrap-around Bullbar in place of the A-frame” and “special cloth seats are used in favour of the leather ones. It is also fitted with a GPS (Pathfinder system).”

Td5 engine

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 122 hp (91 kW) at 4850 rpm, 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.For the 2002 model year, further refinements were made to the Td5 engine to help it achieve ever-more stringent emission regulations. The “XS” 4×4 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 traction control and part-leather seats. At the same time other detail improvements were made including a dash centre console, improved instrument illumination and the availability of front electric windows for the first time on a Defender. The design faults of the two-piece rear 4×4 door were finally eradicated with a one-piece door featuring a rubber weather sealing strip for the rear window.

2007 model

From Spring 2007 a series of 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 (AKA the Puma engine), 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 Transit. The engine’s lubrication and sealing system was adapted for use in wet, dusty conditions and to maintain lubrication at extreme angles in off-road use. The power level remains the same at 122 hp (91 kW), but with a lower power peak speed for 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 produces a wider spread of torque than the Td5, from 1500 rpm to 2000 rpm. The engine is mated to a new six-speed gearbox. First gear is lower than the previous gearbox for better low-speed control, whilst the higher sixth 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 110 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. Whilst some interior fittings from the British Leyland parts bin – some of which dated back to the 1970s – were finally dropped, the steering column switchgear (sourced from the Mk.1 Austin Metro) and the ignition switch (from the Morris Marina) was carried over from the previous interior. A new heater and ventilation system 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 4x4s. The 2007 Defender replaced the four inward-facing seats with two forward-facing seats. This made the Defender 90 4×4 a four-seater vehicle (reduced from six or seven), and the Defender 110 4×4 a seven-seater (reduced from nine). This brought the Defender in line with its competitors which have generally used this layout for many years. A new bodystyle was introduced on the 110 4×4 chassis- the “utility”. This was a five-door 4×4 body but with the rearmost seats removed and the rear side panels left without windows, producing a five-seater vehicle with a secure, weatherproof load space. The only external design alterations were minor detail changes. The bonnet was reshaped with a pressed bulge to allow the new, taller engine to fit in the engine bay whilst meeting pedestrian safety rules. This also avoided the need to re-design the engine sump to clear the axle. The new dashboard and ventilation system necessitated the removal of the distinctive air vent flaps underneath the windscreen which had been a feature of previous Land Rover utility models since the 1950s. While the flaps were deleted, the bulkhead pressing remained the same, so the outlines of where the flaps would be are still present. Passenger and Rear Loading doors were re-engineered to reduce corrosion and galvanic reaction. All other panels retained the same shape and styling that is viewed by enthusiasts as “iconic”.At the other extreme, basic models are available for commercial users, such as emergency services. The models are sold in over 140 countries. A range of special conversions are available that include hydraulic platforms, fire engines, mobile workshops, ambulances, and breakdown recovery trucks. The 130 remains available with the five-seater HCPU bodystyle as standard.

2012 updates

In August 2011, Land Rover announced an update of the Defender for the 2012 model year. By this time, Land Rover publicly acknowledged that it was working on a project to produce an all-new replacement for the Defender. This would lead to the unveiling of the first DC100 concept vehicle in September that year. While emissions and safety regulations have threatened the Defender since the early 2000s, these had either been avoided or Land Rover had found ways to modify the vehicle to economically meet the new requirements. However, safety regulations due for introduction in 2015 requiring minimum pedestrian safety standards and the fitment of airbags to commercial vehicles cannot be met without a wholesale redesign of the Defender. The main change for the 2012 models was the installation of a different engine from the Ford Duratorq engine range. Ford decided, due to cost reasons, not to modify the 2.4-litre engine introduced in 2007 to meet the upcoming Euro V emissions standards and so the engine was replaced with the ZSD-422 engine, essentially a 2.2-litre variant of the same engine. Although smaller than the existing unit the power and torque outputs remained unchanged and the same six-speed gearbox was used as well. The engine included a diesel particulate filter for the first time on a Defender. The only other change was the reintroduction of the soft top body style to the general market. This had been a popular option for the Land Rover Series but by the introduction of the Defender had been relegated to special order and military buyers only. Land Rover stated that the option was being brought back due to customer feedback. The last Defender, a soft-top “90” rolled off the Solihull production line at 9:22 on Friday 29 January 2016. The BBC reports that the Defender’s replacement is due to be launched in 2018/2019.

DC100 Concept

The need for total replacement of the Defender has been brought about by 2015’s new European regulations regarding crash safety for pedestrians (Euro NCAP) that render the Defender’s design obsolete The Defender also did not meet U.S. safety requirements after 1997 and since then Land Rover offered U.S. buyers the more luxurious LR2 (Freelander) and LR4 (Discovery) and Range Rover instead. Land Rover unveiled the DC100 and its topless counterpart, the DC100 Sport, at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. The designs of the concept vehicles received some criticism in the press. The DC100 (Defender Concept 100″) is a conventional three-door off-roader with a 2.0-litre turbo-charged diesel engine and the DC100 Sport is a two-passenger pick-up with a 2.0-litre petrol engine. Unlike the current Defender with 93-inch, 110-inch and 130-inch wheelbases, the DC100 was presented in 100-inch wheelbase only.

2020 Defender (L663; 2020–)

The 2020 Defender was unveiled on 10 September 2019 at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany. This is the first all-new update for the Defender since 1983. The 2020 Defender has been engineered to comply with global car regulations and is expected to be sold in 128 territories, including the world’s two largest car markets; China and the United States. As sales pick up for the Defender, the latest L663 generation was spotted running tests in Malaysia, signifying a local launch taking place soon. Fast forward to October 2021, the Malaysian-debut of the L663 Land Rover Defender has taken place.

Export and foreign-built versions

Defender in the US

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 4x4s: 500 to the United States and 25 to Canada. They were fitted with the 3.9-litre V8 petrol engine, LT-77 five-speed manual transmission and LT230 transfer case. All of the vehicles were “Alpine” white (except one specifically painted black for 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. For the 1994 and 1995 model year Land Rover only offered the Defender 90, fitted with a 3.9-litre V8 engine and the R-380 manual transmission which was clearly intended as an upmarket alternative to the Jeep Wrangler. Initially, the Defender 90 was only available as a soft-top with a structural roll cage, but a later version was offered with a unique, removable, fibre-glass roof panel or a regular 4×4 hard-top designated as the estate model. In 1997, the final year of US Defender 90 production, the engine was improved, designated 4.0 and mated to a four-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 were not economically viable given the small numbers of NAS vehicles sold in relation to Land Rover’s global sales. Land Rover retired its North American Specification utility vehicles at the end of 1997 to focus on its more profitable, popular and upmarket Discovery and Range Rover models, as well as the then newly launched Freelander. In 2020 Land Rover brought back the Land Rover Defender only as the 4 door model with 2.0 or 3.0 engine and standard hardtop and automatic transmission. It then brought back the 2-door Defender 90 model for the 2021 model year.

Land Rover 110 in Australia

Continuing on from production of the Australian SIII Stage 1 Isuzu 4BD1 diesel variant, Jaguar Rover Australia (JRA) developed an Isuzu 4BD1 (See List of Isuzu engines ) diesel powered 110 for sale as an Australia Only consumer product. Between 1981 and 1990, the Isuzu 4BD1 engine was the only diesel option available for Land Rover in Australia. All 110 cab chassis Defenders sold in Australia during this time had a wheelbase of 120 inches in order to accommodate an 8 ft x 6 ft tray. A small number of 6×6 cab chassis Defenders were also made by JRA during this time. While the Land Rover has been in use in the Australian military from 1959, as a consumer product from the 1970s, it fell out of favour as a 4×4 work vehicle while offerings from Toyota and Nissan increased in popularity. Mid-2009, Land Rover expanded the model range to include 110 and 130 cab-chassis, panel van and HCPU versions, and late in the year announced the re-introduction of the 90 4×4 model for sale from early 2010.

Defender licensees and clones

Defenders, derivatives and clones have been built by a number of manufacturers including Santana Motors in Spain built under license from Land Rover (Land Rover [Knock-down kit] CKD kit, made from 1958 until the licence expired in 1983; Land Rover derivatives (Santana Series IV) were then developed from 1984–1994), Morattab in Iran (using parts and molds bought from Santana, Manufactures it as Pazhan using Mitsubishi/Hyundai V6 engine), Otokar in Turkey (beginning in 1987 and continued until the original production ended), and Karmann in Brazil (from 1999–2006, using Land Rover CKD kits). Fiat also marketed a modified version of the Santana product, as the Iveco Massif, between 2007 and 2011. Assembly also occurs in Pakistan, Malaysia and South Africa.

Special editions

Land Rover 90SV

In 1992 the first special edition Land Rover Defender was produced. Called the 90SV (SV stands 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 (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 market.

Limited Edition (LE)

In 1997, the last year that Defender 90’s were made available in the US, Land Rover created 300 Special Edition Station Wagons. Known as the Limited Edition (LE) these Land Rover Defender 90’s were painted with a unique one year colour known as Willow Green with a contrasting white accented roof; they were also fitted with body protection in the form of 5 large diamond plated sheets and an external safety cage with a full roof rack. The 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 LE also came with the following options as standard equipment: Air conditioning, rear ladder, rear step, twin tube running boards with diamond plate trim, front A bar and a limited edition placard which was affixed to the rear of the car that denoted its build number out of 300.

Defender 50th

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. 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. 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 the 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 variants, the Heritage was only available in the two original colours offered by the company — the dark bronze green and 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 5 speed manual transmission.

Tomb Raider

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 Raider came equipped with a roof rack and roof rack support system (looking similar to a roll-cage), additional spot lights, winch, bull-bar and raised air-intake. They were available either as a 90 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 a highly modified 110 HCPU with a specially fitted and tuned V8 petrol engine and a non-standard interior.

G4 Edition

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, silver and black versions were also produced. Defender 90 and 110 4×4 versions were available, with front A-bar, roll-cage, side-steps and front spotlights as standard, as well as G4 badging.

Defender Black

The 2002 Defender Black Limited Edition was produced in 2 variants based on the XS trim level: 90 Station Wagon or a 110 Double Cab Pickup with Java black micatallic paint, ABS & Electronic Traction Control, chequerplate wing top and sill protection, side protection rails (aka XS steps) front roll cage (aka screen protection bar), Boost alloy wheels, a “NAS” rear step / towbar and green tinted windows. The interior has black leather seats, chrome bezel instrument pack, black leather trimmed steering wheel, black carpet & trim, black leather-trimmed cubby box & lid, billet aluminium controls & gear knobs, air conditioning, electric front windows and remote central door locking. Both models used the Td5 engine. The on-the-road UK prices were £24995 for either model. 92 examples of the 90 were made, and 144 the 110 DCPU. As of 2018, 76 and 103 respectively remained registered in the UK

Defender Silver

The Defender Silver was available in three distinct versions – TD5, 90 and 110 Station Wagon and 110 Double Cab Pickup. Every Defender Silver was fitted with an A-frame protection bar which offered additional protection to the front of the vehicle. Lamp guards were fitted front and rear, and a tow pack incorporating an electrics kit not only to power trailer lights, but also additional equipment. The underside was further shielded from harm by the sump guard and air-con and ABS/TC were available as options. The vehicles came of the production line and were then modified by SVO – Special Vehicle Operations. They are comparatively rare, especially the Double Cab Pick Up with the Fiberglass TruckMan Top.


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 conditioning.

Defender SVX

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 five-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 drivetrain was the standard 2.4-litre diesel and six-speed manual permanent four-wheel-drive transmission. The SVX edition was available as a 110 (only available outside the UK), a 90 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. (This unit comes with a 2.4-litre diesel Ford DuraTorq 4 cylinder engine).

Bespoke Paul Smith Defender

To mark the end of production, Land Rover asked British fashion designer Paul Smith to produce a one-off version of the Defender, which was launched in May 2015. The car’s exterior featured 27 different colours on the exterior inspired by the Defender’s long life in service with the Army, Navy and Air Force as well as fire, coastguard and mountain rescue roles but also by the colours of the British countryside where Defenders have long since become part of the landscape.

2018 Defender Works V8 70th Anniversary Edition

In January 2018 Land Rover unveiled the Defender Works V8 as part of the Defender’s 70th Anniversary. The 150 examples feature a naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre Jaguar AJ-V8 engine producing 405 hp (302 kW) and 515 Nm, mated to an 8-speed ZF 8HP automatic gearbox. Land Rover additionally fitted new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars and uprated brakes along with 18″ alloy wheels and all-terrain tyres. The 70th Anniversary Defenders were “restomods” produced by Land Rover Classic division and not a new production model. They were late-model, pre-registered Defenders that were carefully selected based on age, mileage, and condition. They were built in both 90 and 110 wheelbases, with a starting price of £150,000.

Other special editions

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 model painted in a sand-like tan colour and supplied with special decals and the latter being a 4×4 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 suit 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. A specially-commissioned custom-built modified Land Rover Defender TD 130, painted bronze-green, was used as a hearse for Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, designed by the Duke himself, at his funeral at Windsor Castle. The Defender Hearse had an open-topped rear to hold the coffin.

Military Defenders

British and other armies

Land Rover Defender vehicles have been used 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. (See U.S. Army Ranger Special Operations Vehicle.) 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. 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 is known to the British Army as the Land Rover Wolf. 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 offered its “core” military Defenders with the 300Tdi engine rather than the more powerful but more complicated Td5 engine offered in civilian vehicles. The 300 Tdi Defender went into service in the “Green Fleet” from 1998. 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. Trials with the Td5 engine proved it to be reliable in battlefield conditions. However, initially 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 the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by a nuclear weapon. However, following successful trials by the Australian Defence Force of the TD5 Landrover, the British MOD purchased a small fleet of TD5 Landrover Defender 110s for its “Green Fleet” between 2000 and 2002. These were specially converted for the MOD by Landrover Specialist Vehicles. They were plated with UK military registration plates and painted IRR green. Most of these vehicles were deployed in the Falklands as troop carriers and communications vehicles for use by the Royal Marines and UK Special Forces. A small number of TD5 Defender 110s were also ordered for the Royal Navy. These were painted navy blue and deployed to the Falklands. Of these Royal Navy vehicles a few were later re-painted IRR green and reassigned to Royal Marines and SBS use. The more powerful TD5 engine, which was capable of being re-mapped up to around 200 Bhp was ideally suited to the rugged terrain of the Falklands and for towing trailers. The majority of these Falkland vehicles were sold off to Military Motors Ltd by the MOD in 2013. The troop carriers had eight passenger seats in the rear and two rear side windows each side for extra visibility. Visually, these UK military troop carrier TD5 Defenders looked similar to the ones used by the Australian Defence Force except that the UK ones were plain IRR green. The Albanian Land Force also possesses a large fleet of Land Rover Defenders, a quantity of them were gifted by the Turkish and Italian armies and the rest of the fleet were bought. The Italian Army adopted the Defender 90 in 1991 under the name of “AR 90” (AR standing for “Autovettura da Ricognizione”, Reconnaissance Vehicle), soft top version, with 2.0 petrol engines MPI series, 2.5 diesel Td5 and 2.4 diesel Td4 engines. Another Land Force version is denominated “VAV” (standing vor “Veicolo d’Attacco Veloce”, Fast Attack Vehicle), carrying a crew of three and armed with NATO 5.56 machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher. The Defender hard top version in Italy is also adopted by police forces Carabinieri (Defender 90), civil protection forces (Defender 90, 110 and 130), fire fighting squads (Defender 90, 110). With 300Tdi production stopping in 2006, Land Rover set up production of a military version of the four-cylinder Ford 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 military Land Rovers carry no armour-plating and the composite-armoured Snatch Land Rover (originally designed to withstand small arms fire and hand-thrown projectiles as experienced in Northern Ireland) is vulnerable to roadside bomb and rocket attacks.

Australian Army

The Land Rover Perentie is the Land Rover 110 produced for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). In the 1980s, using the Australia Only civilian 4BD1 powered 110 as a basis, Jaguar Rover Australia (JRA) developed a military version of the 4BD1 110 model for competitive trials against vehicles supplied by Chrysler JEEP, Mercedes and Toyota conducted by the Australian Army Testing Establishment. Land Rover was the successful candidate and the Australian Army ordered several thousand 110 Land Rovers in various configurations made to this specification, called the Land Rover Perentie, some of which were 6×6 drive. Six wheel drive Perenties were fitted with a turbocharged 3.9L Isuzu diesel engine (4BD1-T), while the 4×4 versions were powered by the naturally aspirated variant (4BD1). The Australian Army vehicles were assembled at the Jaguar Rover Australia (JRA) facility at Moorebank, NSW, from locally made components and other components from the UK and Japan.

Police and government vehicles

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. Due to the ongoing terrorist threat and proliferation of public order disturbances, the Police Service of Northern Ireland has employed armoured and hardened versions of the Land Rover Defender for over 40 years in various guises. The current PSNI armoured public order vehicle is based upon a heavy duty Defender 110 chassis which starts life as a chassis cab and which is then stripped of the original body and fitted with upgraded suspension, brakes, and drive train. The bonnet, wings and roof are produced from armoured composite materials whilst the body is manufactured from a range of armoured steel and composite materials and is known as the “Pangolin”. In 2004 a fleet of 12 long wheelbase 110 Td5 Land Rovers were produced for the federal German government, varying between 110 vans, 110 HCPUs and 110 4x4s. The German government did not renew the supply contract after 2006, instead turning to Mercedes for their logistics fleet.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 federal German government sold their Td5 fleet.

See also

Ineos Grenadier, an upcoming offroader inspired by the original Defender. MDT David Ranger Special Operations Vehicle

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