A Short History of the Land Rover Defender
The Land Rover Defender first appeared in 1983, as the Land Rover One Ten, followed a year later by the Land Rover Ninety. The Defender badge didn’t make its first appearance in 1991 to differentiate the more classically styled Land Rover from the relatively new Discovery model.
The Defender is what most people think of when you mention the name Land Rover, the model can trace its DNA right back to the first Land Rover made in 1948, and even though it’s now left the production line it’s more in demand than ever.
The core construction of the Defender follows closely in the footsteps of the Series Land Rovers that came before it. It sits on a steel box section chassis with a steel bulkhead and aluminium body panels. There are live axles front and rear sitting on coil springs (as opposed to the leaf springs used on Series vehicles), a removable roof, removable door tops, and a fold down windscreen.
Unlike the Series Land Rovers, the Defender has full time four-wheel drive, a lockable centre differential, and a larger one-piece windscreen. Engine options for the Defender have varied over the years of its production, the legendary Rover V8 has been on offer since the early days but its thirst for fuel has meant that the more efficient diesel-engined variants have generally been bought in higher numbers.
The Land Rover Defender Td5 Shown Here
Of all the diesels that have been fitted under the aluminium hood of the Defender since its introduction, one of the most popular has been the Td5. Rover developed the Td5 under the code name Project Storm, to create a new line of diesel engines that could be fitted to both 4x4s and road cars in various capacities and cylinder counts.
More than anything, Land Rover needed the Td5 to be tough, and to meet modern Euro-spec emissions regulations. Purists decried the change from mechanical fuel injection to Electronic Unit Injection, fearing it would be difficult or impossible to fix in the field. They were slowly won over as they realised how reliable the new engines were – and how much more efficient they were than the outgoing 300Tdi, which was still based on the antiquated Land Rover diesels of decades past.
With 221 lbf.ft of torque, the 2493cc Td5 offered solid gains over its predecessor. It also utilised a more modern SOHC design than the OHV unit on the 300Tdi, a larger Allied Signal GT20 turbocharger, and the aforementioned Electronic Unit Injection by Lucas.
The Defender 90 you see here has just been through a nut and bolt restoration with the team at Cool n’ Vintage based out of Portugal. It started out as a 2002 Td5 but it’s been stripped back to a bare chassis and rebuilt from scratch, with a new interior, a new soft top , black painted steel wheels and a set of 5 BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tires. The internal steel frame for the roof has been galvanised to protect against rust, all the original rubber bushings have been replaced with modern polyurethane units, and the somewhat clunky original steering wheel has been swapped out for a more sports-oriented example.