The Land Rover Defender

land rover defender

The Land Rover Defender is a British four-wheel-drive off-road SUV.
It was developed from the original Land Rover Series from June 1948.
Production finally ended on 29 January 2016 when the last Defender, H166 HUE, rolled off the production line at 9:22.
Jaguar Land Rover announced their intention to launch a replacement “new Defender”.
The model 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”
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, from 1991 the 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 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 Station wagons with “Defender 110” or “Defender 90” below the Land Rover lozenge and the vehicle’s unique limited edition production run number.


The NAS Defender was produced from 1990 to 2016.
It’s body style’s included the 3-door 4×4, the 5-door 4×4, the 2-door single cab pickup, the 4-door double cab pickup and the 2-door hardtop
Related Vehicles include:
Land Rover Wolf
Santana PS-10
Iveco Massif
MDT David
The engines included a 2.8 L BMW M52B28 petrol I6, a 3.9 L Rover V8 petrol V8, a 2.2 L Ford Duratorq turbodiesel I4, a 2.4 L Ford Duratorq turbodiesel I4, a 2.5 L 200 Tdi turbodiesel I4, a 2.5 L 300 Tdi turbodiesel I4 and a 2.5 L Td5 turbodiesel I5.
It’s transmissions included :
5-speed LT77 manual
5-speed R380 manual
4-speed ZF 4HP22 automatic
6-speed GFT MT-82 manual
Its wheelbase increased incrementally from 92.9 to 204 inches over the course of it’s lifetime.
It’s width was maintained at 70.5 in or so and it’s height at 80 in remained constant.
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.
It had:
A modern alloy cylinder head
Improved turbocharging
Direct injection
It retained:
The block
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
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.
This engine finally allowed the Defender to:
Cruise comfortably at high speeds,
Tow heavy loads speedily on hills economically.
The Tdi’s combination of performance and economy meant that it took the vast majority of sales.
The British Army and some commercial operators continued to buy vehicles with the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated diesel engine
Small numbers of V8-engined Defenders were sold to users in countries with low fuel costs or who required as much power as possible.

Land Rover Defender 130

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 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.
It had:
Roll-over protection cage
Alloy wheels
Metallic paint
There was also the 50th anniversary 90 in 1998.
It was equipped with:
Automatic transmission
Air conditioning
Range Rover 4.0-litre V8 engine.
A new variant was the Defender 110 double cab which featured:
A 4×4-style seating area
Open pick up back
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
It was the same engine found in:
The BMW 328i
Power and torque output for this engine was 143 kW (192 hp) @ 5300 rpm and 280 N·m (207 lb·ft) @ 3950 rpm.
This option was offered due to a demand for a petrol-driven alternative to the diesel engine.
Total production for the 2.8i was 1395
This included:
656 Defender 90s
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.
The South African Defender BMW-engined 2.8i (1997-2001)
Some of BMW’s top engineers including Frank Isenberg, 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 with 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
Slave cylinder from that vehicle to connect the engine to the R380 gearbox
They did have 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.
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.
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
Specially tuned Siemens MS41.0 DME
A Lucas 10AS alarm in place of the Drive Away Protection system

1999 Model

There were major changes for the 1999 model year
These included:
Updated instrumentation
Different chassis and engine wiring
Updated cooling system
Aluminum radiator
Updated fuel system
New fuel tank.
The 1.667:1 gear ratio LT230 transfer box gave the vehicle a “rev happy” nature which delighted many off-road enthusiasts and 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,.
It was the fastest production Defender ever made.
The new BMW M52 Defender performed better than the V8 Defender it replaced in nearly every test.

South Africa

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
Leather seats
Radio and CD player
Leather steering wheel and gear lever
Cooler box
Each were 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 addition of:
A roof rack
Step ladder
Wrap-around Bullbar in place of the A-frame
Special cloth seats are used in favour of the leather ones
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 engine used electronic control systems and produced 122 hp (91 kW) @ 4850 rpm, 11 hp (8 kW) more than the Tdi, with improved refinement.


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 luxury features.
These included:
Heated windscreen
Heated seats
Air conditioning
ABS and traction control
Part-leather seats
At the same time other detail improvements were made including:
A dash centre console
Improved instrument illumination
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.
Land Rover Defender vehicles have been used by many of the world’s military forces, including the US. During the first Gulf War, 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.

Land Rover Defender XD

In 1994 Land Rover created the Defender XD.
It was Powered by 300Tdi engines with a:
Much stronger chassis
Fibre webbing around the welded joints
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 Wolves.
Land Rover offered its “core” military Defenders with the 300Tdi engine rather than the more
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.
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.

British Police

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
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has employed armoured and hardened versions of the Land Rover Defender for over 40 years in various guises

Other Countries Utilising Land Rover


In 2004 a fleet of 12 long wheelbase 110 Td5 Land Rovers were produced for the federal German government. However The German government did not renew the supply contract after 2006, instead turning to Mercedes for their logistics fleet. They 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.


The Albanian Land Force also possesses a large fleet of Land Rover Defenders,
They were gifted by the Turkish and Italian armies and the rest of the fleet are bought.
The British Army’s Land Rovers have been criticised 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 is not immune to the larger roadside bomb and rocket attacks.

Special editions

In recent years Land Rover has occasionally produced special editions of the Defender. Mostly they have been aimed at the more lucrative “lifestyle” market than the Defender’s usual commercial and off-road markets.

50th anniversary Defender

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.
It also had:
Alloy wheels
Rear disc brakes
Despite the vehicle’s sporty looks, it used the standard 200Tdi turbodiesel engine. Only 90 were made for the UK market.


In 1997, the last year that Defender 90’s were made available in the USA, 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 color know as Willow Green with a 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


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, 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.
They were fitted with Air conditioning.
For the UK and Europe they were painted:
Atlantis blue
A dark green-blue flip-flop colour
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 Heritage
The second 1998 special edition was the “Heritage”
Available in 90 or 110 variants, the Heritage was only available in the two original colours offered by the company.
It was available in:
The dark bronze green
The light pastel Atlantic green
Its features included:
A metal mesh-effect front grille
Body-coloured alloy wheels
Wing mirrors
Silver-painted doo
Windscreen hinges
Special instruments were used, with black-on-beige displays.
The powertrain was the standard Td5 diesel engine and 5 speed manual transmission.
Tomb Raider 90 special edition
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.
It was:
Painted dark metallic grey with special badging and details
Came with a roof rack and roof rack support system
Additional spot lights
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 was a highly modified 110 HCPU with a specially fitted and tuned V8 petrol engine and a non-standard interior.

G4 Editions

In 2003, G4-Edition Defenders became available.
It had:
The distinctive Tangiers orange colour
Yellow and black versions
Defender 90 and 110 4×4 versions were available. They had:
Front A-bar
Front spotlights as standard
G4 badging.
Other Special Editions
Since then, Land Rover have produced other special editions
The Defender Black
The Defender Black was a 90 or 110 County 4×4 with:
Metallic black paint
Leather seats
Air con
Roll cage
Dark-tinted rear windows
The Defender Silver
The Defender Silver was a 110 County 4×4 with:
Silver metallic paint
Front A-bar and spotlights
Metal wing-protector plates and winch
The 1999 X-Tech
This was aimed at the commercial market.
It was a metallic silver 90 hard top fitted with:
County-style seats
Alloy wheels
Alpine window lights.
The second model year edition in 2003 was better equipped with wing protector plates and air conditioning.

Sahara Edition

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
55th anniversary Defender 90s sold in France
The former was a basic-spec model painted in a sand-like tan colour.
It had special features such as:
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 suite their markets.
A dealer in Scotland created the “Braemar” edition of 25 vehicles to appeal to local agricultural and forestry buyers
It was a 90 hard top supplied ready fitted with a:
Off-road tyres
Underbody protection
Chequer plate.

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