Land Rover Defender

Defender History

The Land Rover Defender, originally the Land Rover One Ten or Land Rover Ninety, is a British four-wheel drive off-road utility vehicle developed from the original Land Rover Series launched in 1948. In October of 2013, Land Rover announced that production, currently running exclusively in Solihull, England, would end in December of 2015 “due to legislative reasons” after a continuous run of 67 years.

In the 1980s the Australian Army ordered Defenders to be made to their own specification. This is how the Land Rover 110 was born and became nicknamed for the army’s use as the Land Rover Perentie, named for the largest monitor lizard native to Australia. Some of these One Tens were 6x6 drive and were fitted with a turbocharged 3.9L Isuzu diesel engine (4BD1-T) while the 4x4 versions were powered by the naturally aspirated variant (4BD1).

The Land Rover Ninety was officially introduced in 1983 as the Land Rover 110, with the numbers representing the wheelbase in inches. “110” was spelled out in full for the purpose of print advertising, handbooks, and manuals but the vehicles carried badges on the rear panel that 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 Ninety and the One Ten were renamed ‘Defender’ in 1991 and became the Defender 90 and Defender 110.

In 1993 Land Rover launched the Defender in the North American market. Although the Range Rover had been sold here 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, the North American Specification (NAS) Defenders were extensively modified for the purpose of crash safety, lighting, and customization desires of the North American buyers. The initial export batch out of Europe was 525 Defender 110 County Station Wagons: 500 to be delivered and sold in the United States and 25 to be delivered and sold in Canada. These modified Defenders were fitted with the 3.9L V8 gas engine and five-speed manual transmission. All of the vehicles were white (except for 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.

Replacing the Defender with a new model has been in the planning stages for many years. The current Defender has been in production since 1991 and since it has not met U.S. safety requirements since 1998, Land Rover has been offering U.S. buyers the more luxurious LR2 (Freelander) and LR4 (Discovery) instead. Total replacement of the Defenders will be needed by 2015, when new European regulations regarding crash safety for pedestrians will render the current design obsolete.