What resembles something like a safari limo or off-road mini bus is actually a mega-sized Land Rover Defender 147, one of only a handful ever made in the world. Tech editor Ian Theron takes a closer look at the origins and idea behind the wors Defender.
When I first laid my eyes on the Defender 147 high capacity station wagon, it was parked near a pub somewhere along the Garden Route. It was transporting a bunch of jolly Land Rover manne, underway to a motor show in George, who had decided to make a quick pit stop.
So I met the owner of the Defender 147. His name is Nekkies, a character of a man, with a big and wonderful laugh that’s contagious; you cannot help but crack a smile or laugh along. Nekkies is a popular guy, and renowned in the Land Rover fraternity. He owns and operates Gateway Off-road Centre in Wellington. And you guessed it; he’s a massive Land Rover fan!
My curiosity got the better of me and I just had to find out more about this beaut of a vehicle. One day in 2008, Nekkies received a call from a dealer looking for parts. “From what he described over the phone, I gathered it was a Defender 147. I immediately asked if it was for sale and bought it,” Nekkies told me.
However, the condition of the vehicle wasn’t great and after a good deal of restoration, which included stripping her down, rebuilding her mechanics, respraying the body, fitting an extra air conditioner and replacing the old steel rims with Land Rover mags, Nekkies made her look brand new again.
After doing some further investigation, I found out that this Defender 147 was specially designed for the exclusive game lodge and safari market by engineers from Land Rover UK. The first prototypes were built in the Land Rover SA plant in Rosslyn from 2000 to 2002. Only 10 of these station wagons were ever built, and most of them made their way to the South African market. One safari company bought four.
The Defender 147 high capacity station wagon, a 2002 TD5 model, is roomy with a seating configuration to comfortably accommodate 11 people, and even squeeze in an additional two, if you have to. The 147 is essentially 935 mm longer than the 110 and special adaptations include an additional door and c-pillars on each side with an extra row of seats, along with extra heavy suspension and additional inner coils at the rear. She weighs an extra 337 kg and measures 5.3 m in length.
The fact that it requires a code 10 drivers’ licence to operate and has a 10-metre turning radius hasn’t deterred Nekkies one bit. “She is very comfortable and stable, especially on the gravel. But I really like the space it offers. You can take a lot of friends anywhere off-road. The wors Defender has a special place in my collection,” said Nekkies.
Since laying eyes on this vehicle, I have had some sleepless nights about how I would modify it into my personal safari vehicle, or how I would kit it out for camping – imagine the possibilities! Now, all I need is to get my hands on one. Thanks to Nekkies for sharing his story, and giving me a peek at the mega Defender.