MEGA-DEFENDER!

Land Rover AFRICA Magazine - - LIGHTBOX | PICTURE OF THE MONTH - Ian Theron

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.

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