Land Rover De­fender Her­itage

ENG

Nam Wheels - - Front Page - Text Hanjo Stier Im­ages Gal­imoto Me­dia

This re­view should be one of the eas­i­est and short­est texts I have ever com­posed but the ve­hi­cle in ques­tion evokes such in­cred­i­bly dif­fer­ing emo­tions (also from yours truly) that it threat­ens to bloat my re­port into novel pro­por­tions.

You see, I’ve been driv­ing around in Land Rover’s De­fender 110 Her­itage lim­ited-edition model.

As a mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist I should tell you that the De­fender’s pro­duc­tion stopped late in 2015 be­cause the old Brit failed so many safety and bun­ny­hug­ger tests that Land Rover sim­ply had to pull the plug.

Its con­struc­tion is also in­cred­i­bly out­dated and so back­wards that one should ac­tu­ally type “good rid­dance”.

How­ever. In­stead of end­ing my text af­ter a few sen­tences about this lasthur­rah model, I con­fess that I’m ex­tremely fond of the De­fender; and even owned one for a few years. That means I’m one of those crazy peo­ple who will put up with the ap­par­ent re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues be­cause I like these boxy brutes.

Over the years I have also de­vel­oped a love of Land Cruis­ers and G-wag­ons – two po­si­tions on my wish list and per­fect ex­am­ples of what would hap­pen if some­one else built the De­fender. So what made me buy a Landy and take its fa­bled non­sense?

Well, I have typed this be­fore and hap­pily dis­pense it at the count­less braais where Landy-bash­ing slots in be­tween wannabe rugby ref­er­ee­ing and Toy­ota ado­ra­tion. Yes, they are quite moody but in the six years I owned a De­fender, it left me stranded once. In the same pe­riod, my Ger­man sedan broke down twice.

There is a small de­gree of truth to those in­suf­fer­able jokes about bus sched­ules, heated rear wind­screens and free dogs but the hard re­al­ity is that while De­fend­ers usu­ally have nig­gles (like moody electrics) they very sel­dom break down com­pletely. And if you are handy with a tool­box, it won’t act up for very long.

“Why did you buy such an un­re­li­able car?” was the favoured re­sponse to which I an­swer “Har­ley David­son” or “Alfa-romeo”. Just like a De­fender, these cars are out­dated or in­fe­rior prod­ucts which should have been culled by their com­pe­ti­tion decades ago but they en­joy a clien­tele with un­matched pas­sion for the brands.

I’ve also ut­tered this be­fore - if you crave a De­fender (or Alfa, for that mat­ter) noth­ing else will do un­til you sat­isfy that crav­ing.

No­body has ever ap­proached me to choose be­tween a Cruiser, Pa­trol or De­fender. Same goes for Audi, BMW and Alfa. They usu­ally lean in and whis­per “I’ve been think­ing of buy­ing a (or an­other) De­fender.” Yes. You def­i­nitely should.

And it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter which one they buy as the only big up­dates since the De­fender’s birth in 1983 have been a few en­gines and small cos­metic changes.

To most peo­ple, the “Se­ries” mod­els that went be­fore also look sim­i­lar which is why, to the un­trained eye, this 2015 ver­sion looks no dif­fer­ent to its 1947 grandpa.

Now, to fi­nally de­scribe this Her­itage Edition, it is based on the last 2.2-litre turbo-diesel “Puma” De­fender Oneten and sports many nos­tal­gic nods. Chief among these are its Gras­mere green flat paint, heavy- duty steel wheels, old-style lo­gos and plaques, two-tone seats and HUE166 badges – the reg­is­tra­tion of “Huey”, the old­est Landy alive.

The two com­fort­able front seats are sep­a­rated by a cen­tral cubby box with two cup hold­ers and an op­tional sub­woofer. This takes or­ders from the CD / ra­dio / mp3 head unit in the “mod­ern” dash­board with A/C and vent con­trols, a few but­tons, grab han­dles, sim­ple in­stru­ments and a mas­sive steer­ing wheel with the only airbag in this ve­hi­cle.

Shock and hor­ror though, the man­ual air vents left a few years ago. Other com­par­a­tive ob­ser­va­tions to my old De­fender in­clude the same stub­born gear and trans­fer levers, in­va­sive park brake lever po­si­tion and rear pas­sen­ger vis­i­bil­ity.

Newer De­fender toys in­clude two (front) power win­dows, ABS brakes, trac­tion con­trol and cen­tral lock­ing. This model also has split fold­ing mid­dle seats and two fold­able seats in the cargo bay which can also be re­moved for ex­tra stowage.

The spare wheel still ob­scures what lit­tle rear vis­i­bil­ity there was, most hinges are ex­posed, the hooter isn’t where you ex­pect it and the car­pets look like the hardy va­ri­ety.

Driv­ing this De­fender around town is hard work. The gears are short, its clutch is heavy, those chunky tyres make an un­holy racket, the turn­ing ra­dius is aw­ful and cor­ner­ing is scary.

A fe­male pas­sen­gers be­moaned that Land Rover had still not fit­ted a pas­sen­ger van­ity mirror but had to back-pad­dle when asked why you would need that in the Namib. This brings me to its in­tended pur­pose – the great out­doors.

Hon­estly, a De­fender is drawn to dirt like a duck to wa­ter; de­spite its dodgy in­su­la­tion. I tack­led a cou­ple of moun­tains for our photo shoots and ev­ery­thing sud­denly made sense. This is where it be­longs and where it wants to be.

It’s like a farmer who can’t get back to the bush fast enough. Fancy gad­gets and glam­orous peo­ple freak him out, he just wants his dog, pipe and dirty veld­skoene.

My wan­der­lust wife agrees -re­call­ing how we used to give our De­fender mud baths to make it look pret­tier; un­til the hooter and wipers failed.

To pre­vent this text from grow­ing even more, I’ll start sum­ming up.

The Land Rover De­fender is out­dated and stub­born. If you do not like them, puh-lease don’t buy one and keep telling the same lame jokes. If you’re lust­ing af­ter one, pre­pare to meet the big­gest toy you’ve ever owned; that gives you a work-out while driv­ing.

I sug­gest mov­ing quickly to score one of these last mod­els, de­spite their N$730,000 price tag. A rel­a­tive of mine (who has a se­vere Land Rover ad­dic­tion) bought two of them.

Why? Be­cause this leg­endary English grouch is now gone and, like ev­ery De­fender owner be­fore him, he could not live with the crav­ing.

Noth­ingL seems to have changed in the many years of De­fender pro­duc­tion...

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