Front Runner Heritage Defender
After decades of assembly at Solihull – first as the Series and later as the Defender – production of Land Rover’s iconic off-roader officially ceased on 29 January last year. It was the end of a (long and memorable) era. Having started in 1948, production continued for 68 years. By any standard, that is a good run, but it was becoming increasingly obvious that the Defender couldn’t continue the way it was indefinitely. The world had moved on. Things like emissions and safety standards had rendered the vehicle obsolete.
Before ceasing all production, though, Land Rover released the Heritage Edition Defender in 2015. This was a thoroughly modern vehicle (by Defender standards), but it had been made to look like an old-school Series Land Rover, complete with steel wheels, Grasmere Green metallic body and Alaska White roof. It also had some other niceto-haves that cleverly tipped a hat to the long heritage of the Defender. These included a silver front bumper, old-school grille, silver door hinges and limitededition cloth upholstery.
Only a handful of these ever made it to South Africa. Land Rover released two Celebration Edition Defenders at the same time – the Heritage and the Adventure – and only 215 of these were sold locally.
As you might expect, these immediately became collectors’ items. Indeed, since production on the Defender ceased, all models have started holding onto their value really well, but the Heritage became an instant can’t-lose investment. The 110 Heritage Defender was priced at
R714 800 when it was released late in 2015. Two years later, a Heritage model with low mileage can fetch close to R1 million. We found a 2016 model online with 19 480km on the clock with a sticker price of R929 000. A 2016 Defender 90 Heritage with just 1 500km is going for R949 900.
Sensing that this was a vehicle worth investing in, local 4×4 outfitter Front Runner purchased a 110 Heritage Defender when it first came out, and fitted the vehicle with a whole bunch of its aftermarket accessories.
“We have a lot of love and affection for the Defender,” says Front Runner sales manager Jaco Nel. “A lot of our customers are Defender owners. In fact, even though the vehicle is no longer being produced, we are fitting as many extras to Defenders as ever. These are iconic vehicles, and they remain an incredibly popular overland vehicle. And it’s a vehicle that people love to customise and personalise. No two Defenders look exactly the same.”
Since the Heritage was one of the final limited-edition Defenders to be released, Front Runner bought one. Importantly, though, the company decided not to mess with the vehicle too much. Yes, it fitted a lot of extras, but the interior was kept standard (apart from the addition of a drawer system in the rear) and the vehicle was kept in showroom condition. In fact, the vehicle spends all its time in Front Runner’s own showroom. It barely leaves the building, and isn’t even used at shows or events. It has a mere 74km on the clock. When it was pulled out of the showroom during our visit for a photo, it was only the second time that it had left the floor this year.
“We have a kitted-out TD5 that we use for shows,” says Jaco. “But the Heritage isn’t used at all. The only reason it leaves the showroom is to go to the local Land Rover dealer for its annual service.”
As you can see from these photos, this Heritage Defender might not do a lot of travelling, but it has an enviable amount of extras on it. Most notably, it has Front Runner’s snazzy gullwing rear windows (which allow for easy access to kit stowed in the rear), a spare-wheel arm, a roof rack (of course), hi-lift jack mount, gas-bottle carrier, ladder and Front Runner roof-top tent. Less noticeable extras include retro light covers, fender protectors, sill protectors, a bash plate, extra fuel tank, a water tank and a braai grid over the spare wheel.
“Because of the popularity and customisability of the Defender, we offer a wide variety of accessories for it,” says Jaco. “So, the Heritage Defender not only attracts a lot of attention in our showroom, it also shows customers the options available for their own Defenders.”
Main: With almost no kilometers on the clock, the Front Runner Heritage Defender is one very desirable 4x4.Opposite page, clockwise from top right: The Heritage Defender has limited-edition seats. The vehicle rarely leaves the showroom floor. Front Runner has added some sill protectors that add to the overall look of the vehicle. There’s a break grid and a hilift jack at the rear. The spare tyre sits on a Front Runner arm. Some underbody protection. Gulping rear windows provide easy access.