Cool cus­tom

Front Run­ner Her­itage De­fender

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - Text: GG van Rooyen

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.

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