Whilst doing time for Her Majesty in the Queens Royal Irish Hussars during the mid 70’s I had the fortune to be selected for an expedition to Afghanistan, the journey to be undertaken by road from Paderborn in West Germany using the veritable Army spec Land Rover 109 Series III.
The total round trip was around 9000 miles, there were three LR’s, each with a very heavy military grade trailer and three people in each vehicle. The only modifications to these were the addition of a custom made roof rack and purpose made outriggers slung from the sides that carried three jerry cans each. Together with the trailers full of supplies including three months of army ‘compo’ rations, you may assume that their 4 cylinder 2.25L petrol engines were a little under powered. We must have annoyed countless motorists toiling in convoy up even the slightest incline. Downhill, with the overweight trailers trying to overtake, was even more challenging, particularly when the brakes overheated.
So the point of all this pre-amble, if you are still with me, is that I have covered quite a few miles in Land Rovers and I still have fond memories of them. This has surfaced in the desire in recent years to aquire a Defender, short wheelbase, to use as a second vehicle. Those of you in the audience thinking about the financial implications of running a second car, please go and join my wife at the back of the room, out of sight.
I am under no illusions about how a Defender is an awful car in everyday use, they are noisy, cramped, uncomfortable and unable to challenge a modern four wheel drive car in road manners and handling. But I still want one.
Just a few months ago I nearly plumped for an old 4Lt V8 version, a much sought after special edition, but commonsense prevailed, sadly. When the lottery finally pays out then maybe one of the new limited edition Defenders will fit the bill. The new Defender Works V8 produces 399bhp and 380lb ft, eclipsing the output of the discontinued standard Defender, which made just 120bhp and 266lb ft.
It was therefore a very nice experience to be able to drive a Twisted Land Rover the other week so that Number 2 Son could take some photographs for his University project.
We drove the car out of town and up on to the moors for some very good photos, but I must say, the difference between the original that I drove in 1976 and this one is incredible. The sound insulation that Twisted have added has made the most enormous change, the engine is quite responsive and the gearchange was slick and easy with the clutch being lighter than I recall. You could tell that the coil springs have improved the overall feel of the car from the medieval cart springs of old. As for the interior, there was a Sat Nav, with leather and luxurious trimmings aplenty.
However, the car is still quite uncomfortable, cramped and seriously out of date and almost undriveable for anyone over 6 foot.
An icon? Certainly.
A replacement for your daily driver at 12000 miles per year? No.
Of course if you want the ultimate Defender then Harry does it best!
As someone remarked with understated sagacity, “You can’t polish a turd.” to which the swift reply was, “No, but you can roll it in glitter.”