I have been looking online for one of these for quite a few years now, and, seeing the pricing on them seemed to be getting more and more ridiculous1 – we bit the bullet and grabbed one.
By why a Defender? It’s old, clunky, square, leaks, drips oil and seems to be a really expensive vehicle for the money.
Well. Yeah. I suppose.
It’s also Iconic, well documented, well resourced in regards to parts and modifications, easy to work on, and well, a hell of a lot of fun to drive! Besides that, ever since I had my Stage One, I have wanted another. Despite that project being somewhat of an absolute nightmare – it got under my skin. The boxiness of the design, the clunkiness and single purpose-ness of the vehicle, the smell!
The Development of a Name
The Defender was the ‘evolution’ of the Series range from Land Rover, with the Stage One, well, being the stage between the two. Starting to roll out in 1983, the Defender design changed very little, right up until the last unit rolled off the production line in 2016. It wasn’t called the Defender until 1990, where the introduction of the ‘Discovery’ Series necessitated a new name for what had previously been known as the Land Rover 90 and Land Rover 110.
There have been engine changes, a few things in regards to suspension and certainly some improvements in the electronics2 – but the design has remained fundamentally the same. Many of the parts are still totally interchangeable, regardless of the year of manufacture, and that, in some ways is one of the great charms of the Defender series. When I hopped into the 2001 110, it really was just like jumping in the 1984 Stage One I had previously owned. The seating position was the same, the dash was the same, the boat-sized turning circle? Just the same.
Well, apart from a standing answer of, why not? We had our eye on a Defender, specifically a 110 for another simple reason – the Feldon Rooftop Tent.
We had already grabbed one of their tents, and it was living on top of the Ford Explorer – and we loved it. It was quick to set up, the kids considered it their own mobile tree hut, but, we were aware, that, as kids do, they were getting bigger, and the initial plan of having Alice (my partner) and the two kids in one tent, with me in a bivvy on the ground, was going to have a limited lifespan. It’s hard to sleep with two pairs of feet kicking you all night long.
So, with the intent of putting two tents onto a truck, the options became very limited. As it is, the Feldon Tents have basically been designed and are manufactured by a couple of Defender nuts, so it’s one of the few vehicles that happily sit two tents on top of it.
The intention is to set it up as a travel and exploration vehicle to take the two girls around the country in. The eventual goal is a decent wack of time exploring the South Island.
I did it many, many moons ago with my parents – and I have always wanted to take the kids on a similar trip. Though, we intend to go a little further backcountry!
All of them.
While this isn’t meant to be a trails, or travelling across Africa for months type of vehicle – there is a lot I want to do to it over the next couple of years – yup – it’s going to be a slow burner of a project (money) – but keen to fit it out with the dual-battery-fridge-lights-winch etc setup.
However, just going to do it one step at a time, to also ensure that it ends up setup how I want it. More than once (and I am sure I will do it again) I have done modifications to things, only to realise that in a practical sense, I work a different way.