None for sale at present - these ready-made classics don't hang about for long.
The Defender has been around since 1984 when the 110 was released, followed in 1985 by its shorter brother, the 90. The name “Defender” wasn’t used until 1991 to clear up a self-inflicted marketing issue - the Range Rover was made by Land Rover, the Discovery was made by Land Rover and the Land Rover was made by...?
The 90 and 110 (the names “Ninety” and “One-Ten” were short-lived) saw the introduction of coil spring suspension to replace the leaf springs, a five-speed gearbox as standard after 1985, an enlarged 2.5L engine in petrol and diesel forms, then a turbocharged diesel based on the original engine in 1988. In 1991, the re-branding to Defender also saw the old 2.5 petrol and diesel engines being replaced by the all-new 2.5 200TDi, which was then a world-beating design. The only petrol engine left available (briefly in the UK at least) was the venerable 3.5 V8.
Defender production finally ceased in January 2016. This was not due to lack of demand, but because the Defender had run out of legal “grandfather” rights – it has no side-impact protection, no airbags and is not a pedestrian-friendly thing to be hit by. The 90 and 110 have been with us for thirty years, which would be remarkable enough for any marque. But don’t forget that the Defender was itself just a generational change from the Series vehicles that went before it right back to 1948.
It is possible to sub-divide the thirty-two years of the Defender (90, 110 and the 127/130) into four fairly distinct phases:
1984-1992 (pre-Defender): 2.25P (to 1985), 2.5P, 3.5 V8 to 1986, 2.5D and 2.5TD in 90, 110 and 127 chassis 1992-1998 (Defender): 200TDi and 300TDi in 90, 110 and 130 chassis* 1998-2007: TD5 2.5 2008-2016: Ford Puma 2.3 engine and complete redesign of dashboard
Rivet-counters could go much deeper than this, but generally four generations is enough.
In the early 110s and very early 90s, the old Series 2,286cc engine was carried over from the Series III. This engine was subsequently enlarged to 2.5L in both petrol and diesel forms.
In diesel form, the 2.5 was markedly less fragile than its smaller parent and was used in great quantities by military customers within NATO - middle-eastern clients stuck with the V8. Then, in an effort to move with the times and to reverse a falling market share, Land Rover introduced the 2.5 Turbo Diesel. This looked like a good move, and it was certainly a better engine to drive with than the normally aspirated version. However, it didn’t take very long for the folly of bolting a Garrett turbo onto an engine that has been designed in the 1950s to become evident - unless maintained meticulously and driven with unusual consideration (neither very likely for a Land Rover), the Turbo Diesel had an appetite for piston rings, leading to excessive crankcase oil pressure, leading to some spectacular engines failures when they started to run on their own oil rather than diesel. For this reason, very few Turbo Diesel examples remain intact, the significant majority having been upgraded to the later Tdi or downgraded to the cheaper, longer-living non-turbo version.
Fortunately Land Rover had been looking for new engine to use in the Discovery and had outsourced the task of designing one to Recardo Engineering, who took the basic 2.5 Diesel engine and then re-designed it to utilise all the technology then available that separated engines designed in 1948 from those designed in 1988 - direct injection, turbo charging and intercooling to name merely three. The result in 1988 was the then world-beating 200Tdi, a 2.5 Diesel engine that produced more torque than the carburetted 3.5 V8. Not only did Land Rover introduce it to its entire range (including the Range Rover) as quickly as it could, it even sold conversion kits for customers wanting to update existing vehicles.
In 1995 the 200Tdi was replaced by the 300Tdi, a re-worked version of the 200Tdi that produced more power, more torque, less noise and better fuel efficiency. The plan was this gradual development of the Tdi would continue for some years, but the European emissions legislation that came into effect in the latter Nineties put pay to this plan - an engine controlled by mechanical means would never be clean enough. In 1998 the 300Tdi was replaced by a very different engine completely.
Known as the TD5, it was still 2.5L - but that’s where the similarities stopped. The TD5 is a five-cylinder engine that utilises a fully electronic management system. This made better sense in the Discovery 2 that also used it, but has always split opinion amongst Defender owners. It is, undeniably, a great driving engine. But it does deliver much lower torque at low revs that the Tdi (but significantly more higher up the range), slightly lower MPG and an electronic throttle linkage that had a habit of dynamically re-mapping the throttle if it thought you were driving off-road - this has the effect of giving a top speed of 60mph with the throttle on the floor. A great idea for off-road; less useful, if not actually dangerous, when trying to get onto a motorway. Fortunately a lot of black box re-chipping was done under warranty, so many of these early problems have been resolved with time and the same mistakes were not made when the TD5 was, for legislative reasons again, replaced with the Ford Transit-derived Puma 2.4L Diesel engine in 2008.
Engines aside, the Defender does offer marked improvements to drive and ride comfort over the Series vehicles, but it can be argued with some justification that the older Series vehicles are more solidly made and will ultimately out-live their younger replacements. Certainly a Defender has a habit of rusting in places that Series vehicles don’t, and the later electronic-dependant examples will struggle to find replacement vital black boxes and sensors as time goes on, but with even just a modest amount of care a Defender - any Defender - will usually out-live any of its contemporaries.
* The apparent extra three inches are imaginary - the 90 has a 92.8-inch wheelbase, the 110 is 110 inches and the 130 is 127 inches. On average, the names are accurate. For comparison, the Series Land Rovers had 88- and 109-inch wheelbases and the original Range Rover was 100 inches. The military 101 Forward Control was exactly as the name suggests - 101 inches.