The Land Rover Defender (initially called the Land Rover Ninety and Land Rover One Ten) is a British four-wheel drive off-road vehicle developed in the 1980s from the original Land Rover series which was launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show in April 1948.
The original 110 of 1983 was available with the same engine line-up as the Series III vehicles it replaced, namely 2.25-litre (137 cu in) petrol and diesel engines, and a 3.5-litre (210 cu in) V8 petrol unit, although a small number of 3.2-litre (200 cu in) V8s were produced. In 1981 the 2.25 l engines were upgraded from three- to five-crankshaft bearings in preparation for the planned increases in capacity and power. The five bearing version was known as the 2.3 litre to differentiate it despite having the same displacement.
Defenders, derivatives and clones have been built by a number of manufacturers including Santana Motors in Spain built under license from Land Rover (Land Rover [Knock-down kit] CKD kit, made from 1958 until the licence expired in 1983; Land Rover derivatives (Santana Series IV) were then developed from 1984–1994), Morattab in Iran (using parts and molds bought from Santana, Manufactures it as Pazhan using Mitsubishi/Hyundai V6 engine), Otokar in Turkey (beginning in 1987 and continued until the original production ended), and Karmann in Brazil (from 1999–2006, using Land Rover CKD kits). Fiat also marketed a modified version of the Santana product, as the Iveco Massif, between 2007 and 2011.
Production of the model now known as the Defender began in 1983 as the Land Rover 110, a name which reflected the 110-inch (2,800 mm) length of the wheelbase. The Land Rover 90, with 93-inch (2,362 mm) wheelbase, and Land Rover 127, with 127-inch (3,226 mm) wheelbase, soon followed.
The 110 was launched in 1983, and the 90 followed in 1984. From 1984, wind-up windows were fitted (Series models and very early 110s had sliding panels), and a 2.5-litre (153 cu in), 68 horsepower (51 kW) diesel engine was introduced. This was based on the earlier 2.3-litre (140 cu in) engine, but had a more modern fuel-injection system as well as increased capacity. A low compression version of the 3.5-litre (214 cu in) V8 Range Rover engine improved performance. It was initially available in the 110 with a Range Rover LT95 four-speed transmission with integral transfer case and vacuum operated differential lock, then later in conjunction with a high strength "Santana" five-speed transmission.
The coil-sprung Land Rover was introduced in 1983 as "Land Rover One Ten", and in 1984 the "Land Rover Ninety" was added – the numbers representing the respective wheelbases in inches. (In fact the Ninety was nearer 93 inches at 92.9".) The number was spelled in full in advertising and in handbooks and manuals, and the vehicles also carried badges above the radiator grille which read "Land Rover 90" or "Land Rover 110", with the number rendered numerically. The Ninety and One Ten replaced the earlier Land Rover Series, and at the time of launch, the only other Land Rover model in production was the Range Rover.
In 1985 the petrol units were upgraded. An enlarged four-cylinder engine was introduced. This 83 hp (62 kW) engine shared the same block and cooling system (as well as other ancillary components) as the diesel unit. Unlike the diesel engine, this new 2.5-litre petrol engine retained the chain-driven camshaft of its 2.25-litre predecessor. At the same time, the 114 hp (85 kW) V8 was also made available in the 90- the first time a production short-wheelbase Land Rover had been given V8 power. The V8 on both models was now mated to an all-new five-speed LT85 manual gearbox.
Land Rover Defender vehicles have been used by many of the world's military forces, including the US in some limited capacity, following experience with the vehicle during the first Gulf War, where US forces found the British Army's vehicles to be more capable and better suited to operation in urban areas and for air-lifting than the Humvee. (See U.S. Army Ranger Special Operations Vehicle.) The British Army has used Land Rovers since the 1950s, as have many countries in the Commonwealth of Nations. The British Army replaced its Series III fleet with One Tens in 1985, with a smaller fleet of Nineties following in 1986. Both used the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated diesel engine. These older vehicles are reaching the end of their service lives, with many being sold onto the civilian market from the late 1990s.
The 2.5 diesel, 2.5 petrol and Diesel Turbo engines all shared the same block castings and other components such as valve-gear and cooling system parts, allowing them to be built on the same production line. The Diesel Turbo produced 85 hp (63 kW), a 13% increase over the naturally aspirated unit, and a 31.5% increase in torque to 150 lb⋅ft (203 N⋅m) at 1800 rpm. Externally, turbo diesel vehicles differed from other models only by having an air intake grille in the left-hand wing to supply cool air to the turbo. Early turbo-diesel engines gained a reputation for poor reliability, with major failures to the bottom-end and cracked pistons. A revised block and improved big end bearings were introduced in 1988, and a re-designed breather system in 1989. These largely solved the engine's problems, but it remained (like many early turbo-diesels) prone to failure if maintenance was neglected.
In 1989, a third model was brought out by Land Rover to be produced in parallel with the other two: the Land Rover Discovery. To avoid possible confusion, the 1991 model year Ninety and the One Ten were renamed the "Defender 90" and "Defender 110". These carried front badges that said "Defender", with a badge on the rear of the vehicle saying "Defender 90" or "Defender 110". The most recent model, from 2007–2016, still featured the space above the radiator for the badge but was blank. Instead it had "Land Rover" spelled across the leading edge of the bonnet in raised individual letters, in keeping with the Discovery and Freelander. At the rear was a new style of '"Defender" badge with an underlining "swoosh". On these last models there are no badges defining the wheelbase model of the vehicle.
The amphibious 90 built in 1989 for the Cowes Week sponsorship events. The base vehicle is a standard Diesel Turbo soft top.
The biggest change to the Land Rover came in late 1990, when it became the Land Rover Defender, instead of the Land Rover 90 or 110. This was because in 1989 the company had introduced the Discovery model, requiring the original Land Rover to acquire a name. The Discovery also had a new turbodiesel engine, the 200TDi. This was also loosely based on the existing 2.5-litre turbo unit, and was built on the same production line, but had a modern alloy cylinder head, improved turbocharging, intercooling and direct injection. It retained the block, crankshaft, main bearings, cambelt system, and other ancillaries as the Diesel Turbo. The breather system included an oil separator filter to remove oil from the air in the system, thus finally solving the Diesel Turbo's main weakness of re-breathing its own sump oil. The 200Tdi, produced 107 hp (80 kW) and 195 lb⋅ft (264 N⋅m) of torque, which was nearly a 25% improvement on the engine it replaced (although as installed in the Defender the engine was de-tuned slightly from its original Discovery 111 hp (83 kW) specification due to changes associated with the turbo position and exhaust routing).
In 1992 the first special edition Land Rover Defender was produced. Called the 90SV (SV stands for "special vehicles", as all the vehicles were produced by Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations department), they were painted turquoise and were fitted with a black canvas soft top with standard door tops. Alloy wheels were also fitted, together with rear disc brakes (a first for a Land Rover). Despite the vehicle's sporty looks, it used the standard 200Tdi turbodiesel engine. Only 90 were made for the UK market.
Throughout the 1990s the vehicle attempted to climb more and more upmarket, while remaining true to its working roots. This trend was epitomised by limited-edition vehicles, such as the SV90 in 1992 with roll-over protection cage, alloy wheels and metallic paint and the 50th anniversary 90 in 1998, equipped with automatic transmission, air conditioning and Range Rover 4.0-litre V8 engine.
In 1993 Land Rover launched the Defender in the North American (i.e. the United States and Canada) market. Although the Range Rover had been sold there since 1987, this was the first time utility Land Rovers had been sold since 1974. To comply with the strict United States Department of Transportation regulations, ranging from crash safety to lighting, as well as the very different requirements of American buyers, the North American Specification (NAS) Defenders were extensively modified. The initial export batch was 525 Defender 110 County 4x4s: 500 to the United States and 25 to Canada. They were fitted with the 3.9-litre V8 petrol engine, LT-77 five-speed manual transmission and LT230 transfer case. All of the vehicles were "Alpine" white (except one specifically painted black for Ralph Lauren). They sported full external roll-cages and larger side-indicator and tail-lights. All were equipped with the factory-fitted air conditioning system.
In 1994 Land Rover created the Defender XD (XD= extra duty) to replace and complement these vehicles. Powered by 300Tdi engines, the XD has a much stronger chassis, with fibre webbing around the welded joints in the chassis and around stress points to massively increase load capacity. The XD was available both in Defender 90 and 110 forms and is known to the British Army as the Land Rover Wolf. Usually 110-inch (2,794 mm) soft or hard tops, they are used for patrol, communications and supply duties. 90XDs are less common, but are generally ordered as soft top or hard top vehicles for light liaison and communications. Short-wheelbase vehicles lack the load capacity needed by modern armies, and the increased power of heavy-lift helicopters has made the larger 110s easily air-transportable- a historic advantage of the smaller, lighter 90.
According to Land Rover South Africa, "After the ground breaking amalgamation of the Rover Group with BMW internationally, the Defender 2.8i became the priority project of the two companies in February 1996 with the approval of both Land Rover UK and BMW AG. It is the first joint development since Land Rover South Africa was formed in January 1995." Some of BMW's top engineers including Frank Isenberg, head of BMW Driver Training and the F87 M2 project, were part of the development team. The project was initially top secret and in 2 to 3 weeks' time they had converted a Defender 110 that originally had a 3.5 litre V8 into the first 2.8i.
A special edition Defender Works V8, with 400bhp, was announced in January 2018. Until 2020 the Defender was last sold in the US in 1997, after which safety regulations prohibited its sale in North America.
In 1997, the final year of US Defender 90 production, the engine was improved, designated 4.0 and mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. In 1998, regulations changed to require the fitting of airbags for both front seat passengers in all vehicles, as well as side door impact requirements. The Defender could not be fitted with these without major modifications, which were not economically viable given the small numbers of NAS vehicles sold in relation to Land Rover's global sales. Land Rover retired its North American Specification utility vehicles at the end of 1997 to focus on its more profitable, popular and upmarket Discovery and Range Rover models, as well as the then newly launched Freelander. The next Defender may be sold in the US and Canadian markets in 2019 to compete with the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco.
In 1997, the last year that Defender 90’s were made available in the US, Land Rover created 300 Special Edition Station Wagons. Known as the Limited Edition (LE) these Land Rover Defender 90’s were painted with a unique one year colour known as Willow Green with a contrasting white accented roof; they were also fitted with body protection in the form of 5 large diamond plated sheets and an external safety cage with a full roof rack. The 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 LE also came with the following options as standard equipment: Air conditioning, rear ladder, rear step, twin tube running boards with diamond plate trim, front A bar and a limited edition placard which was affixed to the rear of the car that denoted its build number out of 300.
For Land Rover's 50th anniversary in 1998 two special editions were built. The first was the Defender 50th which was essentially a NAS (North American spec) Defender 90. It was powered by a 190 hp (140 kW) 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine and was the first Land Rover outside North America to be fitted with an automatic transmission. Air conditioning made them very comfortable vehicles. For the UK and Europe they were painted Atlantis blue, a dark green-blue flip-flop colour, and had a safety devices roll-over protection cage for the front seat occupants. In total 1071 50th anniversary Defenders were built; 385 for the UK home market, the rest for Japan, Europe and the Middle East.
In 1998, the Defender was fitted with an all-new 2.5-litre, five-cylinder in-line turbodiesel engine, badged the Td5. The Tdi could not meet upcoming Euro III emissions regulations so the Td5 replaced the Tdi as the only available power unit. The engine used electronic control systems and produced 122 hp (91 kW) at 4850 rpm, 11 hp (8 kW) more than the Tdi, with improved refinement. Traditionalists were critical of the electronic systems deployed throughout the vehicle, but concerns that these would fail when used in extreme conditions proved unfounded.
For the 2002 model year, further refinements were made to the Td5 engine to help it achieve ever-more stringent emission regulations. The "XS" 4x4 was introduced in 2002 as a top-specification level and the "County" package could be applied to every model in the line-up. XS models come with many "luxury" features, such as heated windscreen, heated seats, air conditioning, ABS and traction control and part-leather seats. At the same time other detail improvements were made including a dash centre console, improved instrument illumination and the availability of front electric windows for the first time on a Defender. The design faults of the two-piece rear 4x4 door were finally eradicated with a one-piece door featuring a rubber weather sealing strip for the rear window.
Following the first Land Rover G4 Challenge in 2003, G4-Edition Defenders became available. As well as the distinctive Tangiers orange colour of the competition vehicles, yellow, silver and black versions were also produced. Defender 90 and 110 4x4 versions were available, with front A-bar, roll-cage, side-steps and front spotlights as standard, as well as G4 badging.
The 1999 X-Tech was aimed at the commercial market, being a metallic silver 90 hard top fitted with County-style seats, alloy wheels and Alpine window lights. The second model year edition in 2003 was better equipped with wing protector plates and air conditioning.
In 2004 a fleet of 12 long wheelbase 110 Td5 Land Rovers were produced for the federal German government, varying between 110 vans, 110 HCPUs and 110 4x4s. The German government did not renew the supply contract after 2006, instead turning to Mercedes for their logistics fleet.
With 300Tdi production stopping in 2006, Land Rover set up production of a military version of the four-cylinder Ford Duratorq engine that is also used as a replacement for the Td5 in civilian vehicles.
The main change for the 2012 models was the installation of a different engine from the Ford Duratorq engine range. Ford decided, due to cost reasons, not to modify the 2.4-litre engine introduced in 2007 to meet the upcoming Euro V emissions standards and so the engine was replaced with the ZSD-422 engine, essentially a 2.2-litre variant of the same engine. Although smaller than the existing unit the power and torque outputs remained unchanged and the same six-speed gearbox was used as well. The engine included a diesel particulate filter for the first time on a Defender. The only other change was the reintroduction of the soft top body style to the general market. This had been a popular option for the Land Rover Series but by the introduction of the Defender had been relegated to special order and military buyers only. Land Rover stated that the option was being brought back due to customer feedback. The last Defender, a soft-top "90" rolled off the Solihull production line at 9:22 on Friday 29 January 2016. The BBC reports that the Defender's replacement is due to be launched in 2018/2019.
In August 2011, Land Rover announced an update of the Defender for the 2012 model year. By this time, Land Rover publicly acknowledged that it was working on a project to produce an all-new replacement for the Defender. This would lead to the unveiling of the first DC100 concept vehicle in September that year. While emissions and safety regulations have threatened the Defender since the early 2000s, these had either been avoided or Land Rover had found ways to modify the vehicle to economically meet the new requirements. However, safety regulations due for introduction in 2015 requiring minimum pedestrian safety standards and the fitment of airbags to commercial vehicles cannot be met without a wholesale redesign of the Defender.
In 2012 the German company 4WARD4X4 started to develop monitoring shelters and transport flatbeds for the military Land Rover Defender 130 single cab.
However, following successful trials by the Australian Defence Force of the TD5 Landrover, the British MOD purchased a small fleet of TD5 Landrover Defender 110s for its "Green Fleet" between 2000 and 2002. These were specially converted for the MOD by Landrover Specialist Vehicles. They were plated with UK military registration plates and painted IRR green. Most of these vehicles were deployed in the Falklands as troop carriers and communications vehicles for use by the Royal Marines and UK Special Forces. A small number of TD5 Defender 110s were also ordered for the Royal Navy. These were painted navy blue and deployed to the Falklands. Of these Royal Navy vehicles a few were later re-painted IRR green and reassigned to Royal Marines and SBS use. The more powerful TD5 engine, which was capable of being re-mapped up to around 200 Bhp was ideally suited to the rugged terrain of the Falklands and for towing trailers. The majority of these Falkland vehicles were sold off to Military Motors Ltd by the MOD in 2013. The troop carriers had eight passenger seats in the rear and two rear side windows each side for extra visibility. Visually, these UK military troop carrier TD5 Defenders looked similar to the ones used by the Australian Defence Force except that the UK ones were plain IRR green.
To mark the end of production, Land Rover asked British fashion designer Paul Smith to produce a one-off version of the Defender, which was launched in May 2015. The car's exterior featured 27 different colours on the exterior inspired by the Defender’s long life in service with the Army, Navy and Air Force as well as fire, coastguard and mountain rescue roles but also by the colours of the British countryside where Defenders have long since become part of the landscape.
After a continuous run of 67 years production finally ended on 29 January 2016, after a total of just over two million Land Rover Series and Defender models had been built. The two millionth unit was assembled with the help of a special team in May of 2015, and charitably auctioned for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) Societies later that year. The last Land Rover Defender, rolled off the production line, with the number plate H166 HUE, a reference to the first ever pre-production Land Rover, registration 'HUE 166'.
In January 2018 Land Rover unveiled the Defender Works V8 as part of the Defender's 70th Anniversary. The 150 examples feature a naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre Jaguar AJ-V8 engine producing 405 PS and 515 Nm, mated to an 8-speed ZF 8HP automatic gearbox. Land Rover additionally fitted new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars and uprated brakes along with 18" alloy wheels and all-terrain tyres. The 70th Anniversary Defenders were "restomods" produced by Land Rover Classic division and not a new production model. They were late-model, pre-registered Defenders that were carefully selected based on age, mileage, and condition. They were built in both 90 and 110 wheelbases, with a starting price of £150,000.
The 2020 Defender was unveiled on 10 September 2019 at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany. This is the first all-new update for the Defender since 1983. The 2020 Defender has been engineered to comply with global car regulations and is expected to be sold in 128 territories, including the world's two largest car markets; China and the United States.
The all-new 2020 Land Rover Defender made its global debut in September 2019 and is initially offered with two wheelbase options.
In 2020 Land Rover brought back the Land Rover Defender only as the 4 door model with 8 speed automatic and a 2.0 or 3.0 engine and standard hardtop and automatic transmission.