Our mate from across the ditch, Tumm Funn, once moaned about spending six months in a leaky boat… Luxury!! Try spending a day riding shotgun in a Defender!
Of course, this iconic British paddock bomb has loads of character, I'll give it that.
But. This car is surely one big, elaborate pisstake??
I can imagine the meeting at Land Rover HQ. “Ok chaps, here's what we do… We take a perfectly good Discovery, then we shall remove all traces of comfort, safety and performance… and see if we can sell one!”
As my deep vein thrombosis sets in, I'm sure there must be a crusty Brit somewhere, chortling away at us.
This is my mate's car, which I have travelled in and driven many times on various 4x4 adventures. It's a 1994 model, however the candles on the cake mean nothing in a Defender. The ‘94 model is the same as the '84 model, which is the same as the 2015 model. The R&D blokes at Land Rover have a pretty easy time with this car. “Box on wheels again chaps?” “Jolly good then, feet up for another year.”
Creature comforts? Next teller please.
Which is fine with me. There is something refreshing about finding something that works, and sticking to it. If you prefer utility to comfort, the Defender might just win you over.
This is a 4x4 vehicle without peer. Huge ground clearance allows you to sail over rocks and fallen trees without breaking stride. Wheel articulation borders on ridiculous. I challenge anyone to get stuck with a wheel in the air while driving a Defender. Not impossible, but close to it. This was also one of the first off road vehicles to come with coil springs on each corner, rather than the familiar leaf spring rear end of older 4x4s. This gives a bouncy, but comfortable ride over even the most extreme terrain.
However the comfort stops once you get back to the black top. The Defender only makes sense when it is being asked to bash through the bush. If you plan to use it for commuting or highway driving, then please walk away now. Actually, run away. And don't look back.
It is a source of constant amusement in our group, just how bad the Defender is on road. A fish flapping around on land looks more comfortable! Nicknamed Ned, this example of the breed is always the slowest car in our group on road. Daylight is second, then the old pig 60 series, then daylight, then everyone else. 83 Kilowatts pulling 2.5 tonne doesn't win you any land speed records!
Zero – 100 time? Well that's a grey area, and requires all sorts of planets to line up before reaching for the stop watch. Downhill with a tailwind, you might crack a minute. Might.
Not just unsuited to road use, I am convinced that the Defender is actually allergic to bitumen! The picture above is the result of Ned dropping its tail shaft on a perfectly flat, nice piece of highway. Bang!! Clearly the stress of a flat open road was too much! Remarkably though, after removing the offending part and pushing on in front wheel drive, the Defender made is way to the dirt, and then continued on for the rest of the weekend. And despite the limp, it made it up and down some pretty narly tracks that weekend. While using as many driven wheels as my mum's Camry.
Another weird positive about the Defender, and I hate to say it… it's a Land Rover! Now I don't really get it, but these Land Rover nuts are a fiercely loyal bunch. Every time you pass another Defender on the road you'll get the one finger off the wheel and a nod. G'day mate. Nice car.
And try stopping at a servo next to another one! Bring a sandwich, because you'll be there a while. Defender owners are genetically wired to drop everything and exchange life stories wherever they meet! I don't know if cult is the right word, but you get the idea.
But that is part of the fun, owning a Defender is an experience, not just transport. You can't help but smile as you crawl over gigantic boulders, wheels reaching down to find terra firma, the car is on a 45 degree angle, and it just keeps on going.
Give it a chance – you might just like it. Of course, remember to buy a normal car too, if you ever plan to drive on a road.