1983 saw the introduction of the Land Rover 110 followed in 1984 by the Land Rover 90. They offered a vast improvement over the Series III Land Rovers, with front disc brakes, coil springs, servo-assisted brakes, permanent four wheel drive and much improved cabin comfort which even stretched to wind up windows on the Land Rover 90! 5 speed gearbox was standard on the 4 cylinder engined vehicles, and the 4 speed LT95 gearbox originally offered in long wheel base 110 V8 was soon replaced by the Santana LT85 5 speed gearbox.
Instantly they were a success with farmers; construction companies and export markets the world over loved them. A first for Land Rover, the Turbo D engine was fitted from 1989, offering previously unimagined power and torque. The Land Rover 90 and 110 names became known as the Defender from 1991, at which time the superb 200 Tdi engine became available, upgraded to the 300Tdi in late 1993 when rear disc brakes became standard.
Land Rover produced various unusual models for particular applications, the most common of which is the 127 (later known as the 130) extra-long wheelbase. High Capacity Pick Up (HCPU) versions are useful for commercial uses, and many utility companies made use of specially bodied vehicles such as crew cabs, tippers or boxed-back models. Aid agencies in Africa and elsewhere have a fondness for the 110 Station Wagon models, especially the 2.5 Petrol or Tdi engined vehicles. The British Army has made continued use of the Defender the world over, from Northern Ireland to the Middle East, and have contributed to the vehicle's enduring appeal to the British public.
The 90/110 Defender has proven to be a huge success in the history of the Land Rover company, being in production for well over 30 years with very few major changes throughout this period. Different engines have been available offering more levels of driveability and power; the Td5 from 1998 to 2006, the Ford 'Puma' 2.4 and later 2.2 diesel from 2007 onwards. Special limited edition models are always sought after; the Tomb Raider Defenders made famous in the eponymous film, the 90SV (Special Vehicles), the 50th LE with their 4.0 litre V8 petrol engine and automatic transmission, the Heritage which harked back to original spirit of the very first Series 1 vehicles, the SVX soft top model, to name but a few. The Defender's popularity as a 'go anywhere' vehicle has encouraged a never-ending, fanatical following from people of all walks of life, and in latter years the relatively high specification of the XS has been a popular option with buyers of new 90 hardtops and Defender 110 Station Wagons and Utility versions.
The Camel Trophy events of the late 1980s and 1990s were perfect testing grounds and offered consistently positive marketing material for the distinctly liveried mustard coloured Land Rover Defenders, followed later by the bright orange G4 Challenge Defenders. Many many Defenders, especially the shorter wheelbase 90, are used by enthusiastic off-roaders recreationally or in extreme off-road competitions the world over. The dazzling array of bolt-on bits available for these vehicles needs to be seen to be believed; we dedicate a huge section of our online ordering website to the spares parts and accessories for the Defender 90/110.
Reliability and durability have always been strong points in establishing the mighty reputation of the Defender, and maintainence is, on the whole, possible by any competent mechanic. Later engines such as the Td5 and Puma can throw up frustrating and expensive trips to specialist Land Rover workshop, as can the (rare) ABS system, but the majority of the model's components are good old-fashioned electronic-free items, all of which are readily available at reasonable prices. Corrosion of the chassis extremeties (rear cross member and outriggers), bulkhead and doors is common but surmountable as all repair panels are available; again, see our weblistings for details of all.
Perhaps there will never again be a more loved and truly iconic British vehicle than the Defender 90.