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Land Rover Defender

Land Rover/County/Defender

Land Rover logo1 Mar 1948

THE original version of the Land Rover County (nee Defender) changed the face of motoring as well as some of the more inaccessible areas of the world when it was released in 1948.

In the first two years of its life the model earned five million pounds sterling in foreign currency, a godsend to the struggling post-war British economy.

The Land Rover has been described as "the world's most versatile vehicle", being sold in a wide variety of forms from basic cab chassis to four door station wagon.

The vehicle was instrumental in opening up the Australian outback.

Although today’s Land Rover also produces the world's most upmarket four-wheel drive in the Range Rover, today’s Defender – the name given to the ‘original’ Land Rover in 1993 – is respected for its workmanlike nature.

It’s also been known as the ‘County’, which was available here from 1985 to 1992. Before that it was simply ‘Land Rover’. Any way you look at it, the world’s original SUV is still a tough, no frills utilitarian vehicle designed to do an honest job of work.

Changes were frequent since its ’48 launch. In 1960 the Series II brought tandem wipers ’63 saw turn indicators a bar and wire grille appeared from ’67’s Series III, while the ‘modern’ headlights-in-guard look (as opposed to the slightly cross-eyed headlights-flanking-grille appearance) debuted in Australia in July ’72.

Before 1980, all Land Rovers used one of the following engines in Australia: a 52kW/159Nm 2.3-litre OHV four-cylinder a 64kW/179Nm 2.6-litre OHV six-cylinder or a 46kW/137Nm 2.3-litre OHV diesel – all mated to a four-speed manual gearbox.

In 1980 the arrival of the Buick-based 3.5-litre V8 engine brought much greater performance. It offered 69kW and 230Nm from ’80-’84 and 93kW/258Nm – with a five-speed manual gearbox – from October ’84 to 1991.

Meanwhile the upgraded 3.9-litre OHV diesel from 1981 delivered 72kW and 255Nm. It gained a five-speed manual gearbox in 1988.

An 83kW/255Nm 2.5-litre turbo-diesel was fitted from early 1993, bumping up to 90kW and 300Nm when the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel replacement lobbed in during 1999.

All engines drove all four wheels full-time through a five-speed manual gearbox.

The County shares its 2mm steel box section ladder chassis with the 1970-1995 Range Rover and the 1989-2004 Discovery.

Suspension is by beam axles and coil springs all round, with exceptional wheel movement.

Body styling could best be described as boxy and practical with the aluminium body panels reducing overall vehicle weight and helping lower the vehicle's centre of gravity.

Lack of body overhang gives the County good approach and departure angles. With Rover's full-time four-wheel drive system there is no need to get out and engage hubs to obtain maximum traction - a useful feature if conditions catch you by surprise.

With a lockable centre differential and exceptional suspension travel, the Land Rover is a truly go-anywhere machine.

From the early 1990s brakes have been power-assisted discs at the front and drums at the rear.

Steering is worm and roller, power assisted, with four turns lock to lock and a turning circle of 12.8 metres.

The square-styled body has either two or four doors, seats either two or five people and the body panels are aluminium for light weight and corrosion proofing.

Inside, rubber flooring and a fully moulded headlining, vinyl upholstery and under seat storage boxes, and a wading plug - for letting the water out after deep creek crossings - all attest to the practical nature of the vehicle.

A radio/cassette is fitted as one of the few creature comforts but air-conditioning became standard from 1989.

With the 3.5-litre V8 pushing around a vehicle weighing in at over 3000kg, performance and economy are, to put it bluntly, unremarkable. The 3.8-litre diesel, superseded by the Discovery's turbo diesel in later models, is lighter on fuel.

Stark but strong, the Defender is a vehicle for rugged, practical use. Its ultra strong chassis and massive wheel travel make it ideal for serious off-road work and, although light on creature comforts, it is a popular choice for outback use.

THE original version of the Land Rover County (nee Defender) changed the face of motoring as well as some of the more inaccessible areas of the world when it was released in 1948.

In the first two years of its life the model earned five million pounds sterling in foreign currency, a godsend to the struggling post-war British economy.

The Land Rover has been described as "the world's most versatile vehicle", being sold in a wide variety of forms from basic cab chassis to four door station wagon.

The vehicle was instrumental in opening up the Australian outback.

Although today’s Land Rover also produces the world's most upmarket four-wheel drive in the Range Rover, today’s Defender – the name given to the ‘original’ Land Rover in 1993 – is respected for its workmanlike nature.

It’s also been known as the ‘County’, which was available here from 1985 to 1992. Before that it was simply ‘Land Rover’. Any way you look at it, the world’s original SUV is still a tough, no frills utilitarian vehicle designed to do an honest job of work.

Changes were frequent since its ’48 launch. In 1960 the Series II brought tandem wipers ’63 saw turn indicators a bar and wire grille appeared from ’67’s Series III, while the ‘modern’ headlights-in-guard look (as opposed to the slightly cross-eyed headlights-flanking-grille appearance) debuted in Australia in July ’72.

Before 1980, all Land Rovers used one of the following engines in Australia: a 52kW/159Nm 2.3-litre OHV four-cylinder a 64kW/179Nm 2.6-litre OHV six-cylinder or a 46kW/137Nm 2.3-litre OHV diesel – all mated to a four-speed manual gearbox.

In 1980 the arrival of the Buick-based 3.5-litre V8 engine brought much greater performance. It offered 69kW and 230Nm from ’80-’84 and 93kW/258Nm – with a five-speed manual gearbox – from October ’84 to 1991.

Meanwhile the upgraded 3.9-litre OHV diesel from 1981 delivered 72kW and 255Nm. It gained a five-speed manual gearbox in 1988.

An 83kW/255Nm 2.5-litre turbo-diesel was fitted from early 1993, bumping up to 90kW and 300Nm when the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel replacement lobbed in during 1999.

All engines drove all four wheels full-time through a five-speed manual gearbox.

The County shares its 2mm steel box section ladder chassis with the 1970-1995 Range Rover and the 1989-2004 Discovery.

Suspension is by beam axles and coil springs all round, with exceptional wheel movement.

Body styling could best be described as boxy and practical with the aluminium body panels reducing overall vehicle weight and helping lower the vehicle's centre of gravity.

Lack of body overhang gives the County good approach and departure angles. With Rover's full-time four-wheel drive system there is no need to get out and engage hubs to obtain maximum traction - a useful feature if conditions catch you by surprise.

With a lockable centre differential and exceptional suspension travel, the Land Rover is a truly go-anywhere machine.

From the early 1990s brakes have been power-assisted discs at the front and drums at the rear.

Steering is worm and roller, power assisted, with four turns lock to lock and a turning circle of 12.8 metres.

The square-styled body has either two or four doors, seats either two or five people and the body panels are aluminium for light weight and corrosion proofing.

Inside, rubber flooring and a fully moulded headlining, vinyl upholstery and under seat storage boxes, and a wading plug - for letting the water out after deep creek crossings - all attest to the practical nature of the vehicle.

A radio/cassette is fitted as one of the few creature comforts but air-conditioning became standard from 1989.

With the 3.5-litre V8 pushing around a vehicle weighing in at over 3000kg, performance and economy are, to put it bluntly, unremarkable. The 3.8-litre diesel, superseded by the Discovery's turbo diesel in later models, is lighter on fuel.

Stark but strong, the Defender is a vehicle for rugged, practical use. Its ultra strong chassis and massive wheel travel make it ideal for serious off-road work and, although light on creature comforts, it is a popular choice for outback use.

Under BMW ownership, Land Rover decided that a new heart was needed for its half-century-old workhorse to see in the new Millennium.

So in went a 90kW/300Nm version of the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel and five-speed manual gearbox combination introduced in the early 1990s.

Three wheelbase sizes were offered – with the 2360mm ‘90’ joining the long-established 2794mm ‘110’ wagon and cab-chassis and 3226mm ‘130’ cab-chassis and crew cab-chassis utility models from 2003 to 2006.

The Extreme variants brought more equipment with them, while a Tomb Raider edition in 2001 coincided with the release of the Hollywood movie of the same name.

In November 2007, Land Rover introduced a revised Defender.

The changes are not immediately obvious since the same ‘110’ wagon and ‘130’ four-door utility architecture choices have been retained.

Until you sit inside and drive the Defender that is, since a redesigned dashboard dominates a 30 per cent quieter interior that also features forward-facing third-row seating availability for the first time (in the 110), while an all-new powerplant results in a 20 per cent boost in torque.

From the driver’s seat, you are most likely to notice the ‘reprofiled’ bonnet that features a hump as a result of a taller engine installation.

It is the only real visual clue to the new vehicle – along with the spelling of ‘LAND ROVER’ instead of ‘DEFENDER’ on the bonnet’s trailing edge.

A 2.4-litre 16-valve common-rail four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine derived from a unit found in Ford’s VM Transit van range is now the Defender’s sole powerplant.

Described as a major step forward in refinement and driveability, it delivers 90kW of power at 2200rpm (with 90 per cent available from less than 2000 to 4350rpm) and 360Nm of torque at 2000rpm (similarly, 315Nm of that is present from 1500 to 2700rpm).

It usurps the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel unit that produces 90kW at 4200rpm and 300Nm at 1950rpm and dated back from the 1990s.

As before, torque is transmitted fifty-fifty split full-time to all four wheels, with high and low-range gearing included.

The only gearbox on offer is an equally fresh-to-Defender six-speed manual transmission. As before, no automatic is available.

Dubbed GFT MT 82, the new manual eclipses the old gearbox by utilising a wider spread of ratios for improved off-road and cruising abilities.

The re-release of the Defender 90 short-wheelbase in late-2009 was not a continuation of the ‘retro’ vogue so much as it was the past re-occupying the present. In looks, this car had changed very little from the 1948 original.

Its antiquated design ensured the polarising nature of the Defender 90. On one hand, its legendary toughness and its charm, on the other its lack of modern tech – no airbags, for instance – and not insubstantial starting price of $44,990.

The 90 sat on a 2360mm wheelbase, shorter than the 2794mm for the 110 models and 3225mm for the long-wheelbase Defender 130 models released in Australia at the tail end of 2007.

Standard features included a dual-range gearbox and permanent four-wheel drive, a locking centre differential, anti-lock brakes, traction control, an anti-stall system and power steering.

Luxuries ran to a CD player, air-conditioning, rubber floor mats, electric front windows, remote central locking, a heated rear window, a rear wiper with washer, cloth seats, a cubby box with cupholders, a folding rear step, mud flaps, headlight levelling and a perimetric alarm with an immobiliser.

Based on the heavily re-engineered L316 Defender launched in November 2007, the 90 wagon gained all of the interior and drivetrain refinements of the biggest update of the 1948 Land Rover design to date. Power came courtesy of a 2.4-litre 16-valve common-rail four-cylinder turbo-diesel unit derived from Ford’s VM Transit van range.

Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox (the only transmission on offer), it delivered 90kW of power at 2200rpm and 360Nm of torque at 2000rpm – with 315Nm of the latter available from 1500 to 2700rpm.

The combined fuel consumption average was 10 litres per 100 kilometres, while the carbon dioxide emissions rating was 266 grams per kilometre. The tank held 60 litres.

The 90 wagon’s suspension system was a live beam axle with single rate coil springs, telescopic hydraulic dampers and a Panhard rod, holding up alloy wheels shod with 235/85 R16 tyres. Its length/width/height measurements were 3894/1790/2021mm front and rear track width were 1486mm ground clearance was rated at 323mm the wading depth maximum was 500mm the approach/ramp breakover/departure/traverse angles were 47/147/47/35 degrees and maximum braked/unbraked towing capacity was 3500/750kg.

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