Paul Rutter Land Rovers

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A Quick History Lesson On The Land Rover Defender

The Land Rover® Defender passed into history at the end of last year when production ceased. Whilst we wait until 2019 for Jaguar Land Rover to give us the new Defender they have promised, we look back at the story of a British icon in the motor trade.

Paul Rutter Land Rovers is a specialist with a great deal of knowledge for all aspects of the Land Rover and Range Rover family of vehicles, so if you have any issues with your now “historic” Defender do not hesitate to contact us 01243 265727.

In The Beginning

To understand the Defender we need to go back to a time before the Defender, before the Freelander and before the Discovery. Back to a time when there were just Land Rovers and Range Rovers - that was it!

What we know now is that the Defender began its life as the new generation of Land Rover for the 1980s. The vehicle had gone through three main iterations since launching at the London Motor Show in 1948 - which also saw the Morris Minor take its first bow.  So it was time for something new from Land Rover.

A Break With The Past

In a break with the past the new vehicle was not designated the series IV, following the series I, II and III. Instead 1983's newcomer was the Land Rover 110, the number referring to the wheel base length. It was followed in 1984 by the Land Rover 90 and Land Rover 127 in 1985.

It was not just an exercise in rebranding though. The suspension used coil springs to provide a more comfortable ride and better axle articulation. The vehicle also included the Range Rover's permanent four-wheel drive system, two speed transfer gear box and lockable centre differential.  On top of that the engines became more powerful over time and the interior more comfortable too.

The new vehicle enabled the company to make progress in overseas markets where it had lost ground to competitors like the Toyota Land Cruiser.

New Decade - New Name

Until the end of the 1980s, the only other vehicle in the family was the Range Rover,  which was busy ploughing its own luxurious furrow. However the launch of the Land Rover Discovery in 1989 necessitated a name change. The Discovery took the chassis and drivetrain of the Range Rover into a more mainstream segment. It provided an opportunity to give the Land Rover a stronger standalone identity.

The Land Rover Defender was born just in time for the 1990s.

Mechanical Innovation

Moving forward mechanically, the Defender used the new 200TDI turbodiesel engine. In 1992 it offered the 300TDI and there was a general move upmarket with special editions like the SV90.

In 1998 in order to comply with stricter European engine regulations it gained the 2.5-litre, five-cylinder in-line turbodiesel engine and was badged as the Td5.

Increasingly stringent vehicle emissions legislation through the early years of the 21st century led to a series of ever-cleaner engines. 2007's model saw the bonnet reshaped to  meet pedestrian safety rules, and allow the new engine to fit in the bay. The new model also had a new dashboard for the first time.


Even more severe safety standards came into force in 2015 meaning the Defender's time had come. In its last facelift, the company began to offer the soft-top again, which had not been available for civilian buyers since the Series III.

Going Forward

Going forward, The Land Rover DC100 concept was unveiled in 2011 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, perhaps giving a clue of what could be expected in the future.  

Considering how many Defenders are on the road in Britain and abroad, either military or civilian use in all manner of variants, it will remain an automotive fixture for many years to come.

At Paul Rutter Land Rovers we have the experience and knowledge to deal with any issues you may have with your Discovery (or any of the Land Rover or Range Rover family), so do not hesitate to contact us if you need assistance.



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