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Land Rover Defender Heritage Vehicles

43 years ago, Land Rover introduced its vehicles to the world. Ever since then, a global battle for off-road supremacy has been raging amongst the automotive industry heavyweights, all hoping to claim the title of the “Ultimate Off Roader” with their new trucks and SUVs.

From the 1947 Centre Steer to the illustrious “Huey”, the Rover Company and subsequent Land Rover marque has been a pioneering force in the overlanding industry since its inception in 1948, popularizing the utilitarian four-wheel drive design that we have come to know and love today.

The British company is perhaps most well-known for their rugged, aluminum-clad overlander and the Defender name it wears proudly, born into the 90’s as the rowdy child of the Land Rover 110 and 90. Whether embarking on the Camel Trophy’s daring excursions, carrying out overseas military missions, or hauling Mr. 007 himself around in the superspy’s latest No Time To Die film, the Defender remains one of the most influential off-road vehicles ever created.

It all began in the late 40’s with the Land Rover Series 1, a bare-bones all-terrain vehicle powered by a 1.3-liter Rover P3 engine that barely produced power figures in the double digits. It lacked the traditional exterior design cues we’ve come to recognize on a Defender, with its aesthetics based loosely on the Willys Jeep of its time. But, as the years piled on, so did the options.

In 1958, the Series II launched, still sporting the same steel frame as its predecessor, but this time with a 2.25-liter powerplant to encourage it onwards. These years also saw Land Rover refine their classic design language, keeping the inboard headlights and incorporating a more pronounced bodyline. The Series III then arrived on the scene in 1971, bringing with it creature comforts like a basic heater and extended dashboard.

Midway through the Series III’s lifecycle, Land Rover debuted their first V8-driven model—the 109 Series III (Stage 1). With 91-horsepower on tap courtesy of its naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter engine, the 109 was far more robust than its ancestors, capable of reaching a top speed of 75 miles per hour—an amazing feat for the nearly 4,000 pound behemoth. The evolution then continued with the Land Rover One-Ten (110) and and Ninety (90), which were the first of their kind to come equipped with a revitalized coil-spring suspension, rather than their antiquated leaf spring design. Fresh off of the heels of its Discovery reveal in 1989, Land Rover released the first-ever Defender. It paid homage to its forefathers with various wheelbase and powerplant configurations, featuring more modernized technology all the way up until its production ended in January 2016.

While the latest iteration is supported by an aluminum unibody, it still pays homage to its more mature grandparents. With design cues reminiscent of its boxy forefathers, the 2020 reiteration of the Defender marries the vintage charm of the original model with the engineering capabilities of modern technology, making grocery-getting responsibilities as natural as overland missions. An automatic 8-speed transmission, electronic rear differential, and all-terrain sensor mapping system helps the new variant retain its off-road capabilities and engage its driver, imbuing the entire experience with a sensation that is oh so Land Rover. In honor of the Series III, the upcoming 2022 Defender is also slated to debut with an optionable V8-motor, a monster that puts out a whopping 518-horsepower from its 5.0-liter supercharged platform. In case you’re counting, that’s good for a zero-to-60 mile per hour time of 4.9 seconds—power figures that have today’s competitors shaking in their boots.

But the Defender would not be beaten that easily, and neither it nor its fans were ready to concede defeat. Just four years later, the Defender would be resurrected—as the current generation L663.

While the latest iteration is supported by an aluminum unibody, it still pays homage to its more mature grandparents. With design cues reminiscent of its boxy forefathers, the 2020 reiteration of the Defender marries the vintage charm of the original model with the engineering capabilities of modern technology, making grocery-getting responsibilities as natural as overland missions. 

It’s unlikely the new Defender will ever completely replace the older generations in our hearts, but there’s one thing we will say—its devotion to its heritage will certainly make them proud!

An automatic 8-speed transmission, electronic rear differential, and all-terrain sensor mapping system helps the new variant retain its off-road capabilities and engage its driver, imbuing the entire experience with a sensation that is oh so Land Rover. In honor of the Series III, the upcoming 2022 Defender is also slated to debut with an optionable V8-motor, a monster that puts out a whopping 518-horsepower from its 5.0-liter supercharged platform. In case you’re counting, that’s good for a zero-to-60 mile per hour time of 4.9 seconds—power figures that have today’s competitors shaking in their boots.