This I suppose, is my love letter to Land Rover, my mixed thoughts and feeling of the old and the new. These are just my own personal thoughts as I ponder around driving my own Land Rover Defender 90 TD5 XS, my daily drive.
I’ve watched the launch of the new Defender with Julia Bradbury (who’s lovely by the way) interviewing the engineers and designers in Frankfurt. I’ve also watched Richard Hammond ‘Drivetribe’ and Matt Watson ‘Carwow’ and others alike on their first look around the vehicle. No test drive yet, but as we all know the people at Land Rover are very clever and have obviously carried out a handbag full of tests so there’s no doubt that the new Defender can do everything the old one can, you’ve only got to look at the rest of their fleet of vehicles to know that. I’ve also seen the Lego Defender at the price of £160, I like it and will most probably buy one (just to clarify…the Lego model).
But I fear the Land Rover Defender has now been caught up with the rest of the cars on the road with technology that now seems to be moving faster than the world can spin. With every vehicle on the road being stuffed full of electrics, ECU’s and data that connects to the big brother somewhere in secret cyber land and their kitchen sink and most probably the socks in their drawer. But as we also know, electrics and water are not the best of mixes which might be an issue for what people usually buy Defenders for. It’s usually recognised as a real die hard, basic, no frills 4×4 as is the reason why we like the old one. I like to compare it in a way that vinyl is the music equivalent to the original Defender. I understand that my TD5 has more electrics than the older 300TDI and the model before that, also the Puma has more electrics than my 90 TD5. So the new model 2020 must look like a BT exchange box or an explosion at a spaghetti factory when finding a fault. But I’m far from a Land Rover engineer so it might be bomb proof, only time will tell.
There’s definitely no denying that the new Defender is going to be nice and capable of doing what it says on the tin, plus more friendly to drive on the road than the original. Let’s not forget the emissions will be lower. For some of us, we might not care about that, not while the whoever the Prime Minister of the day is steps in to their big fat car with a big engine to take them around the corner to Parliament, and that’s while the rest of Parliament are flying back and forth to Brussels to talk empty air to one another (a story for another day) as my new saying goes #copyrightdavefrantony ‘If you can Skype it don’t fly it!’ Sorry, I’ve digressed.
I’ve read lots of comments on the internet of what people think so far. Like ‘It’s not a DEFENDER it’s a WEEKENDER or PRETENDER even an OFFENDER.’ It’s got me thinking why do I have one? Why do I love driving it? It’s my second Defender 90, I’ve owned this one for five years and it still makes me smile. It’s quirky, bouncy and has a steering wheel the size of dustbin lid and yes, each of the five gears are in different postcodes but I don’t care. Even though the cars behind me at the lights think I’m purposely driving slow (I’m not honestly) it just takes a while to get to each gear using a slow and steady hand. As I drive it every day, my left leg is now far bigger than my right due to pressing down on the clutch. You beautiful owners will know, the clutch is like pushing back the whole of the British Lions rugby team in a scrum. I love that when it rains hard the passenger footwell likes to turn into a small picturesque lake. Don’t quote me on this but I was sure I saw a heron trying to squeeze its way in through the large door gaps once. I like it when I brake in the heavy rain and drops of water drip on my feet over the pedals. The heaters take a while to warm up, although I’m very lucky to have one with heated seats. My old 1987 Defender I once drove fifteen miles in and it was colder than when I got in it! And let’s not forget the small flat windscreen that gives you the driving experience like you’re looking out through a letter box. I feel I understand what it must be like to look out of a Burka (just saying!).
That’s all before it likes to steam up if you have too much warm moist saliva in your mouth. I must also mention the pencil length wipers that look like they are going to stop working any minute. The seats are short but so am I so that’s okay. There’s no room to swing a gnat around with its wings in its pockets, so your elbows are down in your groin, unless the window is open, then you have elbow relief. But it’s like putting on your old favourite trainers that you don’t mind looking a bit scruffy but comfortably happy in.
It always amazes me that the engine goes quieter when the music gets louder. Sometimes basic is good, basic is all we need, less is more and less can be perfect. In Sardinia, I once saw a woman in her late sixties wearing a scarf over her hair and sunglasses driving an old Mini Moke. I stopped in the street thinking ‘She’s the coolest person I’ve ever seen!’
My Defender 90 has four seats in the back that when unclipped sit down and face sideways, and everyone who rides in it, loves it. They hold on with white knuckles, bouncing like I’m driving over a row of bollards whilst grinning all the way. It makes them smile and that’s always a good thing. Wherever I park it, people young and old, male or female always compliment how they like the look of the Land Rover Defender and that its built as if it were from a Meccano set, and that’s why the purists love it. As long as you have a log book and VIN plate, well, just as the saying goes in the opening credits of the Six Million Dollar Man “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him…… we have the technology.”
But as we knew would happen, this can’t be done with the new Defender. So is it going to be like the rest of their fleet that in ten to fifteen years it’s going to end up on the scrap heap? Tell me the last time you saw a fifteen to twenty year old Range Rover or Discovery looking good on the road. I use mine for the school run and I’m grateful as most parents will happily park on your face if it gets them closer to the school gates, not to mention the army of grandparents that clearly aren’t allowed to retire and enjoy life. They now have to bring up their kids kids. My Defender comes in handy at this time, helping me not to worry if it’s going to get damaged by another parked car as most think that the white lines in between car park spaces are for lining up with the gear box, and for this reason I’m glad and relieved that I drive an original solid Land Rover Defender.
As I’ve said there is no other vehicle with so many quirks, but quirky is fun, quirky is excitement and God knows we need all need more of that. Like there’s the painful reminder on the odd occasion of banging your bum cheek on the warship size door catch that gives you a bruise that’ll make your bum look like night and day for a few weeks.
Also how the seatbelt gets caught in the catch and door making it look like it’s been used for target practise by the M.O.D. We all know the standard joke that it leaks oil from wherever it can, albeit and you’re not going to believe me but mine never has. It doesn’t even burn any engine oil……. I know! The original Defender’s parts are cheap and an easy fix, especially up to the 300tdi’s, I hear you can fix them with the nearest branch, blade of grass and a dead fly off the windscreen….
I love how they are built like tanks, a woman once reversed into my first Defender 90; not a scratch on my solid bumper but her tailgate and rear panel were squashed. When I wash it, I love how the rivets from it being hand-made tear up my sponge like a truck full of hungry Locusts who haven’t eaten for forty days. Also, let us not forget how the original Defenders willingly give our local spiders a home to set up their webs. I kid you not, within moments of putting my bucket away and throwing my shredded sponge into the recycle bin it looks like spooky Halloween film set. No other vehicle can give you this, these are the reasons why I, we own the now original Defender. The new Defender will now be built by soulless machines like the rest of the fleet. But that’s how Land Rover has to go, it makes sense… I get it. The China and America markets will love it and that’s where the sales will probably go, it’s all about profit. The cost of the original Defender started at around £23k a hefty difference to the new Defender 90 that starts from around £40k and the Defender 110 starts from around £45k, the top spec with the full stocking and suspenders, I’ve heard around £100k….that’s Mercedes G-Wagon territory.
This is where I’m now unsure if the new model is worth it because it’s now built and going to drive like any other 4×4 so why not now buy any other 4×4.
For £40k you could buy a very nice VW Amarok or a Toyota Hilux or Land Cruiser. They all have fantastic reliability; you only have to speak to any Australian farmer in the outback or any other farmer, even the United Nations as they do love a Toyota Land Cruiser.
Let us not forget about the Suzuki Jimny that is an awesome 4×4 at less than half the price. Alright ‘Jimny’ doesn’t sound as tough and manly as ‘Defender’ but I’m okay with that because I’m comfortable enough to tell you that I moisturise and sometimes pluck some of my long hairs from my nose and eyebrows (there I’ve said it). The new Jimny looks as cool as a cucumber, yes it doesn’t tow 3.5 ton but if you only want to go Green Laning in it, it’s perfect.
Also the Ford Ranger Rapture is around £40k, it would even be nice if the Ford Bronco will be on sale in the UK. You also have the Jeep Wrangler where you can take the doors off, which to me says ‘Fun! Fun! Fun!’ They also drive a little quirky and leak a bit of water all for the price of around £37.5k new, and yes you might look like ‘Daisy Duke’ from the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ (nothing wrong with that….she was lovely).
Let’s not forget the Toyota FJ Cruiser… quirky looking and reliable.
I really do like the look of the new Defender, but it’s now opened up my eyes to other options of what’s out there to buy that maybe has better quality and reliability now for the same money. My plan though is to never sell my Defender 90 TD5 XS. It’s part of the family, it makes me want to drive her, it makes me smile and for those of you who owns one or had one, you will know what I mean. A nice comfortable quiet drive isn’t always what you want. My wife drives a new VW Transporter T6 which is very nice and I feel privileged to own it, but it doesn’t make me smile… not like my 2006 Defender 90 TD5.
If only Land Rover kept it as basic as an empty tin and not made it sophisticated like the rest of their fleet, which by the way are very nice but I’m just a simple male fumbling my way around this crazy world getting older. Wanting no fuss as a Land Rover Defender should be like, and please forgive for saying this….. it should be like a good perfect wife who only needs low basic maintenance but doesn’t mind getting dirty on the weekends.
But the Defender has changed and is here to stay, but I now feel it’s just the same as the rest of the Land Rover family but in a different shape with not a quirk insight.
So that’s my thoughts since its launch…. what are yours?
So until the next visit which won’t be long, I’ll leave you with the usual Easyblend blog song I’m looking through you by The Beatles
You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)
Until the next Easy Blend blog………..
Stay warm and fuzzy……..