Unearthed

Unearthed: 1991 Land Rover Defender

Before the luxurious and trendy Evoque, Land Rover's true signature model was the Defender.

There's really nothing else in the world quite like the Land Rover Defender. And for many enthusiasts, there's simply no other alternative to what they see as the ideal off-road utility vehicle. Just last September at Frankfurt, Land Rover displayed a new concept Defender, which will likely spawn a production version in the near future. Introduced in 1983, it was originally known as the One Ten, for its 110-inch wheelbase. Not long after this, the Land Rover Ninety came out, which, as you can guess, had a 90-inch wheelbase.

Power came from a variety of engines that included both gasoline and diesels. And in a case not seen today, only manual transmissions were offered. Land Rover marketed the Defender as a private recreational vehicle. In time however, Land Rover began to modernize the off-roader with features such as exterior styling graphics, various color choices, and new options like a radio and cassette players (remember, this was the '80s), different wheel options, and even surfboard carriers and bike racks. Engines also improved in both reliability and power due to competition coming from various Japanese models, such as the Toyota Land Cruiser.

Combined with the aforementioned modern amenities, sales quickly improved throughout not just the UK, but also in Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East. Perhaps the biggest change came in 1990 when it was renamed the Defender. The reason being? Only a year prior, Land Rover launched the Discovery, so it was important for them to move away from numerical names. At this time, the Defender was given an updated turbo diesel engine that produced 111hp and 195lb-ft of torque - about a 25 percent power improvement over the engine it replaced.

Throughout the 1990s, the Defender continued to be upgraded with not just better engines and transmissions, but also with features such as a roll-over protection cage, alloy wheels, metallic paint, A/C, and even an automatic transmission. The whole pitch was an attempt to move the Defender upmarket (i.e. charge more money), while still retaining its utility spirit. While the Defender is still being built, it hasn't been sold in the U.S. since 1998 because it hasn't met specific safety standards. The company is claiming that by 2015, they'll need to replace the vehicle entirely once new European safety regulations kick in.

Over the years, the Defender has created a loyal following of enthusiasts, many of whom enjoy restoring older versions. This 1991 Defender was bought by its current owners in 2004 has been undergoing a restoration ever since. They started by fixing the body and giving it a new paint job. In addition, they added a custom-built bulbar and safari roof rack complete with a tool box. Along the way, they also converted the original 2.5-liter gasoline engine to a Land Rover 300Tdi. And it didn't stop there, as they also swapped in a new interior complete with an updated Defender console, installed a thermometric self-recovery winch, driving lamps, and even a factory A/C.

They finished this rugged beauty off with a set of 31-inch BF Goodrich all-terrain tires. Just looking at the completed vehicle seen in these pictures makes us want to get behind the wheel and look for the nearest sand dune. And in a somewhat related noted, it's recently been announced that a Land Rover Defender will be seen in the upcoming James Bond film, 'Skyfall', which will be hitting theatres this November. Photos courtesy of DEFEENDER110

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