Land Rover's original Defender returns from the dead again with V8 power

Ronan Glon
·3 min read

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Land Rover's original Defender simply won't die.

Although the second-generation Defender has entered its second year on the market, demand for the first-generation truck remains high enough to warrant a string of limited-edition models defined by exclusivity, power, and a correspondingly high price. The latest installment is a tribute to the decades-old Camel Trophy models.

Land Rover put its Classic division in charge of developing and manufacturing the Defender Works V8 Trophy. Offered as a 90 or as a 110, which is Land Rover-speak for short- and long-wheelbase, respectively, the off-roader gains a 5.0-liter V8 that develops about 405 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. It spins the four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Those figures are seriously impressive when you consider that the Defender retired with a 2.2-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder rated at 122 horses and 265 pound-feet of twist.

Nearly quadrupling the horsepower output is easier said than done, so Classis notes that it upgraded the brakes, the suspension, and the steering system to avoid giving buyers an unruly beast of a truck. If things go sideways, literally or figuratively, owners can count on mud-terrain tires, a winch, a raised air intake, extra spot lights, and beefy skid plates to soldier on. At worst, there's also a multi-point expedition roll cage attached to the body.

Classic also added LED headlights, a redesigned grille, and specific emblems, but the Works V8 Trophy still looks like a Defender. Land Rover didn't bother updating the design during the model's decades-long production run, and it's not going to start now. Every example wears a Eastnor Yellow paint job with Narvik Black accents, and 16-inch steel wheels come standard. The look is a tribute (but not a copy of) the livery worn but the Defenders that Land Rover let loose on the Camel Trophy in the 1980s and 1990s. It's a different story inside, where off-roaders will be treated to full leather upholstery, Recaro sport seats, plus smartphone connectivity and navigation.

Production of the Land Rover Classic Defender Works V8 Trophy will be limited to 25 units globally, split among the aforementioned 90 and 110 body styles. Demand will dictate how many units of each are built. Pricing starts at £195,000 for the short wheelbase model, which represents about $270,000 at the current conversion rate. That supercar-like figure presumably includes the cost of the donor vehicle built between 2012 and 2016.

Buyers will receive an invitation to participate in a three-day adventure at Eastnor Castle, the location where Land Rover performs some of its research and development work. After putting their name and the flag of the country they're from on the doors, they'll embark on a series of challenges held on Land Rover's property and modeled after some of the Camel Trophy stages. Experts will provide driving tips, and the winner will receive a prize.

Born again, and again, and again

Land Rover ended production of the first Defender in 2016. At the time, it argued that the model — which blurred the line between a piece of farm equipment and a car — had lived well past its expiration date and was no longer aligned with buyer expectations, or its brand image, for that matter. The second Defender arrived for the 2020 model year, but its predecessor refuses to remain in the history book. First, the British firm celebrated its 70th birthday in 2018 by resurrecting the off-roader with a V8 and a six-digit price tag. More recently, in-house tuner Bowler said it would bring the Defender back as a high-performance, rally-bred SUV with a V8 under the hood.

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