My daily driver is in many ways impractical, kinda noisy, not super comfortable, with the aerodynamics of a cardboard box. But, I love the Defender 90. The 1997’s are unique in that they were the only Defender 90’s imported into the US for 3 years between 1994 and 1997 that had factory hardtops, full carpeting, automatic transmission and air conditioning. A lack of air bags other quite worthy safety features ended the Defenders life in North America, and the NAS designation, is what’s given to these mid-90’s models that have factory roll cages as a safety accommodation. The basic comforts pale in comparison to what we’ve become accustomed to in event the least expensive econoboxes, and the same passengers who have never owned a vinyl record, find the hand crank windows, at first puzzling, then quaint. If you’re the guy pulling up on the passenger side making international symbol to roll the window down, and now knowing I have to do gymnastics to lean over and crank, don’t think I’m rude for pretending I didn’t see you.
My Defender has an interesting provenance. I was the second owner of what has been nicknamed the Sugar Cube—for obvious aesthetic reasons. Purchased from the original owner, I sold it to a friend who had his very obedient assistant pick it up in Los Angeles, and drive it to him directly in NYC. Daunting to say the least and at the time, the Sugar Cube hadn’t yet had the addition of a 13 gallon auxiliary fuel tank form Aero Tanks. So there were a lot of fuel stops to be sure.
A condition of the contract written for that sale, dictated that if he ever wanted to sell the Defender he had to offer it back to me first. Of course when he was moving out of the country, I couldn’t help myself. The Cube was out of my life for about 5 years and my buddy had only put about 5,000 miles on it, including the trip to NYC. Besides the tank, other mods include a substantially upgraded sound system, and many Land Rover factory accessory, including my favorite, waterproof seat covers, originally intended for the fox hunting crowd in the Cotswolds, but appropriated by surfers around the world. Other mods include an ARB Kangaroo bar, stainless exhaust system and IPC lighting.
I am lucky to have local mechanical leverage form the boys at British Eurotech in Lawndale. Parts are sometimes difficult to come by, but I seem to find what I need from Rovers North.
The Defenders are iconic, quirky, slow, kinda loud, and weird daily drivers. I love the form over function aesthetic, and the interior noise, Dynamat aside, gives me a good excuse for staying off the iPhone and enjoying the ride. As good examples have become harder to find, I get the monthly note on the windshield asking if she’s for sale. While always tempted, I cant imagine her out of the stable. Copley Motorcars in Boston www.copleymotorcars.com always has the best and cleanest of Defenders in inventory. And, East Coast Rovers in Maine are the restoration gurus. I’ve been eyeing a NYC based Defender 110 owned by an equally passionate friend, and if I can ever get him to part with it, it’s the only replacement for the Sugar Cube that I can imagine.