It’s time to celebrate the Land Rover Defender’s new-found luxury credentials as it turns 75
A battered Defender is great for rural pursuits, but as the 4×4 hits 75, it’s time to accept that refinement rules
Some 19 years ago, I was in central London walking through an area not usually open to the public. And it was hard to miss the sparkling new Land Rover Defender parked away from prying eyes. Not just because it looked factory fresh but also because it was a good few feet longer than even a 110.
The third side door was a giveaway that this was a custom-built shooting brake, designed to carry as many as 10 people onto the mountainside for shooting or culling.
I was later told – and I can’t fully confirm this for obvious reasons – that the stretched Land Rover was actually a 21st birthday present for Prince William. I imagine it is living up in Scotland even now, and looking rather less shiny.
I suppose I was surprised that the now Prince of Wales didn’t have something smarter or more luxurious for driving off-road.
But that would miss the point altogether. There’s nothing more authentic than an original Land Rover. And there’s nothing more authentic than encouraging – or allowing – it to fade, crack, absorb a few dents and generally weather nicely.
I must admit to being baffled by the original Landy. The tiny, camped cockpit, with a driver’s seat that won’t remotely move far enough back, and having to drive with my right elbow out of the window.
Nope, I know the country set won’t buy it, but I’d be much happier in the new Defender. Luxury, as somebody very clever once said, is really the removal of irritation.
And the old Landy irritated me. Using a broken stick to hold the door closed might be a cool photo, but that would irritate me. Leaking windscreens would irritate me.
Sure, I drove a late-model original Defender on a Land Rover off-road course and it was magnificent – or at least it massively flattered my off-road driving, which is essentially the same thing.
This new special edition might annoy the wet-feet and rattling-teeth brigade, but the new Defender would get me across any terrain and smoothly to Geneva in time for drinks. Definitely not irritating.