5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?

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We delve into this vehicle’s storied past to figure why the Land Rover Defender is so expensive

5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?
5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?

With the new 2020 Land Rover Defender is finally being delivered to customers in the United states after a 23-year hiatus[1], a 5-year production break globally. First launched in the Amsterdam Motorshow[2] in 1948, the return has people buzzing about the newest iteration.

It will come with a number of trim levels for the two-door 90 version and the four-door 110 version like the Defender’s of old.

Unlike ye olde Land Rovers, Land Rover Range Rover dealers are commanding nearly $90,000 sticker price for the off-roader… with that sort of price it’s safe to assume the Land Rover Defender will not be playing in the mud like it’s predecessors once did. Relating the Defender more along the lines of its Range Rover cousins than the Discovery and Discovery Sport that it shares a badge with.

Hopefully the hype for these First Edition Defenders subsides because Land Rover claimed the the 2020 Defender would have a base price of $47,000 (Est) for the 90 and $50,925[3] for the longer 110. Could it really be worth all the fanfare and hype? Or is this a knockoff cashing in on a legendary name. Either way we are going to find out why the Land Rover Defender is so expensive

5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?
5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?

The Land Rover Defender is so expensive because it is a stick in the mud… technically sand

The inspiration for the Land Rover came in 1947 from the company’s chairman and chief designer of Rover Cars, Maurice Wilks. Wilks had a Jeep Willys, a remnant of World War II, he used for the swaths of land he had in the beachy town of Anglesey, Wales.

It is claimed that Wilks drew the very first sketch[4] of the Land Rover with a stick in the sand on the beach before being washed away by the waves lapping against the shore. It was simply two boxes, one smaller than the other and with a wheel at the bottom corners… I repeat; this was the company’s CHIEF DESIGNER… using a stick, doodling at the beach.

It was designed to be the missing link between a tractor and the military surplus vehicles that came about during the war. Britain needed to export as many goods as possible to rebuild their economy so they designed it to have the steering wheel at the center[5] driving position so it would fit all markets. That didn’t make it to production but luckily everything else from Wilks design remained and did so for almost 70 years.

5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?
5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?

The Land Rover Defender is so expensive because it is the *pinnacle* of design. Example, the Series II & III

The biggest changes to this model were the headlights moving out from behind the grille to the front of the fenders and the curve at the waistline. Those *voluptuous hips* and the changing headlights weren’t only the biggest, they were the only changes. I really am not glossing over anything. The executives rested on Wilks design until the 1984 generational shift and even then there is not much difference.

This was such a basic vehicle that it still didn’t have a proper model name or things like non canvas roofs and the top half of the doors were “optionable extras.” Something that would not fly at Land Rover Range Rover today,

“Oh, you want to stay dry and windows!” Engineer rolls eyes as he walks away

Eventually however, that sort of request for creature comforts gained enough traction that the coachbuilder Tickford was brought in. Tickford[6] was known for working with such car companies as Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce. They fitted the longer version, *cleverly* called the “station wagon” with leather seats and some wood trim and even a heater. This made this vehicle quite expensive, and not many were made. Though this started way back in 1949; this was the first whiff of what Land Rover was going to become decades later.

5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?
5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?

The Land Rover Defender is so expensive because it was adaptable. Case in point, The 90 & 110

The Defender replaced the Series I,II,III models in 1984. It still used the same motor from the previous Series trucks and 90% of the body panels. It had a split windscreen like the series it’s first year. And that was not a good thing for the company.

With their market being eaten away by the Toyota Land Cruiser (See our write up on that legendary vehicle here) and sales fell over 20% in one year[7].

So Land Rover updated the model. This was a turning point for the nameplate. It came in the form of pickups, crew cabs, convertibles, 3-doors, 4-doors, 5-doors, 6-doors (I’m not kidding). With permanent 4 wheel drive, 6 wheel drive (still not kidding) mated to either diesel or petrol 4 cylinders or 8 cylinders. Focused more on the driver and less on conquering the world, Land Rover added coil spring suspension and a modern interior… I use “modern” loosely.

They increased the stroke on the motor, retooled the cylinder head, and bumped up the number of crankshaft bearings from 3 to 5 because they knew they were going to dial up the power and it needed to be able to handle the strain.

They gave the Defender direct injection to stop people from honking at you if you somehow found yourself on a paved road. If needed a car, Land Rover would do their damnedest to make it a Defender.

All of this ended up working out splendidly for Land Rover, as they sold 7 times[8] the amount of Defenders in the first 2 years then they did versus the last year of the Series III

5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?
5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?

The Land Rover Defender is so expensive because it so expansive

There are a lot of accolades the Defender has achieved as to why the Land Rover Defender is so expensive. First of which being an astounding 67 years of production. That makes the 3rd oldest SUV behind the Chevrolet Suburban and Toyota Land Cruiser, 1st and 2nd respectively. Beyond its age, is it’s numbers.

Land Rover manufacturer 2,016,933 Defenders in that time. The last one being Heritage 90 soft top 4×4 with a special number plate recalling the famous “Huey”, the very first Series 1. Honoring the historic vehicle and respecting it’s humble origins.

The next statistic is one of the most impressive. Over 70%[9] of the Land Rover Defenders ever made are still on the road today. This gives credence to the old adage, “when you buy a Land Rover, you don’t buy a car, you buy a hobby.” Rightfully so, because almost 1.5 million Defenders are still irritating their owners to date.

5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?
5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?

It is also claimed that the first car seen by over 60%[10] of the developing world and cultures was a Land Rover Defender. That means there are people alive, at this moment who didn’t necessarily have running water, electricity, or Cracker Jacks, but they knew what a Defender was. It, more than any politician or government, helped unite cultures and civilizations.

One of the best things they did for the Defender was to call it a Defender. Most of those momentous feats were accomplished without a proper model name. Up until 1990[11] this line of truck was referred to by its manufacturing designation or wheelbase size. I imagine the boardroom meeting in 1949 before it’s launch:

Executive: “Great job chaps, what is it called?”

Marketing: “Well how long is it?”

Executive: “That’s not what I asked.”

Marketing: “Take it or leave it.”

5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?
5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?

That goes to show that the Land Rover Defender stood on its own merit for over 40 years. It walked the walk before it talked the talk. Reason enough as to why the Land Rover Defender is so expensive.

The Land Rover Defender is so expensive because it is a new definition of Defender

2020 brings us a completely redesigned vehicle. This is only the 2nd major update this line of utility vehicles has ever had since 1948. If we are honest it’s really the first new Defender since the start given they carried over so much of the design and mechanics year after year after year. Not one component is carried over from the predecessor.

One of the biggest changes is under the hood. On top of the 2.0 liter diesel motors, the new Defender will get a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbo-petrol with a mild hybrid electric system. This will increase performance and efficiency. Land Rover will also offer a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) that can drive the car for short distances on electricity alone, but that’s still being developed.

Speaking of electrics, all of the new Defenders electrical components are IP67 rated… I had no idea what it meant but after some brief studying it means this vehicle can be submerged in more than a meter for an hour with no concern of electrical fault or intrusion.

5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?
5 REASONS WHY THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER IS SO EXPENSIVE!?

This Defender is made of a high grade aluminium monocoque body with high-strength steel used selectively for strength. Unlike the old one which had aluminium body panels made from leftover war materials and a steel frame.

This makes it stronger and so much lighter than before that the engineers claim the new Defender will begin to float if you submerge it beyond a meter[12] in water. It can feasibly be submerged more but you would have to open the doors to let water in to weigh it down. I am dying to see if that’s true but I think we will just have to take the developer’s word for it.

All that stacks this new Defender well beyond the old steadfast aluminum soldier we fell in love with it. So will we love it even more? Can we understand why the Land Rover Defender is so expensive? Probably not. It will not be as hands-on or as needy as the last Defender. And it’s all those quirks, all that character that won us over in the first place.

Think of this as a leap from Vinyl records to the iPod. We all know an iPod is more practical, more user friendly, less fragile. You will use it mindlessly every day, and it will make your day that much more seamless. But you’ll still long for the fresh crackle of the needle dropping on first pressing. It’s the fact that vinyl is not for everyone, not for half-hearted imposters, that makes us smile all the more when the song skips a beat.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_Rover_Defender#Defender_in_the_US
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AutoRAI
  3. https://www.caranddriver.com/land-rover/defender
  4. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-35423058
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_Rover_series#Development
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tickford
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_Rover_Defender#Sales_turnaround
  8. https://www.lrworkshop.com/guides/defender-production-numbers-by-year
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFY_nb-4Wrk
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFY_nb-4Wrk
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_Rover_Defender#Defender
  12. https://www.whichcar.com.au/news/2020-land-rover-defender-50-facts-figures?fbclid=IwAR0ICIIbeO7Mxk3l_2VOfa1IYUu-vwY5-_BdHT1hfbkvxjz_hevdsRQhX78
  13. https://robbreport.com/motors/cars/2020-land-rover-defender-arrives-united-states-2925211/
William Mayer
Follow William Mayer:

Writer/Founder of Bespoke Car Broker

I have been traveling the world, finding, importing and restoring classic cars for over a decade. I've gone from New York to Namibia, eager to explore different cultures and hunt for rare classic cars. I believe the best way to get to know a place is to drive it. I graduated from The New School, Eugene Lang with a degree in Literature and History. What you just read is an outlet, and rationalization, for my obsession. -W.M.

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