the world of Landrover – is life better having owned a Defender?

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  • the world of Landrover – is life better having owned a Defender?
  • What are they like to drive long distances? fuel consumption? cruising speed?

    If any of the above are major issues do not buy a Landy!

    Premier Icon Fishd

    Oops, replied in the other thread.

    IMHO, a Landy is definitely a car you have to WANT, there are many pitfalls.

    I’ll start this off by saying I’m a massive fan and have been for over 25 years. We bought one when I was 14 and it was the first car I drove at 17. I’ve sinced owned two, a Series 3 and a Series 1(!). I’ve got quite a few friends who owned / own a variety and have been involved in the ‘scene’ for a while … I’ve been to a few shows in my time too. However, I’m no expert and your milage may vary. The below is mostly my informed opinion.

    Series 3 Landies will have leaf springs (think carthorse) and steer like a barge compared to modern cars (no power steering so expect well muscled shoulders). Measure breaking distances in days, not feet/meters unless perfectly set up (and very well maintained). Out of a 2.25 petrol (common) you’ll get 14-18 MPG (from experience). Diesels get slightly more but will take you 1.5 times as long to get anywhere. You’ll also need to be handy with a spanner, not mind oil on your driveway and sell your soul to the devil to keep the electrics running. Most series will be well recycled with the second hand spares Market flooded with parts.

    Definitely test drive before you think about owning one to make sure you can get on with the relatively ancient technology.

    Defenders were a massive leap forward. 25-30 mpg is not unattainable, Coil springs and disc brakes (on most models, very early ones still had drums all round, discs on front & drums on rear is common, discs all round on newer models) upped the ride comfort and stopping power. Most Defenders should have power steering (except really early or MOD released models) which helps a lot. However, it’s still not car-like if you’re expecting a Mondeo like ride. Avoid normally aspirated diesel models (2.5 non-turbo) unless you’re never in a rush to get anywhere, 2.5TD models can have issues and have a bad reputation for reliability although most proper experts reckon it’s down to being thrashed and poor maintenance. The 200 & 300 TDi models are sought after as theyre the most easily serviceable at home, as such they’re becoming more expensive. Watch for the quality of work on models that have had Disco or Range Rover engines swapped into them, the engines are not exactly the same and need some fettling to fit. The TD5 is a good engine much lambasted for it’s use of electronics but if you’re planning to get it garage serviced, don’t worry about it.

    On all models you need to check the heavy steel chassis and bulkhead (the panels beneath the front windscreen) for corrosion, the factory skimped on a lot of rust-prevension measures and even relatively modern vehicles can suffer from rot quite badly depending where they were used. If you’re friends with a decent welder, they are infinitely repairable.

    Panel gaps are to be expected also, if it rains, there is a very good chance you will get wet.

    On the bright side, they look amazing. You’ll rarely have trouble getting anywhere eventually (even those that hate chelsea-tractors love a Landy driver in the winter) and you’ll own a car that’ll will probably end up unique and a character. Other drivers tend to beep & wave which is quite nice, so there is a sense of ‘community’…

    I’ve got more info in my head if I haven’t bored you all enough or put you off already.

    As I say though, I love Landys but i drive a Jeep. There is a reason.


    Ok guys, if I decided my next car was going to be one i trully wanted over one I really need.. I’d be very tempted to plump for a Landy, maybe a Defender or Series 3.

    I know very little about the marque and the praticalities (or perhaps lack of) so would love to know the best place for a beginner to search for new information.

    If I went Defender route, what is easily the best engine option? which engine/body shape/chassis length to avoid?
    Can they be practical with kids?
    What are they like to drive long distances? fuel consumption? cruising speed?
    What to look for and avoid?

    Anyone got any pics?

    I imagine squeezing bikes & kits in to be not much of a problem, not to mention getting to the harder to reach spots..


    Well, I too often fancied one. Now, having read that, I will not bother. You have probably saved me lots of money and headaches.

    Some dreams are best left as dreams.


    I remember a lift with a mate up to the Peak in his Defender. Why anyone would want one for just driving around in is beyond me.

    A land rover is more of a tool than a car

    (very good tool though)

    Premier Icon stevomcd

    Seriously thinking about one for getting around here in the winter and as an off-season bike uplift vehicle. Would need to be a pre-07 Defender station-wagon (for the 9 seats). I guess probably best to buy soon before those start getting a bit old?

    Premier Icon Fishd

    Age of the Landrover is mostly* irrelevant.

    If you’re looking at something 2000-2007 then it’s maintenance, location and owners reason for having it are much more important. History is vital with these things. If you buy one from an enthusiast that’s 10 years old and has 140,000 miles it could well be in much better nick than the 4 year old, 35,000 mile one used by the lifeguard for pulling boats out of the sea.

    Get underneath it with a sharp screwdriver and poke around. Give it a stab on the outriggers on the chassis in front of and behind wheels. Check the bulkhead down around the windscreens lower seals, make sure its sound as fixing this is a PITA. All Landrovers leak but you should expect it to hold more oil in the gearbox and diffs than it leaks on it’s chassis. Most of the bodywork is aluminium and therefore trouble free… however, look in the front footwells to see where the ali meets the steel, there’s often corrosion here. Not too bad to sort out but can enable you to knock a few quid off the price … check the operation of doors, locks and note the number of keys. Not uncommon for an older Landy to have a different key for each door.

    Drive a few… it’s hard when coming from a car to work out what are ‘normal’ squeaks, rattles and clonking sounds… they all make lots of noise, it’s working out which noises are bad. Steering will have play, it’s making sure it’s not too much, check wheels for play also.

    Standard stuff about checking engine and box applies, a little smoke on starting is fairly normal but shouldn’t belch too much and modern ones should start from cold well. Check box shifts reasonable cleanly (series boxes don’t have syncromesh on all gears so double de-clutching is technically required between different gears depending on age) and on the test drive, let it engine brake in a few gears and make sure the gear lever doesn’t jump out of gear. If buying a series, make sure 4 wheel drive engages and works! Check for free-wheel hubs that might need to be engaged if it doesn’t.

    Check for sagging or uneven suspension, it’s a sign of a hard life and while not hard to replace yourself, it’s a pain and might indicate that the rest of the truck has been stressed.

    If the vehicle is modified ( a lot are) find out by whom, when and why… engine swaps are common on older trucks, make sure the right parts have been put in the right place (as I’ve mentioned, Disco and Range Rover TDi engines are being stuffed into Defenders all over the show. The turbos and oil filters are in a different location and require modifications to get everything to fit and work).

    If you do buy one, go for some off-road driving course. They’re not miracle workers and need to be handled effectively if you want to “go anywhere” … as my dad learnt getting our old series stuck in a boggy field on it’s first outing 😆

    A Landy is possibly the greatest car you could ever own… but I’d never have one as my only means of transport if I had to get from a-b.

    *Not that many model changes over the years. Main differences are when moving from Series to 90 to Defender etc.


    Slimjim78 – stop by – – there are plenty of people on there that will give you good advice.

    I’d agree with Fishd – you do have to want one, as they are very different to a standard car ( and other 4x4s ).

    That said, I love mine to bits, and love the places that it has taken me ( Poland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, France, Tunisia, Scotland ).

    If you’ve got a family then I would suggest a LWB 5 door – that’ll give you plenty of seats and space in the back for stuff.

    Fuel consumption = yes 🙂

    Cruising speed – you can do 70 all day in a TD5 and later ( from 1998- )

    There was an increase in comfort in 2002, and a change of engine/redesign of the dash and interior in 2007 ).

    Pictures – here


    The best vehicle I ever owned and the happiest motoring of my life.
    I had the Defender 90 Tdi van back.
    It was great on long journeys. Mpg was always about 30/33 no matter how you drove to your destination, motorway or B road.
    I needed mine for work, but weekends with the kids camping out of it will always be remembered. As a mountainbikers car it was great. Mine was all aluminium in the back, so you could just chuck bikes in there. And it was great for getting changed in.
    I worked a few doors away from a Landy specialist, and he took care of it for me.

    Premier Icon Fishd

    If you want to drool over lush looking Landies… try here… not a customer but know people who have been and are satisfied.

    Premier Icon v8ninety

    Completely concur with what what fishd says. I’d stay well clear of series trucks unless you are a masochist. the 90s and 110s of the early eighties were a huge leap forward, with the application of technology that had already been around 10 years on the range rover classic. I own a 3.9 v8 on gas which I admit is incredibly impractical, but sounds and goes beautifully. The best real world engines are the 200 and 300 tdis for simplicity and reliability, plus the 300s were the first to get discs all around. Avoid the turbo Ds, as fishd says, renowned to blow up. Bad maintainence or not, crap engine. Td5s are apparently good and go well, but not my cup of tea.

    You really could use one for a daily driver, I did for many years and loved it. It just depends on where and how far you want to drive it. I now commute 66 motorway miles a day, and could not think of a worse car to do it in.

    Last little pro landy factoid; statistically the safest car on the road. Nothing to do with crash testing, just that they don’t tend to be driven fast, and when they do crash, they tend to be heavier than the thing that they hit, on average.


    the world of Landrover – is life better having owned a Defender?

    10 years on – yes.


    Great replies chaps, and lots to mull over.
    FishD – you are a gent and thats just the stuff I was after, I shall drop you a line if I decide to take things further.

    im happy to give up creature comforts for the pure rugged iconicity!
    Im mainly keen to know if it’ll end up breaking the bank as filling up at the pumps is akin to pulling teeth for me..
    And knowing a bit more about the various models is essential before I dive in – so thanks again for the links.

    Looks like 300tdi is the way forward though.


    300tdi is probably a good choice – reasonably modern, but still basic enough that most jobs can be done by a DIY mechanic. However the last ones were made in about 1998 and some have not been well looked after. Don’t get too hung up on mileage – a well maintained that’s done most of its mileage on the road will probably be in better nick than one that’s only done 1,000 miles a year bouncing over rocks on the floor of a quarry. I got 230,000 miles out of one and that’s not unusual – provided you look after them. TD5s [1999-ish on] are more refined, but have more performance than most Defender’s really need unless you’re towing, plus they have electronics which can complicate things. Early TD5s had problems, some of theme serious, but they got sorted by the time the later ones came out and in the end Landrover made more of that engine than any other.

    As for actually owning one – they have far more character than almost any other car. I don’t really need my 90 for work any more, but still keep the old truck on the drive and take it out on occasional jobs and deer stalking trips. Its a bit like an old dog that’s a bit beyond working any more but you can’t bear to part with.

    Loads of advice out there, another forum with a look is


    What about dual tanking a 300tdi and running it on veg? Any problems?

    Premier Icon keyses2

    My 300tdi, not your typical girlie car but i like it. Get around 27mpg out of it, cheap to maintain as i do most of it myself. Done nearly 212,000 miles and keeps plodding on. I do use it for work but it does the job as my only car aswell.

    Premier Icon Fishd

    From what I remember reading, the TDi engines are mostly ok on veg oil, TD5 is a no-no.

    Most seem to run a tank of normal diesel through them every now and again for the added lubricants that are in nor al diesel, also in winter, you might need to run them 50/50 for the anti-freeze additives that aren’t present in typical WVO (waste veg oil) …

    This is all purely second hand info though, never vegged a Landy myself. Is it still worth it? Last I remember reading with people like McDonalds and Tesco getting in on the WVO scene restaurants started charging some folk to take it away…. don’t forget as well, you’re supposed to declare WVO usage to HMRC and pay fuel duty per litre used….


    long distances? fuel consumption? cruising speed?


    Premier Icon Fishd

    Keyses2, lovely truck! Just need some MOD half doors with a sticks and tilt set for summer! 8)


    My mate has a Defender for green laneing (apparently his club also rebuilds the courses after mulluering them). He also has a 1990 Range Rover. The latter is the donor car.

    That tells me all I need to know. The Mpg isn’t great, neither is the miles per breakdown but they will go anywhere.

    He wouldn’t swap it for the world.

    Premier Icon keyses2

    Fishd – Member
    Keyses2, lovely truck! Just need some MOD half doors with a sticks and tilt set for summer!

    Funnily enough i was half thinking that earlier today in the sunshine, with all the windows open and the flaps up ……

    Funnily enough i was half thinking that earlier today in the sunshine, with all the windows open and the flaps up ….

    Roofless Land Rovering FTW!


    great pics.

    im envious! not sure I have the balls to commit..


    Have you considered an ex-mod landy? Cos I have, a lot…


    dont all the ex-MODs come without power steering?

    Premier Icon Fishd

    No power steering, normally aspirated diesel engines and even the most basic creature comforts removed.

    Also, they’re really abused (when was the last time you saw a gentle squaddie?) but ironically well maintained (bless the REME and their amazing budgets), they’ll have paint 15 layers thick (they get shipped from desert to arctic and need different paint jobs, squaddies don’t strip them, they just paint over the top) and for some reason these days, way more expensive than a civvy Defender!

    Benefit is, they come with split doors (can remove the door tops in the summer) and some come with a tilt (fancy name for a rag that ties over a tent like structure on the back). Drawback is, everything else.

    They get a fishd rating of: masochists only.

    P.s. Stop posting pics of lovely looking trucks! You’re making me jealous! 😉

    As far as I know, all the MOD Land Rovers released so far have not got power steering.
    There may be one or two exceptions, like Ex-RAF Mountain Rescue station wagons, but they’re going to be priced as Collectors vehicles rather than every day vehicles, so probably not what you’re looking for anyway.

    Here’s my 1990 RAF (Rough As F***) 110.

    3.9 EFI on LPG.
    Regarding Land Rover’s supposed reputation for unreliability, mine was 9 years old when I bought it on 64000km.
    It’s now 21 years old and on 310000km.
    It’s only failed to get me home once, and that was because the 5 year old Range Rover petrol pump, which I fitted as part of the EFI conversion, failed and I didn’t realise until I ran out of gas and switched to petrol.

    Edit to add;
    Mine is one of very few genuine Ex-Military V8s. Most Military land Rovers of that age are diesel.


    I couldn’t live with a defender day to day, not enough elbow room and cruising comfort (that’s what Discovery’s are for) but I’d love to build a V8 90 soft top up. All landies are cars with character (even the new models feel different to the competition)so once you’ve got the bug, it’s unlikely to leave you alone…..

    Premier Icon Fishd

    Nice truck Graham.

    I suppose it is worth mentioning that with the right skills / enough money you can do ANYTHING to a Landy.

    Want a mad-max style off-road monster? No worries.

    Want a truck that’ll get you and four mate from Paris to Cape Town? Sure.

    Want a Landy that’ll do laps of the Nurburgring and decent 1/4 mile times? Of course.

    If you find the perfect Landy but it doesn’t have power steering, add it. Want discs all round? Add them. Want fully soundproofed interior? Buy it. There is an almost limitless aftermarket scene for Landys where someone like you has though “My Landy would be amazing if…” and then they’ve made it and put it on sale.


    I do love mine

    My advice would be – not as your only car unless you live alone and not if your the thpe of guy to go to a garGe for all servicing And repairs …….

    I have an 87 2.5td with the dreaded engine …. Works fine returns 32 mpg after a good service –

    90 is pish for bikes

    Watch out for door rot – doors easily the most expensive part of a landy to replace – even used !

    If your taking the kids in back youll probably want a 110 station wagon as kids + sideways facing or front facing + lapbelts is no good

    Go kick a few tires ! Test drive a few with no intention to buy but do look in the same places – give you an idea where to look for stuff go to introduce your self and intentions and Someone local will likely ofer to show you problem areas like rear x members – bulkhead behind the dash , front outriggers .


    I’ve had all sorts of defenders through work. They are fantastic and I get to use them as designed. I’ve used a few series and early defenders on friends farms and would suggest sticking to tdi onwards, early diesels and the petrols will require a whole new scale of timing to get places. This I think is the best way to experience them, through someone elses wallet and with a car for when you want to get around longer distance.

    If looking for myself, my choice would probably be an ex-utility/govt. agency 110 300tdi – my reasoning for this is that the 300tdi is a powerful unit that you can still maintain easily, they will have most likely worked them and replaced the weak points, 110 has greater comfort due to its longer wheel base (90 can be a bit jolty/direct)

    If you really aren’t going off-road much, fit road tyres, not rad core gnarly, but you’ll be able to hear passengers and save a ton of fuel. Had some serious muds a few years back and the tyre roar at 20mph was huge. BFG AT are a good compromise.


    They’re grim vehicles on the road. Even the old Discovery is very poor on the road.

    I can see the appeal for a laugh, go anywhere etc. but there’s no way I’d have one as a day to day car.

    Premier Icon Tiger6791

    I’ve half been thinking about selling my 98R 110 300 tdi 80k miles 2 owners, loads if history.

    Premier Icon v8ninety

    Well if this is turning into a ‘show me your Land Rover’ thread, it would be rude not to; heres a couple of shots of mine, doing what it was built for:


    3.9efi V8 on lpg, ragtop, now in the process of recieving a galvanised chassis…

    You want some LSDs on that. 😉

    Premier Icon v8ninety

    You want some LSDs on that

    True, but not allowed in my class of competition… So commitment and grunt will do! 😈

    Is this thread because the mighty JLR have decided they might just kill off the defender….for good…no more made….extinct …etc….etc


    Absolutely love the look of Landies. I test drove a 90 once, it had a way too cramped driving position for me, shame really as I was seriously tempted by them.
    Anyway after much researching I plumped for a mk2 pajero/shogun (over the discos of a similar age), doesnt quite look as cool but has more room, luxury also cheaper to buy and being Japanese more reliable (that could be the kiss of death lol).
    Have had it for nearly 5 years now, it’s a great family car, tows the caravan, never failed to get me where I want to go, fits the bikes in etc etc etc.

    Premier Icon v8ninety

    JLR have decided they might just kill off the defender.

    Don’t you mean Tata?

    Defender will live on. Probably made in Brazil or India or somewhere where labour is cheap enough to make its old fashioned labour intensive manufacturing proccess a bit more cost effective. Meanwhile Solihull will produce a new green envirohybrideurobox on stilts that will sell like hotcakes because it looks chunky and drives like a modern car…

    I’ll keep my 90 ta.

    (and my diesel peugeot estate for driving any significant amount of miles)

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