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The Land Rover Defender: History, Origins, and New Directions

2021 land rover defender

The new Land Rover Defender has history in its DNA, and enthusiasts from Englewood to Ridgewood have taken notice. Although the Defender nameplate was not used until 1990, and it didn’t arrive in the U.S. until 1993, the first Land Rover Defender came out in 1983, when it was first marketed simply as the Land Rover 110.

Land Rover Defender History: Timeline & Key Events

As with today’s model, the original Defender was an off-road ready luxury vehicle with rugged styling, distinguished by sharp lines and utilitarian, boxy paneling. For these reasons, those interested in Land Rover Defender history can point to plenty of design cues inherited from the even older Land Rover “Series” models, themselves based on British military jeeps.

Here’s what you should know about its origins:

  • What models preceded the original Land Rover Defender? The first Land Rover Defender built upon and diverged from the Land Rover Series I (1948-1958), the Land Rover Series II (1958-1971), and the Land Rover Series III (1971-1985). 
  • When did the Land Rover Defender come out? The vehicle that would come to bear the name “Defender” was released to most of the world in 1983. The 110 came first, and the 90 arrived in 1984. The “Defender” name would be announced in 1990, three years before it came to the U.S.
  • Why was the name “Defender” chosen? The original Defender model–the 90, the 110, and slightly later, the 127 (or 130)–were named for the length of each model’s wheelbase. Land Rover renamed the Defender in order to distinguish it from the newly-minted Land Rover Discovery, released for the first time in 1989.
  • When was the Land Rover Defender sold? In the United States, the Land Rover Defender was sold from 1993 to 1997. However, the Defender would continue to be sold in other locales until much later. The first Land Rover Defender was only retired in 2016!

Highlights and Features of the First Land Rover Defender

The Land Rover Defender took some of its cues from the Land Rover Series III, and on the surface, the two might have been mistaken for twins. Only features including a revised grille and a longer bonnet would distinguish it to the discerning eye!

Both the Series III and the 110 (later the Defender) would feature the same engine and near-identical aluminium paneling. However, the vehicle that would come to be known as the Defender was distinguished by:

  • A permanent four-wheel drive system based on the technology in the Range Rover
  • A two-speed transfer gearbox and a lockable center differential
  • Coil spring suspension for a smoother ride
  • Updated interior appointments and styling

Throughout the 1980s, the Defender would be one of the first models to enjoy the Land Rover brand’s updated line of more powerful engines. Developments in this department were connected to a significant increase in sales during the latter half of the 80s and the early 1990s.

What Sets the New Land Rover Defender Apart?

If the first Land Rover Defender set a new standard for the world of off-road luxury SUVs, the new-and-improved Defender seems set to do the same. After all, the Defender has already been selected as Motor Trend’s 2021 SUV of the Year.

Explore its interior features or take an in-depth look at its off-road capabilities with Land Rover Paramus. While you’re at it, check out the latest selection of Land Rover Defender colors! Once you’ve seen it for yourself, you won’t be able to wait to hit the backroads.

History Lives On in the New Land Rover Defender!

The new Land Rover Defender is one SUV that demands to be seen in person! Schedule a test drive by stepping into our virtual showroom from your home in Englewood or Paramus. We can’t wait to show you what it can do.

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