By on June 28, 2013

Defender90

Doug writes:

Most car enthusiasts agree the E30 BMW M3 is getting dangerously overpriced. It is, after all, a 25-year old car with a crappy interior; they’ve all been miled to the moon; and most have been driven hard.

As I look at this week’s car, I’m starting to wonder why it doesn’t get the same rap. The Land Rover Defender 90 is arguably the poster child for overpriced: a box on wheels sold in North America for a few years in the mid-1990s until Land Rover got tired of conforming to harsh government regulations.

Maybe the poster child of the poster children is this 1995 model, currently on sale for nearly $46,000 at Motorcars of Georgia right here in sunny (i.e. rainy) Atlanta. This thing has 55,000 miles on it and a soft top that probably wouldn’t pass muster as a camping tent. And yet it costs as much as a CTS-V wagon for sale at a Cadillac dealer down the street.

The worst part is that dealer’s pricing isn’t even crazy. Here’s a 1997 model with 120,000 miles on it, which means it’s just passing that point where rust will collapse it into two halves of Land Rover, each of which is a significant fire risk. And yet they still want $36,000 for it.

And here’s the worst part: they’ll get it. Why? Because the Defender 90 is the E30 M3 of the SUV world. The mileage, the condition and the price don’t really matter. Someone out there will settle for nothing less.

Derek writes:

You know that whole kerfuffle about illegally imported Defenders that is driving enthusiasts bonkers? Yeah, we don’t have that problem where I live.

$25,000 will get you a decent ’94 Defender turbo diesel manual. You can choose between British Racing Green or UN Peacekeeper White. A true North American model with a V8 will be about $10,000 more.

All in all, I’m not sure I am totally sold on the Defender hype. It seems like a big part of the desirability factor hinges on the fact that they are an expensive vehicle that is equally costly to maintain. Why else would they become the must-have car for finance types in the Hamptons? If they had a “Jeep” or a “Toyota” badge, I bet few would give them a second look. But I’d also rather have a nicely restored FJ40 or Grand Wagoneer than one of these.

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66 Comments on “Derek And Doug’s Fantastic Crapwagons: Land Rover Defender 90...”


  • avatar
    mike1dog

    You can buy a nice 95 Wrangler for about $6000 around here, which is too much for one of them as well, but I don’t think the Defender is eight times as good, either.

  • avatar
    The Soul of Wit

    $46k for a damn-near 20 year old british SUV? For realz, playa?

    Of fools being parted with their money, asnd so on and so forth…

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    It’s the image – I saw a Defender 90, green with white hardtop, a couple months ago. The guy looked infinitely cooler than everyone else in normal cars around him.

    That being said, if you want something rare and square to get stares, what exactly is wrong with a G-Wagen? It’s similar in all ways, except more luxurious, and less expensive to maintain.

    • 0 avatar

      … Which makes the G-Wagon the more common, thus still making the image/cool factor remain in the Land Rover’s favor. Is it the logical choice? No. But if we were entirely logical, would we really be here as enthusiasts?

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      “…what exactly is wrong with a G-Wagen? It’s similar in all ways, except more luxurious, and less expensive to maintain.”

      What makes you think the G-Wagen will be less expensive to maintain?

      I don’t have direct experience with either, but the Defender is a simple vehicle with good aftermarket support – so it seems to me an enthusiast could keep one running at a reasonable cost.

      Doug has owned both a G-Wagen and a Range Rover so perhaps he’ll chime in on the relative maintenance costs of the two. Since the Defender doesn’t have a lot of the complex and failure prone electrical gadgets found on a Range Rover, I would expect the maintenance costs on a Defender would be considerably lower than for a Range Rover.

      • 0 avatar

        G-wagen is by far the worst of the 3. (Assuming we’re talking about newer ones). Defender is probably the best. I would take ANY Land Rover- except maybe a Series I Discovery- ahead of a G-Wagen.

        This is solely in terms of running costs by the way…

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      Having not actually gone and analyzed the costs I would take an educated guess that the g-wagon would be quite a bit more expensive to maintain. Those Landy’s are not exactly complex.

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    While I’ve always liked the Defender 90s, for the same money I’d rather have a resto-modded ’75 – ’77 Bronco…about the same level of refinement in the 20 year older vehicle….and lightyears cooler IMO.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Well ;

    I look at it and fondly remember being schlepped around New England on Uncle Bob’s LR 109 .

    This one here looks nice but I too would prolly buy a cheap Land Cruiser or Jeep .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The exoskeleton gets me every time; I love it.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    The funny thing is if Land Rover was importing Defenders into the US on a regular basis, the used ones wouldn’t cost more than a Jaguar of the same model year, which is not much.

  • avatar
    See 7 up

    First of all, a restored FJ40 will get the same looks and price (and for all intents and purposes be equally “crappy” as you are both defining the term.

    Secondly, people that have the means to do so, buy 2nd vehicles based on emotion. Not which one scored best on NVH, powertrain braking and whatever.

    Third, this vehicle is simple. Like a Wrangler, old Bronco, FJ40 and their ilk, the ownership experience of these are so completely different from your insulated, “perfect” modern car. They have personality. Now it is up to your personality as to whether you can get along and deal with older car shortcomings (see second point on 2nd car – shortcomings are easy when it doesn’t have to take you to work)

    Finally, the price. Like the M3, these are subject to supply and demand. Points 2 and 3 show why there is demand. Supply, as we all know, is limited as they do not make anymore and more and more are sent to the junker.

    I really do not understand the point of this “crapwagon” segment. It seems more a personal rant on what you view is right in a car. Or perhaps you secretly long for a Defender 90, but can’t pony up the money or time to make it happen?

    • 0 avatar

      “Or perhaps you secretly long for a Defender 90, but can’t pony up the money or time to make it happen?”

      Take a deep breath. Every week, Doug and I take a look at cars that we’d love to own but would never actually spend our own money for (because there are other cars we’d rather have, too much maintenance etc). Nonetheless, we still respect these cars enough to research them and write about them. The “Crapwagon” title is ironic, since most of these cars are pretty desirable/significant.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    I think the 110 turbodiesels are nice, capable off road wagons similar to the 60 Series Land Cruiser.

    Unlike the Toyotas, tho, they aren’t very reliable. Both are expensive to fix, but LC60s were sold in the US so used models are cheaper to find and ther are actually parts for them that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

    Just an arm.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    GIven the simple shape and construction, I’m sure one could build a convincing replica—perhaps one with real Defender running gear underneath—for far less than these asking prices. And since it would technically be a kit car, you wouldn’t have US Customs to worry about.

    Still, even though I’m a sucker for British cars, I’ve never liked the Defender. I think it looks poorly-proportioned in comparison to any of the Jeep Wranglers or Toyota FJ Land Cruisers, or even Land Rover’s other products. The nineties’ versions also have interiors that seem like they were cheaply and poorly-executed, and will be forever linked to that embarrassing period of design on what should be a timeless vehicle. I understand utilitarian appeal and all, but some of the shapes are the same stuff you’d see on a cheap golf kart.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    I remember the good old days when a guy competed in Four Wheeler magazine’s top truck challenge with radically modified versions of one of these. Awesome, and never again I suspect.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    “where rust will collapse it into two halves of Land Rover”

    I thought they were made of aluminum ?

  • avatar
    ToyotaSlave

    For me, instead of an FJ 40, I would take a 4Runner between 1999 – 2001. The price is more accessible. It’s also a desirable truck out there. Plenty of mods and good forum community. But, that’s outside of the purpose of this article.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      How does the old FJ80 hold up? I kinda want one, they manage to look both rugged and refined.

      • 0 avatar

        FJ80s are great, but also carry a premium. Not a Land Rover idiot premium, but a premium nonetheless. Like 10k for a well maintaned/built one, 4-7k for one that you’ll spend money on.

        Parts are more expensive than the contemporary Toyota trucks, as the FJ80 was kinda low volume here and massively over-engineered.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          Yeah…I noticed that a good FJ80 on eBay is around 8-10k, and parts are a bit pricey and not so easy to find.

          But I’m sure they’re well worth it thanks to the incredibly durable engineering built into everything. I remember reading in an off-roading magazine that the FJ80 axles were some of the best stock axles around in regards to durability.

          • 0 avatar
            ToyotaSlave

            NoGoYo – FJ 80 is certainly unique. However, because it is unique, you have to spend extra to repair it (face it – it’s not new). I don’t see it losing value quick.

            I thought I saw few diesel version for sale here in Canuckistan. Probably imported JDM version.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      The 4Runner would get you to the jeep track and a short way up it. The FJ would get you the rest of the way and the Landy would be there to get the FJ un-stuck. Then, once back on the roads, the FJ can tow the Landy when it breaks down.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    They’re cool, but, so is a classic Jeep CJ. The problem with the old Jeeps are too many people have ruined them by lifting them up a foot and sticking the biggest tires as possible. Atleast the LR don’t seem to suffer from the same fate; probably because rednecks can’t afford them.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I assure you rednecks can afford them, they just can’t afford to fix them. They most often sitting in front of the trailer/home for months waiting for repairs or simply end up on blocks at camp.

    • 0 avatar
      ThirdOwner

      They can now afford the older ones. Once purchased, they immediately jettison the stock wheels in favor of ugly 22″…

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    All off road vehicles are prone to rust especially if they are used for what they are designed for. There are a few good undercarriage treatments available to help and I would recommend them for anyone who uses their vehicle they way it was meant to be used.
    I don’t know why the Defender would get a bad rap for rust. At least the body won’t rust like Jeeps and Land Cruisers…

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    I remember driving a few of these in my valet days in late 1990s. They were horribly awful. Huge, bulky, with very tall hoods. They might be a star offroad (where I’m sure most owners won’t take them anyway) but there is no way I’d pay anything over $5K for one for driving around on asphalt. I’d much rather have a TJ Wrangler.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      I have a TJ and I’d rather have a D90. Wrench on a TJ and you’ll see the appeal of the D90’s simplicity. I had some issues with my door latch linkage on the Jeep and the D90’s solitary latch w/o actuating rods became very appealing.

      • 0 avatar

        JK has a few unappealing design issues even without considering the simplicity. For example, to change the fluid on the tranny one must use a 1/4″ U-joint extension, because the exhause cross-over blocks access. The new safer gas tank is a fun place too.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    The price makes sense in today’s market and is perhaps even a bargain costing only a few thousand more than a loaded Wrangler Rubicon. Short wheelbase 4×4 vehicles are an endangered species; the common as dirt Wrangler or a mediocre FJ are the only options period.

    Want a modern Land Rover with off-road capability? Good luck, all you will find are 22 inch chrome wheels and front wheel drive.

    Scarcity has driven up prices across the board for new and used 4x4s and since variety does not exist in the new market buyers are forced to pay new car prices for 20 year old vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      Brand new Rubicon is brand new and the D90’s 15 years old.

      …and doesn’t have lockers or 4:1 low range.

      • 0 avatar
        azmtbkr81

        40 year old Broncos sell for upwards of $100k. My point is that for not much more money than the Jeep you can buy a vehicle with similar capability and a great deal more cache. That kind of thing matters to a lot of people.

        Also the Defender 90 has a locking center diff.

        • 0 avatar

          D90 has a locking center diff (like any 4×4), but not front and rear, which is the first upgrade you need if you’re serious about traction.

          Broncos do not sell for over 100k. They sell for $30k for the nicest you could imagine. Unless you’re talking about ICON, which is a whole different brand of crazy.

          Cache doesn’t do you much good when you’re stuck in a hole in the middle of the desert. If I wanted to spend $40k and have cache, there’s better ways to do it.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    There are plenty of Land Rovers, older than 25 years, that could be imported and updated to look like a Defender 90. Sure, it would be a project, and yes it would cost time and money. But if you enjoy this sort of thing, it’s still cheaper than going to the movies.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      It’s too much work to update a Series 3 to a Defender. The best way to get a modern Defender with a 25+ year registration is what some people do as a cheeky road tax dodge in the UK. They simply bolt the bulkhead from a pre 1973 Landy onto a Defender chassis, as it’s the bulkhead which has the VIN number. The driver then has a practically brand new Land Rover Defender which can be taxed and insured as a classic. I’ve even heard of some people just cutting off the VIN off a rotter and welding it onto the bulkhead of a brand new unregistered Defender, however the authorities are apparently getting wise to such shenanigans, and take a very dim view of ‘rebuilt’ Land Rovers where the only original part is a rusty VIN.

      • 0 avatar

        How do the UK authorities deal with the British Motor Heritage shells for Minis, Triumphs and MGs? My brother’s ’63 Mini Cooper is a real Cooper from the S/N, but then the number plate was just screwed to the engine compartment with a couple of sheet metal screws so who knows?

        • 0 avatar
          Sinistermisterman

          Subsequent to what I typed the other day, it seems the UK government have tightened the rules regarding heavily rebuilt vehicles. There is a now a new test called an IVA ‘Individual Vehicle Approval’ test. This replaces the old SVA ‘Single Vehicle Approval’ test, which was the bane of many kit-car builders.
          The IVA now states:
          (1) A vehicle is a rebuilt vehicle if it :
          (c) has been rebuilt using a replacement chassis, or an integral chassis body, which is of the same
          design and construction as that of the original vehicle…
          So I guess anyone using a heritage shell for their rebuild is ‘supposed’ to go for an IVA… however I get the feeling many people will ignore such legislation or twist the law by doing something like welding in a patch of the old car’s shell into the new shell. Then it isn’t ‘replacement’ chassis, but a repair. :)

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    I have wanted a D90 station wagon with a turbo diesel for nearly 10 years now. The insane prices have kept me from owning one…oh yeah, and the fact that the government says that I can’t import one until it’s over 25 years old. I have been scheming all sorts of ways to make it happen affordably while staying legal. I don’t know how it can be done at this point in time without spending tens of thousands. I’m patient…this too shall pass.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I had no idea parts of the Canadian Armed Forces used Defenders until Crown Assets started posting old Wolfs for sale (they’ve had ten or so in the past couple months) – there’s one for sale right now, with an opening bid of two grand. My favourite part of the ad is as follows;
    Engine not fitted
    Spare engine in the back of the Land Rover
    It is not known if it fits the truck

    Of course, unlike standard North American spec Defenders running the ubiquitous 3.9L V8, I could see parts being a bit of an issue. Still tempting.

    https://www.gcsurplus.ca/mn-eng.cfm?snc=wfsav&sc=enc-bid&scn=130508&lcn=275491&lct=L&srchtype=&lci=&str=1&ltnf=1&frmsr=1&sf=ferm-clos

  • avatar

    You could argue that a D90’s better than a Wrangler based on some of the intentional expedition-grade engineering. Of course, it still doesn’t come with most relevant upgrades that a Wrangler Rubicon includes (4:1 t-case, lockers and sway bar disconnect).

    …but there’s no way to rationally claim that a Defender justifies the price difference over a new Wrangler Rubicon or a built example from any year.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Wouldn’t be caught dead on safari without one… What would the natives think?

  • avatar

    Ebay is full of imports from the early 80’s. On a side note If it’s the same as 10 years ago 80% of all legal d90’s and 110’s are on the vineyard and Nantucket at least it seems that way, which pretty much tells you who buys them (I would buy one if I had the cash to be honest)

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @ToyotaSlave: I feel like the FJ80 was the last Land Cruiser that was actually designed to spend time off road…the Land Cruiser has just become softer and lower and more absurdly expensive since the last FJ80s rolled off the line.

  • avatar
    ThirdOwner

    Can someone tell me why has Ford not resurrected the Bronco? It seems like it’d find its buyers. Or are they trying to focus on being a better appliance maker?

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      What would they build it off of?

      The F-Series platform would result in just a new version of the OJ Bronco…and the Escape and Edge are far too soft to handle it.

      Maybe the Ranger T6 platform…

      • 0 avatar
        ThirdOwner

        That’s right, on a shortened Ranger platform. Make it light enough / simple, robust and not too expensive, and they’ll sell. LR Defenders are not that expensive – in England.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Chaps, sorry but… YAWN. Seriously. We can get Defender, LC FJ70 AND Wrangler brand spanking new down here. Fancy ARB, OME or some more serious off-roading toys with that? no worries. Toys for the TD engine? we have you covered.

    Still want a crapwagon? Ummm… plenty of Discos, Defender, LC, Patrol available. And with LPG there’s no need to worry about petrol prices.

    Bitch please.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    The Defender would look appropriate with an anti-aircraft gun mounted on the back.

  • avatar
    Mikein08

    A crapwagon it may well be, but it seems to have the look and design
    needed for a true hardcord off-road vehicle. Give it reliability,
    comfort, capability, utility and a reasonable price, and I’d likely
    buy one. Meantime, I’ll stick with my Xterra, which takes me anywhere
    I point it, and with a few aftermarket pieces would take me places
    (and back) that I might be hesitant to go!

  • avatar
    Blaz

    They look crapwagons to me too and please note that I am from Europe! I would like to see one of these passing that point where rust will collapse it into two halves but the chances for this to happen are almost near zero since these vehicles have their whole bodies manufactured from aluminum and are put on a strong old-fashioned ladder. And that makes them very very distinct today.


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