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What To Look for in a Land Rover Defender

Land Rover Model Differences

Like an eye-wateringly strong sandwich spread, the Land Rover Defender is a product which has divided opinion for many years. No one who has experienced a Defender close-up, whether as a driver or a passenger, will remain ambivalent; people either ‘get it’, or they don’t, and few ever change their minds. By modern standards, the car is basic and unrefined, with a reputation for being noisy and uncomfortable. But like a woodsman’s axe, or a paper map of a wilderness area, a Land Rover’s rudimentary nature means it can plod on day after day under arduous circumstances, and can still function even when many of the conveniences of modern life are unavailable. Critically for enthusiasts, it also means it makes a great platform for customization.

Since production of the original Defender range ceased in 2016, all models are in demand on the used market, and finding the right car for your own needs can be a challenge. To further complicate matters, these Land Rovers were among the last vehicles in the world to feature body-on-chassis construction, with which some buyers may be unfamiliar. You need to know what to look for in a Defender if you are buying one for the first time, so Dirt Monkey Offroad have put together a brief Land Rover Defenders buyers guide to help you make the right choice.

Discovery and Defender Differences

As this model is effectively a continuation of the original Land Rovers, almost all Defender bodywork is made of aluminium (cars from the last few years had steel doors and bonnets). The panels themselves, therefore, will not rust, although they sometimes suffer a small amount of electrolytic corrosion. But the hinges and mountings were made of steel, and some potential buyers forget to check these critical areas. As for the cosmetic condition of the bodywork, remember these are working vehicles and most will have gained a few bumps of scrapes during their lifetime. The large, flat panels make it easy to spot inconsistencies in the finish. For many drivers, this is just part of the look, but if you’re determined to find a perfect example with no blemishes, you will likely have to wait a while.

A Defender chassis is also made from steel, and this is the main area you need to check for rust, in particular cross members, outriggers, and mounting points for suspension and steering components. Some chassis are specially treated to resist corrosion. Defender bulkheads should likewise be examined for rust.

Unlike more modern cars which are produced as units, these Landys were built the old-fashioned way of taking a central chassis and bolting everything to that. This means they are ideal for modifying for a particular task, as you can change absolutely any part and replace or upgrade it, until you achieve the vehicle you want.

On the downside, it also means that many Defenders have already been heavily modified by their owners, and it can be hard to know just what you’re getting for your money. Having a potential buy checked out by experienced mechanics is highly recommended. At the very least, you should make sure the car’s identification numbers match those on the documents provided – a Defender Vehicle Identity Number (VIN) can be found behind the left-front corner of the windscreen, on a plate above the brake master cylinder, and on the front right-hand side of the chassis. Engines and gearboxes have their own serial numbers.

There have been various types of Defender engine fitted over the years, and many have been worked hard. The best way to find a good one is to ask for documentation of regular servicing. When it comes to Defender running gear, be sure to check the swivel balls and other suspension components for damage. Driving on rough terrain can damage the underside of the car, and replacement parts can prove expensive.

Once you have found your Defender, the fun can start: it’s time to kit out your car with some accessories and begin your adventure! Contact Dirt Monkey Offroad to learn more about achieving your perfect Land Rover.

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