It’s a line the car maker could consider for an advertisement featuring a chisel-jawed adventurer fording a river in his all-new Defender on his way, perhaps, to a black-tie dinner in the jungle but for the fact that the words were spoken by a mourner at a recent funeral, overcome by the sight of a Defender-based hearse.
“The family were absolutely stoked,” says Jacqui Whinnett, founder of Alpha 4x4 Funerals that provided the vehicle. “The order of service carried a picture of the deceased driving his Landie; that’s how much he loved it.”
Who on earth, and in heaven, requests to be taken on their final journey in a Defender, I ask her: “Lots of people. Land Rover enthusiasts, of course, but also free spirits, adventurers… I recently did a funeral for a young chap who’d done a lot of travelling and who had planned to buy a Land Rover. Another organised illegal raves and the floral tributes were stuffed with marijuana leaves.
“Farmers like to go in a Land Rover, too. Only a few weeks ago, in the Cotswolds, I drove one to the top of a field overlooking his farm to be buried. His relatives said it was so he could keep an eye on everyone.”
Forget images of a smoky old Landie chugging up a boggy field with a coffin poking perilously out of the back. Whinnett’s Defender would do a royal funeral justice (she’d love to do one of those, too). It’s a 130 she bought in 2003 and had converted by Foley specialist vehicles.
“It’s an ex-army vehicle that used to tow Rapier missiles,” she says. “Being a 130 it’ll take a coffin lengthways, where a competitor who runs a Defender 110 has to squeeze it in diagonally.”
Foley has done a great job of Whinnett’s Defender hearse, the highlight being a rear deck finished in polished walnut and with storage beneath for cleaning materials and lowering straps. The company also resprayed it in uplifting Zambezi silver and fitted black leather seats. Over the years, Whinnett has fitted alloy vent flap controls, steps and hinges, and had a replacement 300 TDi engine fitted (the original motor was a petrol V8).