“Can you wade that pond?” Sure. “Can you make the tyres scrabble up that hill with a wheel off the ground?” No, but I can just drive up it.
Whatever we chuck the Defender’s way, it simply shrugs its shoulders and gets on with it. Another gentle reminder that, whatever the compromises, if you get this car into its right habitat, it’s unbeatable.
A Defender is for… learning to drive - Steve Cropley
My ’81 Series III pick-up had the distinction of teaching a dozen kids to drive. We bought it as an MoT failure from a farming friend. Our village abuts a farm on which we were allowed to drive so when our two boys could reach the clutch at 11 or 12, the Landie taught them to drive.
It taught their friends, too. I became blasé about heading for the woods on Sunday afternoons, sitting on a rock, opening the paper, and letting them get on with it. Until, that is, one little lad hit a tree while struggling with the steering. It hardly marked the Landie, but it might have hurt the kids. After that, I took more care.
A Defender is for… scaling hills - Richard Bremner
The Defender wasn’t called a Defender when I first drove one back in 1977. It was a brand new 88in example, a short wheelbase hardtop working as a demonstrator at the Stoneleigh Agricultural Show near Warwick. The main element of the demonstration was a chance to experience a Land Rover’s prodigious hill-climbing abilities, by ascending a surprisingly steep and tall grass bank.
My chance came because I was a BL Cars trainee working in the exhibitions department, one of their number generously deciding that I should sample one of the company’s key attractions.
The instructor went first, to illustrate. You needed low-range and a bit of a run-up before you were suddenly seeing sky and little else through the Land-Rover’s windscreen. Once close to the top we stopped, he carefully engaged reverse and allowed the Land Rover to descend, very slowly, to the bottom.
All of which looked easy enough. Except that for the run-up, a shortage of space meant that you had to start your ascent parallel to the bank before turning into a dead straight attack on its summit.
Back then, a Land Rover’s steering gear required quite a few turns from lock-to-lock, and I didn’t manage to get the car straight before our ascent began. But we did have momentum.
We climbed, and climbed quite fast, but were also heading up at an angle that was rapidly opening up. I was told to stop, at which point the Land-Rover began to slide sideways down the hill.
After a second or two its wheels hit some divots, lifting one side of the car up for the start of a roll-over. And then we started to bounce earthwards on the downward pair of wheels. At which point I glanced at the instructor’s face, and immediately knew that we were in uncharted and dangerous territory.
We bounced a few more times until the ground levelled out, and the Land-Rover came to a rest, unharmed. I was not offered another go. But I did learn how tough these cars are.
A Defender is for… wedding chauffeuring - Matt Burt
I’ve never owned a Defender, but my mate Andy has owned two, including ‘Deuce’, a silver 90 TD5 County that is his daily driver.