What is it?
It’s a Land Rover Defender with a petrol V8 in it. Goody. Not from the factory, mind: it has been 20 years since a petrol V8 comprised part of Land Rover’s regular Defender line-up; 15 since one last officially appeared, in a 50th anniversary limited-edition. This, then, is Twisted Performance’s version of a V8 Defender, to be built in quantities of around a dozen a year.
Twisted, the fairly prolific modifier of Defenders (more than 100 new-builds a year, 150 upgrades through the workshop, and a lot more mail order besides) has found there’s natural demand from countries where they don’t much go for diesels. So here we are: at Twisted’s HQ in Thirsk, Yorskshire, about to sample a 520bhp V8 engine in what is – unmistakably – a Defender.
Our drive is of a development car. And Charlie Fawcett, Twisted’s MD, is preparing me for precisely that: there are squeaks and rattles, he says. The engine is highly tuned and might stall at idle, he says. It has a manual gearbox rather than the automatic it’ll later receive and its action isn’t particularly refined, he says. It’s a prototype, you see. But let’s have a drive, shall we? Yes, let’s.