As a kid, I used to trundle about a farm in a Defender (a B-plate 1984 soft-top 90 model, to be precise), regularly sharing the open-backed load area with a sheep or a bale of hay. As a result, I have first-hand experience of just how astonishingly good all Defenders are off road.
It was this go-anywhere ability that once saved my dad’s bacon, too. He was due to be the best man at a friend’s wedding, but woke up that morning in December 1963 to find himself completely snowed in at the family farm in Wales. It was only because there was a Series II Landie lurking about on site that both he and my mum - who was dressed to impress but accessorised with a pair of wellies - were able to complete the 100-mile trek and make the nuptuals.
So, does that mean climbing up into the cab of Huey Jr here was a pleasurable trip down memory lane? No, not really. You see, as gifted as Defenders are off road, I’ve always thought they were uncomfortable, slow and noisy.
Back in the late 1980s, when Flossy and I were cosied up in that 90, the Defender was a 40-year old relic then; I would much rather have been riding in the back seat of one of the new and far more comfortable Discoverys - a car that was no slouch off road itself.
That original Disco is long gone now, and even the current Discovery 4, complete with a fancy TDV6 engine and air suspension, is on its last legs and will soon be replaced. Time moves on, and things, more often than not, get better in the process.
So, pottering about Surrey in the cockpit of Huey Jr does beg the question: why has the Defender lasted so long, and why would you buy one now?
Just to get in, I needed to remember that special origami trick of how to fold my 6ft 3in frame to fit into the cramped - but admittedly supportive - driver’s seat of a Defender. Once aboard, you sit behind a vast steering wheel that feels like a leftover from the days before power steering - the days when a large-diameter wheel was essential for extra leverage.
It’s got hardly any steering lock, either, so U-turns are near-impossible unless you’re in the middle of a field, so on road it’s best to think in terms of W-turns, instead.
The engine is pretty good, though. These late models use a Ford Transit-derived 2.2-litre diesel, which has a pretty effective slug of low-down torque. It may take 14.7sec to hit 60mph from a standstill, but it feels punchy in the low gears and, with good driveability, would no doubt be perfect for off-road use. Despite the comically long-throw gearlever, the six-speed manual gearbox is also surprisingly obliging and easy to use.
Beware of the shorter, stubbier gearlever for the transfer box, mind; touch it and this irksome blighter has the potential to waste five minutes of your life, as you wrestle with it in an effort to escape a box full of neutrals.
It was 1984, the year Land Rover introduced the 90 model, that Defenders finally lost their ancient leaf springs and gained something approaching modernity: the coil spring. However, live axles, front and rear, remain to this day, and they certainly are lively. I can’t think of a single moment when Huey Jr wasn’t bouncing and bobbing over some bump or other - or, for that matter, listing mid-bend like a stricken ocean liner.
You’ll be unlucky to get caught speeding, mind, as these Landies struggle to reach much more than 80mph flat out. But before you hit that heady speed, you’ll be wishing all Defenders came with ear defenders. The combination of wind noise and road roar is deafening, and that’s before the added percussion from the vibrating driver’s door.