The Ninety was the short-wheelbase coil-sprung replacement for the Series III 88-inch models. Despite its name, the wheelbase was actually 92.9 inches – or 2360mm in the metric measurements which Solihull was now using. It was introduced just over a year after its One Ten long-wheelbase companion, the bigger seller worldwide being introduced first. This delay meant that the Ninety was never available with the old 2.3-litre diesel engine or with sliding door windows. The general features of the Ninety were the same as those of the One Ten, and the body options were the same as they had been for the Series III 88-inch types – soft-top, hardtop, truck cab pick-up, Station Wagon and County Station Wagon. The 2.3-litre petrol engine was replaced by a long-stroke 2.5-litre derivative a few months after production had begun, so relatively few were built with the older engine. The 3.5-litre V8 was held back until May 1985, and was then uprated to 134bhp just over a year later. At the same time, the 2.5-litre diesel was supplemented by a turbocharged (Diesel Turbo) option. All four-cylinder models had the LT77 five-speed gearbox, while the V8s always had the stronger LT85 five-speed type.
The One Two Seven was an extended-wheelbase model based on the One Ten and intended primarily for commercial applications. As the result of a delay in homologation, early examples were converted from One Ten chassis-cabs by Special Projects at Solihull, carried One Ten chassis numbers and were known as One Ten Crew Cab types. From mid-1985 approximately, the vehicle was homologated, became known as the One Two Seven and carried a “Land Rover 127” grille badge. From about the same time, vehicles were built up on the main assembly lines at Solihull and had distinctive VIN numbers. Special bodywork was nevertheless the responsibility of what was now known as Special Vehicle Operations. These vehicles were popular with public utility companies such as gas and electricity suppliers, and many came with the original “Crew Cab” configuration of a five-man two-door cab with a shortened High-Capacity Pick-Up load bed. Also common were the Quadtec range of box bodies (in combinations of short, long, standard-height and tall) built by SVO. Many One Two Sevens were equipped with ambulance or fire tender bodies, and some military forces took examples. Typical of the latter were the Rapier tractors used by the British Army and British-based USAF units.
The Land Rover 110 Heavy-Duty 6x6 was developed originally to meet the Australian Defence Force’s requirement for a load carrier in the 1.5 to 2-tonne class. It was designed primarily by Jaguar-Rover-Australia (as the company then was) with input from Land Rover at Solihull, and was a derivative of the One Ten. The model entered production in Australia during 1986 alongside a special military version of the One Ten, and was made available for the civilian market at the same time. From May 1989, the military 6x6 was also offered to other military users. Key to the design was a unique rear chassis frame, fabricated out of square tube and channel-section steel. To this was attached a twin-axle bogie, with leaf springs on each axle which were linked by a load-sharing rocker beam to give maximum articulation. The front axle retained the One Ten’s standard coil springs, and all three axles carried disc brakes. All versions of the Heavy-Duty 6x6 had 119.6 inches between the front and middle axles, a wheelbase they shared with the Australian- built Land Rover 120, a utility derivative of the One Ten. Front and middle axles were permanently driven, but there was selectable drive to the third axle. The Heavy-Duty 6x6 was available with three different engines, only the 3.5-litre petrol V8 being a standard Land Rover type. Optional but relatively uncommon was a 3.9-litre four-cylinder diesel built by Isuzu that was fitted to all Australian-built One Ten diesels, but most vehicles had the turbocharged version of this engine that was standard on the ADF vehicles. All three engines drove through the LT95A (Range Rover type) four-speed gearbox. Military versions of the vehicle had wide-track axles, and a specially widened cab. Production of the Heavy-Duty 6x6 continued into the Defender era.
The Land Rover utilities were renamed Land Rover Defenders in 1990, so the correct name of the 1991-model and subsequent short-wheelbase variants was Defender 90. New badging apart, the key changes for the Defender variants were in the drivetrains. In most countries, a detuned version of the Discovery’s 200 Tdi turbocharged diesel became the standard engine. The older four-cylinder engines were relegated to special-order options and disappeared altogether for 1992, but the 3.5-litre petrol V8, now also a special-order option, soldiered on until around the middle of that year. The LT77 five-speed gearbox was now universal (V8s lost the old LT85 type) and the LT77S with improved snychromesh was used on 1992 and later models. PAS became an option for 1991 and was standard on 1992 and later models. The 1991-1993 models had the familiar disc-drum brake combination, but 1994 models had discs all round, and models with the High Load Suspension option took on ventilated front discs for 1994. Detail changes included more elbow-room from cab seats further inboard, a new cubby box between them, and door-operated courtesy lights, while a smaller soft-feel steering wheel arrived for 1992 as PAS was standardised. Front bumpers on 1992 models lost the starting-handle hole, and for 1993 the windscreen hinges were deleted and Station Wagons took on a rigid stylised spare wheel cover. The 1994 season brought metallic and micatallic paint options for the first time. Body styles were the same as before, but there were no County Station Wagons in the UK for 1991, 1992 or 1993 – mainly to protect Discovery sales. Approximately 64,000 Defenders of all kinds were built between 1990 and March 1994, when revised “1995” models were introduced. It is not currently possible to say how many of these were Defender 90s.
The Land Rover 110 became a Defender 110 at the same time as the 90 took on the Defender name. All mechanical, trim and cosmetic changes outlined above for the Defender 90 took place on Defender 110 at the same time. In the UK, a County Station Wagon version of the Defender 110 was available from the beginning. The 1991-1993 models had 11 seats, but 1994 models took advantage of a change in tax regulations and had the more comfortable nine-seat configuration already available overseas. Defender 110s are included in the overall Defender production total given under Defender 90, above.
The ultra-long-wheelbase Land Rover 127 was renamed as a Defender 130 for 1991, although there was no change in its dimensions. Like the other Defender models, it took on the 200 Tdi diesel engine as its standard power unit, although the petrol V8 remained available and was probably more common in this application because the vehicle’s greater weight warranted the extra power and torque. Although the Defender 130 chassis was built on the main assembly lines, the model was most commonly completed by Special Vehicle Operations (renamed Land Rover Special Vehicles in 1992) with custom-built bodywork to meet a variety of commercial requirements. It is not currently possible to give exact production figures for the Defender 130 in this period, although by its very nature it was always a low-production model. All Defender 130s are included in the overall Defender total given under Defender 90.
Land Rover had broken back into the North American market with the Range Rover in 1987, and followed this model’s success with a special edition of the Defender 110 for the 1993 model-year. This is known as the Defender 110 NAS (North American Specification). The base model was a nine-seater Defender 110 Station Wagon, equipped with a full-length external rollover cage painted to match the body. It had the Range Rover’s 3.9-litre V8 petrol engine (although the quoted output figures differ slightly) and LT77S five-speed manual gearbox. The front bumper incorporated parking lights to meet US regulations and there were square rear lights with a high-mounted third brake light. The vehicles were completed by Special Vehicle Operations at Solihull and incorporated a number of other unique features. The Defender 110 NAS was sold as a limited edition and all examples carried a numbered plate on the rear panel. There were 500 for the USA plus a further 25 for Canada; nine prototypes made the total up to 534 vehicles. All except one special-order vehicle were painted in all-over white with black wheelarch eyebrows.
Land Rover followed the success of the special 1993-model NAS Defender 110 with an equally special 1994-model NAS Defender 90. This had the same powertrain of 3.9-litre V8 plus LT77S gearbox, but modified pistons improved the engine output figures slightly. The NAS 90 was an open model, with an external rollover cage around the driving compartment and rear bracing bars. The 1994 models had the same square rear lights and front bumper with inset parking lights as had been used on the 1993 NAS 110s. They had a swingaway spare wheel carrier and a fabric tonneau cover as standard, but the optional removable “Bimini” half-top which covered the cab area was universally specified. The all-disc braking system included ventilated front rotors, and there were Freestyle five-spoke alloy wheels with anti-roll bars front and rear. There were five standard colours, all with black wheelarch eyebrows and upholstery in Charcoal twill-effect vinyl. Sixty examples in Coniston Green were fitted locally with hardtops and there was a special edition of 100 in Beluga Black with leather upholstery and other special features. There were 1,943 NAS Defender 90s for the 1994 model-year in the USA, and a further 87 were built for Canada. All carried individually-numbered identification plaques on the tail panel.
The key changes for the 1995-model Defenders (introduced in March 1994) were in the drivetrain, where the 300 Tdi engine replaced the 200 Tdi type and the R380 five-speed gearbox replaced the LT77S. The Tdi engine was now in the same state of tune as in Range Rovers and Discoverys; previous Defenders had used a lower-powered version of the engine. It was also mounted further forwards in the chassis. The R380 brought slicker gearchanges and was accompanied by a lighter clutch action. Other changes for 1995-model Defender 90s included improved interior lighting and a higher-quality ICE option. Station Wagons now had safety belts on the inward-facing rear seats for the first time. Body styles were as they always had been, but significant changes in the mid-1990s were part of Land Rover’s plan to broaden the appeal of the Defender. Micatallic and metallic paints became optional on 1996 County Station Wagons, and the 1997 and 1998 Countys could be had optionally with a body-coloured roof in place of the traditional white one. Utility models started off with grey PVC upholstery, but this changed to Twill PVC (as pioneered on the NAS 90) for 1997. The Moorland cloth upholstery on early County models changed to Rayleigh cloth at the same time, and the original black door trims, cubby box and fascia were changed for Dark Granite items. At the same time, Dark Granite carpets were fitted to County models. For 1996, County Station Wagons could have the Freestyle Choice option of Freestyle alloy wheels, BF Goodrich 265 x 16 tyres and front and rear anti-roll bars seen earlier on the NAS 90. These items were standardised on 1997-model Defender 90s for the UK and other markets. The 300 Tdi engine was the standard power unit for the Defender 90 outside North America in this period, although two other engines were also used. First was the 134bhp T16 engine (as used in the Discovery Mpi), fitted to 840 Defender 90 window hardtops supplied to the Italian authorities in 1995-1996. Then in 1998, the 4.0-litre petrol V8 engine and automatic transmission of the 1997 NAS 90 were used in a commemorative limited edition (see below)Although the early 1990s had seen Defender sales slipping, the middle of the decade saw them rise once again. The model was replaced during 1998 by the Defender 90 with Td5 diesel engine.
In this period, the Defender 90 NAS (North American Specification) was used to pioneer a number of innovations which were later standardised on Defenders for the rest of the world. All the North American Defenders were powered by petrol V8 engines, and all were sold in the USA, none being available in Canada. Despite the four calendar years in this period, the NAS 90 was sold for only two seasons. These were 1995, when the model-year stretched from late 1994 to mid-1995, and 1997, when it ran from mid-1996 to mid-1997. There were no 1996-model NAS 90s, and sales were discontinued because volumes did not justify the huge amount of re-engineering needed to equip the Defender with airbags and other features demanded by new North American regulations. The 1995 models had the 3.9-litre V8 engine with the new R380 five-speed manual gearbox. However, the 1997 NAS 90 was powered by the revised 4.0-litre V8 (with the same 3947cc and identical power and torque outputs) driving through the four-speed ZF automatic gearbox already familiar from Range Rovers and Discoverys. These were the first-ever production Land Rover utilities with automatic transmission. Two body styles were available on the 1995 models. The soft top had the same half-length rollover cage as earlier NAS 90s, while the Station Wagon – sold as a limited edition and new to the USA – had a full-length rollover cage similar to that seen on the 1993-model NAS 110. Soft tops had Twill PVC upholstery, but Station Wagons had six cloth-covered seats. These models also had round rear lights in place of the rectangular units fitted to 1994 and earlier NAS 90s. The same two body styles were offered on 1997 models, although the Station Wagon was now marketed as a full-production model and the soft top had a full-length rollover cage. Other changes for 1997 included an electronically-driven speedometer with digital odometer and the addition of cupholders on the centre console. There was a limited edition of 300 special Station Wagons in 1997; all finished in Willow Green, these were equipped with a number of off-road accessories from the Land Rover Kit range. All NAS 90s in this period had BF Goodrich All-Terrain tyres on Freestyle five-spoke alloy wheels, and were equipped with anti-roll bars front and rear. There were 1,190 soft tops for the 1995 model-year and a further 1,499 for 1997, making a total of 2,689. The 1810 Station Wagons were made up by 510 of the 1995 models and 1,300 for 1997.
The Defender V8 50 was a limited-edition Defender 90 built in mid-1998 to commemorate Land Rover’s 50th Anniversary. All were Station Wagons with the 4.0-litre petrol V8 and four-speed automatic transmission pioneered on the 1997 NAS 90, and all had an integral rollover cage, checkerplate panels on the body, and chromed side runners. However, the rest of the specification differed from country to country. In Britain, the paintwork was Atlantis Blue and the wheels were Freestyle alloys with a gunmetal finish, while the upholstery was in cloth. In Japan, the paintwork was white, the wheels were satin-finish Boost alloys, and the upholstery was in cloth. All models carried a numbered limited-edition plaque on the right-hand rear body panel. There were 1,071 Defender V8 50s altogether. Of these, the most numerous were the 451 for Japan. Britain took 385, Germany 180, France 25, Holland 20 and Belgium 10.
The 300 Tdi engine and R380 gearbox were introduced for the Defender 110 in March 1994, at the same time as they made their appearance on the Defender 90. This engine-and-gearbox combination characterised the 110s of the mid-1990s and survived until the early autumn of 1998, when the Td5 engine replaced the 300 Tdi. In theory, the old 2.5-litre petrol engine and even the V8 petrol engine could also be had to special order during this period, but the number of vehicles built with these was very small. Body styles were unchanged from those of earlier Defender 110s, but these models shared their upgrades with the contemporary 90s. On 1995 models came better interior lighting and a higher-quality ICE option, plus safety belts for the inward-facing rear seats of Station Wagons. For 1996 County Station Wagons, micatallic and metallic paints became optional, and the 1997 and 1998 Countys could be ordered with a body-coloured roof in place of the traditional white one. Early utility-bodied 110s had grey PVC upholstery and early Countys had Moorland cloth. The major changes came in 1997, when Twill PVC became standard for utilities and Rayleigh cloth for Countys, while the original black door trims, cubby box and fascia were changed for Dark Granite items. Countys also picked up Dark Granite carpets. The 1997 model-year brought wheel-and-tyre changes, too. The standard tyres changed to Avon Rangemaster 750 x 16s, while Countys took on dished alloy wheels with Goodyear All-Terrain 235/85 R 16 tyres.
The ultra-long wheelbase Defender remained in production during this period, and changed in much the same way as the contemporary 110. That meant that the 300 Tdi engine became standard along with the R380 gearbox, although it seems probable that more significant numbers of Defender 130s would have been built with the special-order V8 option. Precise numbers are not currently available. While the standard vehicles retained the 127-inch wheelbase in use since 1984, the vehicles built for the Netherlands were stretched by two inches to give a 129-inch wheelbase. The extra two inches inserted into the standard crew cab enabled these vehicles to meet the strict Dutch definition of “commercial vehicle” and so enabled their buyers to make substantial tax savings.
The Defender XD (eXtra Duty) range was developed in the early 1990s to meet a British armed forces requirement. The project was known to Land Rover as Wolf, and this name is still commonly used to describe the vehicles. The contract was awarded to Land Rover in January 1996 and the new vehicles began to enter service in 1997/98. They have been made available to other military buyers but have not been offered on the civilian market. The British armed forces have taken the 90 and 110 versions of the XD with both soft-top and hardtop bodies; the soft tops are made of a synthetic material rather than the traditional British military canvas and the hardtops are resin-moulded. The Defender XD 130 has so far been delivered only with a four-stretcher ambulance body constructed by Marshall’s of Cambridge. The XD models are based on the standard civilian Defenders and are visually very similar to them. However, the XD variants have distinctive louvred dust-extractor air intake boxes on each front wing behind the wheelarch and they also have perforated heavy-duty disc wheels. While in service, the right hand air intake box was usually replaced with a raised air intake and twin air filter to improve dust filtration. Both hardtop and soft-top bodies are taller than on the standard Defender, both to give more headroom in the rear and to clear the rollcage fitted within the back body. All models additionally have provision for carrying a spare wheel mounted high on each side of the body behind the cab doors. Less visibly, the XD bodies and chassis have been extensively redeveloped to produce substantially more robust components. The chassis frame has stronger side rails and cross-members, and the body is rigidly mounted to it by new integral side and rear structures. These structures also reinforce the body itself, which is further strengthened by a rollover bar above the cab area. This rollover bar and the back body’s rollcage are both demountable for low-profile operations. Every member of the XD range is powered by the 300 Tdi diesel engine and has an R380 gearbox, and the XDs did not switch to the Td5 engine in 1998 when civilian Defenders did so. All models have an uprated rear axle with a four-pinion differential, and all are capable of carrying payloads up to 20 percent greater than their standard civilian counterparts.
Defenders were built in South Africa from CKD kits which had been shipped out from Solihull. The assembly plant at Rosslyn was close to the BMW plant, and during the German company’s ownership of Land Rover, it was no surprise to find a BMW engine going into a Defender. The engine used was the BMW M52, a six-cylinder 2.8-litre petrol unit originally designed for saloon and sports cars. It offered very good road performance, although low-down torque for off-road use was less impressive. All models came with the R380 five-speed gearbox, and 90 versions had a larger fuel tank than was used on the alternative diesel (300 Tdi) models. Defenders with this engine were badged as “2.8i” models and were sold only in southern Africa – although around a dozen vehicles (mostly 90s) did find their way to the UK through specialist exporters. Models available with the BMW 2.8-litre engine were the 90 County, 110 County, 110 pick-up and 110 hardtop. Production figures for these models are not currently available.
The 1999-model Defenders introduced in October 1998 at the Paris Motor Show were essentially updated versions of the models which had gone before. They introduced a number of new features (many optional, depending on the intended market). All models had new Techno interior trim, a strengthened R380 gearbox, a cable-operated LT230Q transfer gearbox, electronic instrumentation, and extra sound insulation. Of the new optional features, the most important were ABS with ETC and EBD, and fascia-mounted air conditioning. Most models had a one-piece rubber floor mat, but with the County trim came proper carpets. For many markets, the key feature which distinguished these Defenders from earlier models was Land Rover’s new five-cylinder 2.5-litre Td5 intercooled turbocharged diesel engine which replaced the four-cylinder 300 Tdi diesel as the standard powerplant. This was a lower-powered version of the engine also used in the Discovery Series II, introduced at the same time. However, the 300 Tdi remained available to special order, and was actually standard in some overseas territories. In South Africa, it was available as an alternative alongside the Td5. Once stocks of UK-assembled 300 Tdi engines had been exhausted, further examples were bought in from International, who had bought the licence to manufacture the engine in Brazil and to develop it further. From September 2000, the 2001 Td5-powered models had a modified engine ECU which reduced low-speed stalling. The 2002 models announced in May 2001 had a one-piece tail door (where applicable), central locking as standard and a modified fascia centre (which incorporated controls for electric front windows when this option was fitted). The usual range of body options was available in this period: truck cab, soft top, hardtop and Station Wagon. County models had alloy wheels as standard but did not have side decals. To maintain sales, Land Rover introduced several limited-edition variants of the Defender 90 in this period. Only the Tomb Raider (see below) was for worldwide markets, and the details of others varied from country to country. France, for example, had the Defender Hawaii, a “cabriolet” (soft-top) model finished in Monte Carlo Blue and available during 2001. The UK generally had the Defender 90 X Tech, based on the hardtop and with alloy wheels (two editions: one in Blenheim Silver during 2000 and one in Bonatti Grey in 2001), and two different limited editions based on the Station Wagon, both with Defender 110-based equivalents (see below). The 150-strong Defender 90 Heritage edition from August 1999 had Atlantic Green paint, leather trim, special interior detailing and a plastic grille supposedly representative of the early Land Rover wire mesh type. The Defender Black (100 examples for the UK from June 2002) had chequer plate on the body, side protection rails, black paint, leather trim and other details.
The Defender 110 took on the same basic changes as the short-wheelbase models in the autumn of 1998, and development of the two models generally ran parallel thereafter. County models had deep-dish alloy wheels and, like the 90 Countys, no side decals. Cab and Station Wagon roofs could be either white or in the body colour. The models available were the same as they had been before, but changed tax regulations in the UK prompted the introduction of a Double Cab model in 2000, featuring a five-seater, four-door cab and a shortened rear pick-up bed. (Similar models had been available in some overseas territories for a number of years, and of course the basic configuration was the same as that of the established Crew Cab models on the longer-wheelbase Defender 130). As with the Defender 90, limited and special editions were used to promote sales, and these differed from country to country. Australia, for example, had the Xtreme in 2000, a high-specification Station Wagon with special decals. Notable in the UK were the Heritage (150 Station Wagons in Bronze Green during 2000, with special grille, leather trim and other details) and the Black (150 Double Cabs from June 2002, in black with leather trim, chequer plate on the body panels and an integral rollover cage).
The Defender Tomb Raider was a worldwide limited edition finished in Bonatti Grey with chequer plate on the body, special interior detailing, rollover cage and roof-mounted spotlights. These vehicles also carried a special limited-edition badge to link them to the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie which had inspired their creation. The short-wheelbase variant was based on a 90 Station Wagon, and the long-wheelbase model was based on a 110 Double Cab. There were 900 examples altogether, of which 250 were for the UK market.
The ultra-long-wheelbase Defender remained available in this period, now with the Td5 diesel engine as its standard power unit. Development once again paralleled that of the bigger-volume models, but most examples were fitted with the heavy-duty steel wheels introduced for the Defender XD. For the Netherlands, the standard 127-inch wheelbase was again stretched to 129 inches, with body modifications to suit, so that the Crew Cab model met local commercial vehicle regulations and avoided punitive tax regulations.
A further extended Defender became available in autumn 2001. Land Rover South Africa needed a large-capacity Station Wagon to meet the needs of safari tour companies, and in co-operation with LRSV at Solihull developed a 37-inch chassis extension for the Defender 110. The Defender 147 was offered only as a six-door Station Wagon, and low-volume production was confined to South Africa. The vehicle could be configured to seat 13 passengers or with fewer seats and greater luxury. Engine options were the Td5 or 300 Tdi diesels, always with an R380 five-speed manual transmission. At Solihull, 16 147-inch chassis were built to special order by LRSV for bodying as tour buses and eventual use by the Busch Gardens theme park in Florida. These had Td5 engines and ZF four-speed automatic gearboxes.
The major change to Defenders for the 2007 model-year was the introduction of the 2.4-litre Ford four-cylinder TDCi diesel engine (also known as the Puma), as used in the Ford Transit. This was accompanied by a six-speed Ford MT82 gearbox and also by a distinctive bump in the bonnet, which was needed because the new engine was taller than before. The dashboard was also completely redesigned, with a single-piece moulding incorporating air vents in pods at the top. Meanwhile, Station Wagons took on new forward-facing seats in the rear to meet the latest legal requirements, so reducing seating capacity to seven in the 110 models and four in the 90 models.
From 2012, the 2.4-litre engine was replaced by a small-bore 2.2-litre derivative (not the same as the 2.2-litre engine in the Freelander 2 and Range Rover Evoque). This delivered the same outputs but with lower tailpipe emissions. For the 2013 model-year, the Defender was available with contrasting paint colours on the roof, so bringing it into line with the style initiated by the Range Rover Evoque.
With sales boosted by a number of limited editions, notably the Heritage, Adventure and Autobiography “Celebration Editions” in 2015, the Defender remained in production until January 2016. Production had been expected to end on 20 December 2015, but a surge in orders meant that the last one was built on 29 January.