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Dream Garage – Land Rover Defender 90

February 7, 2011

Land Rover D90When thinking of used, perhaps collectible cars I’d like to have in my garage I find myself dreaming of vehicles that have come from all parts of the world, built with all sorts of different purposes.  For the first go-around many, when asked, would probably look straight to sports cars from their youth or the latest technology they saw advertised during the Super Bowl.  For me, right now, I’d like to start the first installment of “Dream Garage” with a storied player from across the Atlantic.  One who had a brief stint here stateside but has been satisfying enthusiasts overseas for decades. 

The Land Rover Defender 90, to me, has the perfect blend of rugged off-road prowess, storied pedigree, North American rarity, and utter class all rolled into one.  These trucks aren’t the grocery-getter, soccer mom Land Rovers currently dotting the suburban landscape.  Drivers of the Defender 90 often have real adventure in mind, and enjoy getting a little dirty while doing it. 

Having been used for decades in the British military (and still to this day), the Defender has been available to consumers worldwide since the early 1980’s, having first come to the U.S. in 1994 alongside the more family-friendly Discovery and the famed Range Rover models.  Originally imported with only an open back with soft top, it was seen as an expensive alternative to the perennial Jeep Wrangler.  By the end of its brief time in the U.S. we also saw a fully enclosed Wagon model join the ranks.  Offered with both manual and automatic transmissions and V8 power plants, these trucks were the epitome of a no-frills, purpose-built off-road vehicle.  Air-conditioning was optional and the interior was as spartan as one would expect in a truck derived from military use.  However, the stuff for adventure seekers was (and still is) all there:  A capable V8 engine with just enough power, full-time four-wheel drive, a locking differential, a suspension built for the outback, and enough ground clearance to ford a few low, rocky stream beds.  If this description sounds like I’m starting to think of my next camping adventure then you know exactly why this model stirs up emotion in drivers to this day.

All this is exactly why my first pick for Dream Garage Car of the Month is the Defender 90.  This truck, if parked in my garage, would make me sleepwalk into it at night and find myself waking up in the parking lot of REI, ready to buy some camping gear and head out for an adventure into the wilderness.  Sure, it doesn’t have a lot of the creature comforts most SUV’s had even back then, but I guess that’s the point.  I’ll take a little more road noise, a lot more character, and a few more maintenance quirks in exchange for a unique and genuine motoring experience.  I see these Defenders here around Newport Beach, shiny and clean, loaded with surfboards and ready for a day in the sun.  I applaud those owners and the others who use them for whatever their passion is…because passion is what it’s all about.

Years Sold in U.S.             1994, 1995, 1997

Total Production #’s        6,442 (U.S. spec)

Specifications                    3.9 liter V8 (’94-’95) and 4.0 liter V8 (’97)

List Cost New                     $27,900-$40,000

Value Now                          $20,000-$50,000

Why Buy?                            Unique, pedigreed, capable, street-cred

Best For…                            outback adventures, off-roading, surf and ski patrol

My pick                                 A hardtop wagon in blue, green, or white

A yellow Defender 90 Soft Top

The Defender's no-frills interior

A white Hard Top

A Land Rover ad circa 1994, depicting the Defender's adventurous capabilities

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2011 7:45 am

    Please check out http://www.defender90forsale.com/ for the latest used Defenders for sale in the US!

  2. Paul permalink
    February 8, 2011 10:03 am

    Matt,

    Very nice article. Although I was initially surprised at the car you picked to be in your Dream Garage, I shouldn’t have been. It fits the adventuresome nature you exhibit at times. Keep on a Blogging…………very interesting.

    The Binkster

  3. Craig turner permalink
    August 30, 2013 7:05 pm

    Great trucks. I have a 1997 white hard top like the one above and it turns heads more than most exotics. Highly recommended.

  4. Donnie Rogers permalink
    June 30, 2017 4:56 pm

    That Arles blue up top was mine. It was fantastic. I took the photo too. Tampa area.

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