The Land Rover Defender has a very long history, especially if you include the SUV that it was based on. The Land Rover Defender arrived in 1983 and was developed based on the Land Rover Series that had launched in 1948 and continued production until 2016. Over the course of that long life, there were 14 body styles and three wheelbases. The Land Rover Defender remains highly sought after, including the 1990s models, thanks to its reputation as a long-lasting workhorse combined with off-roading capabilities.
Behind the Wheel
The ’90s Land Rover Defender always comes with 4×4. However, it’s not necessarily a civilized or refined vehicle, something that contrasts sharply with the upscale image of Land Rover. The Defender is known for being slow and unwieldy, but its capabilities mean that it remains popular. While other SUVs go off-road, the Land Rover Defender already had several decades of engineering under its belt by the ’90s, meaning the team knew exactly what features were necessary to make it stand out.
To further contrast Land Rover’s luxury image, the Defender of the 1990s was very barebones. The dashboard was simplistic in nature and still had the styling from the mid-1980s. The cabin was designed with functionality and ease of cleaning in mind instead of luxury and comfort. The list of features was so short that even airbags were not included.
The Land Rover Defender came in a few body styles, including a convertible that featured a second-row bench seat as standard, plus your choice of top. Those options included a full soft top plus roll-up side windows, a “Bikini” half top, no top, and a fastback soft top. The hardtop body style arrived in 1995 with an aluminum roof and pop-up sunroof. It also had a “safari cage” and four rear seats that faced the center. Most Defenders sold in the U.S. were the Defender 90 models. However, the Defender 110 was available in 1993 in small quantities, just with a fixed hard top and center-facing rear seats that provided space for nine people.
The engine under the hood of the ’90s Land Rover Defender depends on which particular model year you look at. In 1994 and 1995, the version sold in the United States used a 3.9-liter V8 that delivered 232 pound-feet of torque and 182 horsepower. It always worked with a 5-speed manual transmission and full-time four-wheel-drive system. In 1997, the Defender got the 4-liter aluminum V8 from the Discovery for 233 pound-feet and 182 horsepower. It worked with a 4-speed automatic, and though it didn’t gain power, it did reduce emissions. Those lower emissions let the Defender return to the U.S.
Unfortunately, the Land Rover Defender is much harder to find in the United States than in other countries since it was sold in much more limited numbers. You should still be able to find a model if you look hard enough. However, expect to put in some effort as you look.