In a story last week I accidentally referred to a Series II Defender when, as anyone with even half a brain will tell you, the Series II Land Rover and the Defender are in fact completely separate vehicles. But what if they weren't?
My time in the Series II was all too brief, but there were several things I took away from it. First, its design is even more timeless in person than it is in the photos, with every inch harking back to a time when navigating the world threw up far greater challenges than an uncooperative GPS. Second, it is an absolute pig to drive, the brake pedal doing very little to slow the (hard won) momentum of the car, the gear stick seemingly connected to nothing at all and the steering containing more play than Shakespeare's Globe. And third, none of that did anything to lessen the fun I had behind the wheel.
As off-road aficionados will know, the Series II was produced from 1958 until 1961. Unlike the Series I before it, its design was influenced by Rover's Chief Stylist David Bache who, in better resolving the vehicle's details and softening a few of its corners, created a more well-rounded design - no pun intended - one which would endure for decades to come.
Even by the mid 1980s, when Land Rover introduced the Defender in the shape of the 90 (short-wheelbase) and 110 (long-wheelbase models), the influence of Bache's original design was still clear. The Defender's enhancements were mostly beneath the surface, in the form of permanent four-wheel drive, coil springs, more powerful engine options and an enhanced interior.
Today's Spotted combines the two, adds a little extra, and removes the chance that anyone will be indifferent to the result. It uses the timeless bodystyle of that Series II and the galvanised chassis, 2.5-litre engine and five-speed manual gearbox of a Defender. To this it adds a lift kit, a set of modular wheels wrapped in Cooper Discoverer tyres and some extended wheel arches to finish the job. It's also sporting one of the thickest, shiniest chrome roll bars I've ever seen fitted to a vehicle.
So, for a fiver under £30,000 you get what you'll either view as a muscular, modern take on a classic Land Rover or a sacrilegious mess. Either way you get six seats, power steering, a reliable engine (which "pulls like a train"), a fresh cambelt, service and MOT and a car guaranteed to turn heads whether you're on the high street or a green lane. But most of all what you get is a Series II Defender, a Land Rover which didn't exist, until now.
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