Land Rover’s 70th birthday present to itself, the Works V8 Defender, was such a gloriously simple idea they’d probably been waiting years for the right moment. Take the most iconic shape available (the Defender that had already been out of production for some time), take a legendary V8 that was never offered with it from the factory, bring the two together with some limited edition sprinkles on top and watch the people clamour. Like so many of the best ideas, there was no need to overthink it. The Rover V8 had made icons of various Range Rovers and Land Rovers, including earlier Defenders; it only seemed right that the 5.0-litre AJ-V8 be given the same opportunity.
Of course, the car that resulted was compromised, expensive, and inefficient - everybody loved it. But there was far more to the Works V8 than a mere engine swap, even if it did account for as much of the appeal as the ice cream in a 99. The Classic Works team treated the Defender to a new steering box, uprated anti-roll bars, better springs and Bilstein dampers in an attempt to contain an engine that, even in a lower state of tune, was producing more than 400hp and almost the same again in torque. Where a Defender normally had a four-cylinder diesel. Safe to say the Works experience was one dominated by its engine; better to drive than a standard car and even lovelier to behold, but made unforgettable by that endlessly charming V8.
The Works was, unsurprisingly, a very successful endeavour, with all 150 build slots spoken for before it even launched. So Land Rover gave it another go. The recent Defender Trophy models are obviously more suited to rufty tufty driving than the Works, but the fundamental appeal of combining that aesthetic with that engine remains intact. Just a few more years after the old stager finished production. Seems there isn’t too much of a good thing, especially when £200k can be asked for it.
By the time of the Works’ introduction, we’d already had the official run-out Defenders, the Heritage, Autobiography and Adventure. And we’d all witnessed the incredible appreciation enjoyed by them being left untouched - the Heritage especially. Two things were clear: a lot more could be asked for retro-themed Defenders, and there was every likelihood that very special, very expensive models would be tucked away as collectors’ items. Not driven and enjoyed - ‘endlessly revelling in its maverick status’, as our review put it - as they were intended to.
The odd Works V8 will surface with a piffling mileage, then there’s this one: the ninth of the 150, a 90 in Bering Grey that’s notched up 7,000 miles since 2018. Hardly a motorway mile muncher, but a decent return given what’s usually seen on pricey limited editions. Hardly like the time or the use has done anything to dent the appeal, either, the Defender smartly presented and looking cooler by the day. Perhaps a 110 would be more useful, but the sheer silliness of a V8 in a Defender this small is possibly more endearing.
On offer from Jaguar Land Rover Classic (there’s a stocklist to check out if you have a few minutes), the Works is for sale at £179,950 - not bad going for a £150k-when-new Defender. Such is the love for the project. Nobody needs reminding that more workaday, 20th century V8 Defenders are around for much less money - this is more even than new era supercharged V8s - but they won’t be the same kind of very special Defender. Accept no substitute.
1 / 7
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