RAC Cars News


When The Land Rover Defender Went Bonkers

By raccars Published

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With the sad demise of the Land Rover Defender has come the bittersweet pleasure of wallowing in nostalgia, considering the great Defenders of the past and how the utilitarian off-roader could ever be replaced. Unlike any other car, the Defender was basic in the extreme ? but infinitely modifiable.

Not only was Land Rover happy to indulge in some specialist builds but also there were a number of firms created around the premise of customising the Defender. The following are arguably the most deranged versions of the Defender ever created.

SAS Series II Pink Panther

The military has been using Defenders since the late 1940s. They have been used in standard format and modified in the form of ambulances, lightweight versions for air transportation and half-tracks. The SAS ordered a set of 109” Series II As for desert transport. To fit the remit, the Defenders were painted pink to provide camouflage in the desert between dawn and dusk, hence the 'Pink Panther' nickname. The modified Defenders were capable of carrying a company of three for six weeks, with a 100-gallon fuel capacity, improved cooling, and a chassis upgrade. Land Rover created special operations vehicles to military requirements until the late 1990s, when US Rangers in Kosovo found their bulky Hummers were too wide to fit the local streets and commissioned alternative transport from Land Rover.

101 Forward Control

This versatile model had military applications and over the years has towed field guns and been used as a radio vehicle, ambulance and camper van. It was released in 1972, and in 1995 31 101 Forward Controls were bought and customised for the film Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone, on the basis that Land Rovers would be the only vehicles to survive the dystopian future predicted in the eponymous comic series. The original Defenders are barely recognisable in the film.

Roadless Traction's 'Forest Rover'

Roadless Traction came up with a version of the Defender it called the 'Forest Rover' in 1961. This was designed overcome traction problems suffered by the Forestry Commission, with a simple but effective solution in the form of tractor tyres.

A fair amount of modification was involved, of course, such as widening the track by 14 inches to give the massive wheels enough clearance and using new axles with reduction gearing to keep speeds low; however, the 'Forest Rover' did retain the standard model's engine and gearbox. The Rover's additional height and width gave it extra abilities to navigate side-sloping terrain and wade more deeply. About 20 of these vehicles were made.

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