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Defender Works V8: An old bus for wealthy nostalgics

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, Land Rover has announced its intention to rebuild 150 second-hand – or in its words “specially-selected” – Defenders and re-engineer them to accept Jaguar’s AJ133 5.0-litre V8. Cool huh?

Yeah, we’re a bit late going to press with this article, but it’s because we’ve just published our free magazine, and being a small all-male team, we can only manage one thing at a time. By the way, you should check out our magazine – here – and let us know what you think.

Being late to this party means that we’ve had a chance to read other articles on this project. Some suggest the Works V8 Defenders will be brand new, fresh of the production line units, but that’s wrong, not only because the press release makes it clear they’ll be second-hand units (2012-15 MY) that will be re-engineered and re-built, but also because the Defender production line was shut down early last year. We’ve also read that the V8 will be super-charged, which would be awesome, but it won’t be, and that suggests there are some semi-sensible heads at JLR.

Each of the Land Rover Works V8 units will, much like the donor cars, be hand-built. The 298kW/515Nm Jag V8 is partnered with an 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox and is reportedly good for a 5.6 second 0 – 96km/h time. In a Defender, that’ll feel like 2.8 seconds, and that’s freaking quick.

Your average Defender is a bit squidgy on the road, but the Work’s engineers have upgraded the suspension with stiffer springs and uprated shocks, so it’ll handle bitumen corners better, but possibly ride like a bag of shit off-road. Brakes have (thankfully) been upgraded to a set of serious-looking Alcon units, and wheels are 18-inch Sawtooth alloys wrapped in 265/65-18 all-terrain tyres.

Style-wise, it’s much like one of the later 2.2-litre Defenders optioned with the ‘Black Pack’, which means it sports a Santorini Black roof, grille, headlight surrounds and wheel arch flares. There’s also machined aluminium door handles, bonnet lettering and fuel filler cap.

The inside has been spiffed a bit, with plenty of Windsor leather adorned surfaces, two of which are expensive-looking Recaro sports seats, in fact, ‘expensive’ is an apt description all-round for this bitumen burner. If you think a hand-re-built V8 conversion of a modern antique, undertaken by the factory might be a bit pricey, then you’re a bit right.

The 150 Defender Works V8s, will be priced from £150,000 or around AUD 265,000 in its UK home market and because you aren’t going to find one of these hopped-up Deefers at a local Land Rover dealer, you’ll need to add the costs of personally importing one, including the usual duties and taxes. You’re looking at a $300k ++ Defender here.

Now that pricing might seem, well, stupid but there is a very good chance that this will be the last and the most exclusive of the old Defenders to be built by Land Rover before they introduce the – undoubtedly better in every way and probably available with a V8 in SVR form – all-new Defender next year. Well, at least we think it will be next year. No-one really seems to know.

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