Nothing says 4×4 adventure tour quite like a Land Rover! There’s something about the classic shape that has a timeless appeal, the promise of going boldly where no VW minibus has gone before. If you want to head off into the undiscovered wilds of the Balkan back-roads, there’s only one vehicle that’s going to do it for you – the one and only Land Rover Defender.
Africans and Australians will now be snorting in derision and jumping up and down about Toyota “Troopies”, while actual Land Rover owners will be sucking in their teeth and apologetically admitting the Defender’s less-than-stellar reliability record. To which I say: Pah!
The great thing about Landies is that the design hasn’t changed for 50 years, so old bits fit newer Land Rovers just as easily as old Land Rovers. Plus, when your Landy eventually dies it becomes a donor to other Landies, so there are parts everywhere. And if you’ve reached the limits of your mechanical knowledge, no matter where you are in the world, you are never more than 50km away from someone who can fix it for you. This is how one of the worst-built cars in the history of the automobile has become the go-to 4×4 adventure tour vehicle anywhere where the tarmac has run out – and therefore an integral part of our multi-activity adventures, whether in Montenegro or Kosovo!
Ten people and six kayaks? That’s not a problem for the Land Rover Defender!
Land Rover owners love these vehicles despite their foibles. We forgive these hulking tanks their brittle plastics, noise, crude ventilation and enormous turning circle. We forgive them for the cramped and offset driving position, the doors that never quite shut properly and the panel gaps that can be seen from space. We forgive the lack of acceleration, the epically useless windscreen wipers, and the fact that unless the windows are open there’s nowhere to put your elbows. We forgive all these things because, when the going gets tough, there’s absolutely nothing on earth that can touch a Defender.
Nothing else can carry ten people and six kayaks over deeply rutted tracks surrounded by gorse bushes. Nothing else can barrel through dried-out flood plains with six kids on the roof rack and four grown-ups hanging from the foot-plates. Nothing else allows us to reach and support remote communities several hours removed from the nearest EV charge point. And there’s genuinely nothing else that can do all this but which you can also fix on the side of the road with a 5/8ths spanner, some duct tape, and a can of WD40.
Once you know their idiosyncrasies, they can even prove almost entirely reliable (at least mechanically). And nothing – and I do mean nothing – is quite as cool as a Land Rover (Top Gear had to create a special level on their “Cool Wall” for it).
Land Rovers are cooler than other cars
No one comes up to us in the middle of nowhere to admire our Renault minibus. No one has ever asked to pose on the bonnet of our Mitsubishi – or the roof of our Skoda. Landies. Are. Cool.
No, you can keep your tech-laden Nissans, Isuzus and Toyotas, with their fancy instruments that work and their electric windows. Our two analogue-era Defenders keep on trucking, simply and uncomplainingly doing the job they were so brilliantly designed to do, and only occasionally protesting as they get bashed, scratched, and splattered with mud.
Land Rover Defenders aren’t just iconic. They’re the original. The best. They’re considered to be members of our family. Long after the world has gone electric, Ken and Vince* will – like 80% of their forebears – still be taking someone on the 4×4 adventure tour of a lifetime. And occasionally even bringing them back again.
*Yes, they have names