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1993 Land Rover Defender 110 - Backward Glances

Posted in Features on September 25, 2014
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Photographers: Jim Allen Collection

Range Rover of North America (RRNA) was riding high in 1992 after five years of success in North America with just one model. By 1990, plans were afoot to bring other Land Rover products to the American market. The money was on the mid-level Discovery, which had been introduced in Britain for 1989. Many wanted to see the utilitarian Defender brought over but that was an unlikely possibility given the difficulty meeting DOT lighting and crash standards.

Everyone was gobsmacked on January 8, 1992, when the RRNA president, Charles Hughes, announced plans for 500 specially built and equipped Land Rover Defender 110 (D110) Station Wagons to be sold as ’93 models. And that was just the teaser. Range Rover of North America would be changing its name to Land Rover North America. It was pretty easy to catch the drift from that; more Land Rover products were on the way and the Defender 110 was just the appetizer.

Some of the preproduction D110s were used for off-highway driver training; in this case, the 1993 Land Rover Driving Academy in Colorado. Week after week, it was driven by novice off-roaders and is shown here in the creek on Taylor Pass.

D110 deliveries didn’t start until September, but there were plenty of magazine tests and they made a big splash in the media world. The car-centric magazines hated it, of course. Big. Ungainly. Pretentious. But it still puffed up their egos to be seen in it. We here at Four Wheeler openly loved it, while hating the $39,900 price none of us could afford. Plus, it was galling to know most would be in the hands of people unlikely to appreciate its off-road abilities. When Four Wheeler Editor John Stewart tested the D110 for the Oct. 1992 issue, he said, “The Land Rover Defender 110 is the only vehicle to be sold in the United States with off-road capability as its first design priority. That alone -- a refreshing clarity of purpose -- should tell how different it is.”

With only 241 ci, 180 hp, a 4,800-pound curb weight, and 3.54 gears, the D110 was no hot rod on the street. With that great 3.32:1 low range, gearing was seldom an issue in dirt, but the relatively small powerplant had to be flogged to get what most Americans would call acceptable performance between stoplights. As a result, fuel economy was not a strong point, and a 12 mpg combined average was very common.

Built in Land Rover’s Special Vehicles facility at Solihull, England, the North-American spec (NAS) D110 four-door wagon was significantly different than those sold in Britain and elsewhere. The chassis was the same: burly 14-gauge steel and fully boxed. The multi-link coil suspension was the same, though with springs tuned for comfort rather than load capacity. The NAS D110 had rear disc brakes, which were not standard elsewhere. The front axle was virtually the same as Range Rover. The HD rear axle, commonly known in Britain as the “Salisbury,” was a British-built Dana 60 clone with full-float Rover hubs and 24-spline shafts. The T-case was Rover’s gear-driven LT-230T full-time unit, featuring a manually locked center diff and a 3.32:1 low range. The five-speed LT-77S manual tranny was as yet unfamiliar to the American Land Rover scene but certainly proven elsewhere in the world. The engine was virtually the same fuel injected 3.9L aluminum V-8 offered in Range Rovers of the time.

While the NAS D110 had some upmarket features compared to the rest of the world, it was truly set apart by an external rollcage and a roof rack strong enough for an embalmed bull moose. The haphazardly applied comfort features included air conditioning, full carpeting, AM/FM cassette stereo with four speakers, heated front and rear windows, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. Additional NAS features included side steps, front brush bar, and integrated rear step bumper/receiver hitch. The only option was a $1,900 dealer-installed 8,000-pound Warn winch kit.

The interior was plain and not particularly ergonomic. When people were kind, they called it “quirky.” It had had not changed much from when the platform debuted in the early ’80s. Plus, the placement of controls in the transition from right to left-hand drive was awkward. For all that, the D110 was not uncomfortable and you could get used to the quirks. There was seating for nine, with four of those in inward-facing jump seats in the rear.

Each D110 wore a numbered plaque: 1 to 500 for the USA and 1 to 25 for Canada. Additionally, there were ten or eleven preproduction rigs, which made for 535 or 536 total. Most went out the door in the $45,000 range, about $74,000 in 2014 dollars, which kept them out of the hands of most hardcore four wheelers of the early ’90s. The fortunate few found an extremely capable rig in its class. The only downside of the stock NAS package was the dinky and wimpy 7.50-16 Michelin X tires. Add lockers and some rubber and the D110 could go almost anywhere it would fit.

If this story gives you the burning desire to own a D110, expect to pay about $60,000 for an average example and up to $80,000 for the best. Take heart -- most of the original 535 known examples are still around. The next lottery ticket could be a winner!


1993 Land Rover Defender 110
Estimated value: $60,000-$80,000
Engine: 3.9L Rover aluminum V-8
Power (hp): 180 @ 4,750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 227 @ 3,250 rpm
Bore & stroke (in): 3.70 x 2.80
Comp. ratio: 9.35:1
Transmission: Five-speed, Rover LT-77S
Transfer case: Two-speed, LT-230T
Front axle: Rover, spiral Bevel 8.5-inch
Rear axle: Salisbury, hypoid 9.75-inch
Axle ratio: 3.54:1
Tires: 7.50-16 Michelin X
L x W x H (in): 181 x 70.5 x 90
Wheelbase (in): 110
GVW (lbs): 6,504
Curb weight (lbs): 4,840
Fuel capacity (gal): 20.4
Min. grd. clearance (in): 8.5
Approach angle (deg): 50
Departure angle (deg): 28
Ramp breakover (deg): 26

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