I’m now the proud owner of a classic 2012 Land Rover Defender 110 and I’m rather excited…

Few British cars are as famous, as recognisable or as rugged as the Defender. No British car is as ancient, either, this Land Rover having been in continuous production since 1948. Nor is any British car as freighted with history — the Defender reeks of exploration, the sunset of empire, royalty, soldiering and, more prosaically, the muddy tracks of farming and construction.

It has a die-hard following — and requires a die-hard attitude to tolerate its many failings. Yet its go-anywhere capability, robust constitution and distinctive style — this is a vehicle whose silhouette can be drawn by the most inept sketcher — have made it a staple of rural life for more than 60 years. It has competitors, such as the Toyota Land Cruiser, Nissan Navara, Mercedes G-wagon and Jeep Wrangler, but for many people only the Defender will do.

We were attracted to the rural lifestyle, the big outdoors that the 4×4 community seems to be at one with. We went looking for a people carrier for our growing family of 2 kids and 2 dogs to take us all away to the countryside. We had a VW Polo and a Honda Brio as our family cars, chosen mostly for their fuel consumption. We ended up with a new Suzuki Jimny for Kate, my wife, and an 8 year old Land Rover Defender 110 for me.

The Jimny has been a pleasure. A little compact at times, but on the whole it’s been a great little car. We really do have to have either the kids or stuff. With the kids in their seats, there is no boot space… if we want boot space we can easily put the back seats down and then there’s loads of room but obviously no room for the kids.

We jumped online and ordered a Frontline Slimline II roofrack with a load of ammo boxes and stretchy ties and I installed them myself without too much difficulty.

His n Hers - Suzuki Jimny and Land Rover Defender

So back to the Landy…

It had some issues right off the bat but being a Land Rover it was supposed to have little problems. That’s what all the Land Rover owners say. The spotlights weren’t working and it winked at me with one headlight when I tried the high beams. Adding to that, one of the back doors wasn’t locking with the others when I activated the central locking. It was going to have to go back to get fixed. My wife was not happy.

So, it went back to Stellenbosch to get the little problems fixed up. The Hella Spotlights now worked with the full beams and the central locking locked all the doors.

All was well with the world until it wouldn’t start the other day in a car park while out shopping. Luckily we didn’t have the kids with us. The Land Rover key wouldn’t activate the central locking remotely and the car wouldn’t start. When the key was turned in the ignition, the lights would come on and the engine would turn over once. It felt like an immobiliser problem. We popped into a nearby Midas car parts shop and replaced the key battery but that didn’t work. Eventually we ascertained it was a faulty fuse. Back to the shops and a few fuses later, we were up and running again. It certainly teaches you a bit about cars when you buy a second hand one.

The long and the short of it: The Land Rover burnt through another fuse so I had to take it back to Stellenbosch for them to look at. Apparently it was an ongoing problem with this landy and had been into Land Rover Stellenbosch to have the immobiliser replaced before I bought it.

So i’ve been without my old landy for a week now after less than a month of owning it. grumble grumble. It sits in Stellenbosch waiting to get it’s immobiliser fixed… oh, and the central locking on the other door went and the bonnet release inside the cabin was also too loose to open it. Needless to say, my wife is not happy either.

Driving a Land Rover

This is a stout machine, and it requires stout movements to make it go, its controls continually reminding you that this is heavy-duty hardware of the kind found on the farm. When I was considering buying the Defender I naturally asked my Dad for his opinion on Land Rover Defenders. He regaled the story of the time he once attached a set of harrows to the back of the farm Landy and harrowed a field with it. That impressed me and I wanted one.

When I got into it I found the ignition was on the inside of the steering wheel which was strange, first gear was so short that I stalled it first time, and I accidently put it into reverse at the traffic light much to the horror of the granny in the little Fiat Uno behind me.

It’s noisy, it’s vague at speed, it corners uncertainly — though it’s better than it feels — and it performs with no great enthusiasm. But it won’t fall apart on ploughed fields, fends off all comers in the car park and is apparently almost unstoppable in peat, streams, gullies and Welsh hills.

If you need a car that can go anywhere — and tow out those who thought they could do the same — this is it. I’ve heard a Defender can even winch itself up the face of a dam. And the knowledge that it will do all this, and more, is enough to sustain the lightly battered constitutions of its drivers.

For family use the five-door station wagon is best, space in this thing is bountiful. Though you must be resigned to the total absence of airbags —  I think if we hit anything with this truck we would go straight through it without check so it doesn’t really matter does it?

The kids love it. According to them, I have the best car in the whole family (Including Grandma (Audi Q6) & Grandad – (Volvo XC90))

I just hope I get it back soon.

How to drive off-road

One of the first things I did was search for an instructional video on YouTube on how to drive off road. I grew up on a farm in the UK so I spent my teen years driving tractors through the muddy fields but I that was on 46″ rims… I didn’t get stuck very often. I’ve carved through the dunes in Dubai in a dune buggy and toured Vietnam in an ATV but I’ve never really had any off-road instruction. It’s a different matter when it’s your own car and not a rental.

I found this gem filmed years ago… the off road beginners Bible and it explains everything from diff locks to traction control.