Land Rover 90 / 110 Defender

Early 100 inch prototype from the development programme that eventually yielded the 90/110 models

Early 100 inch prototype from the development programme that eventually yielded the 90/110 models

As normal, the coil-sprung utility had been in development for some time, early hand-built vehicles first appearing in 1976. For some time there was focus on a 100-inch version, and some of these still exist.

The coil-sprung Land Rover utilities (‘Stage Two’ of the Land Rover utility’s modernisation programme) were planned to utilise as much existing bodywork as possible, with modified Range Rover under-pinnings. There was apparently supposed to be a further ‘Stage Three’ development which would introduce a new body style, but a great deal of money had already been used up with endless minor modifications to the standard panelwork for ‘Stage 2’ and the utility Land Rover was selling, and so a more modern body style was never developed.

The One Ten (at launch this was spelled, not in numerals) was introduced in 1983, with an extended-chassis 127-inch wheelbase model (later called 130) available from late 1983. Introduction of the Ninety in 1984 brought wind-up windows, tidier glazing, and internally locked bonnet latch among other improvements – so a Ninety which doesn’t have these is likely to be a development vehicle. Bodies were carried forward: soft-top, hard-top, High-capacity LWB pickup, Station Wagons and County Station Wagons, truck cabs. A crew-cab version followed in late 1983.

Land Rover 90 launch vehicle

Land Rover 90 launch vehicle

In autumn 1990 the utility vehicles were re-badged as Defender. The keystone for this change was introduction of the 200Tdi ‘Gemini’ engine, which had already been launched in Discovery 1 (though 200Tdi engines had, in fact, been trialled in at least some Ninety vehicles prior to fitment in Disco). Numerous engines were used in the Ninety / One Ten and Defender range, from the original 2.25-litre naturally-aspirated petrol through variants such as 2.5 n/a diesel, V8, indirect-injection turbodiesel, 200 and 300 Tdi, TD5, 2.4 and then 2.2-litre Ford Duratorq turbodiesel. Land Rover Defender went out of production in 2016 with no replacement.

There has been little public interest in development and press demonstrator Ninety and One Ten vehicles, but knowledgeable enthusiasts have been picking up examples for years – these have mostly been kept under wraps or are awaiting restoration. Focus has been on the earliest One Tens, typically registered CWK-Y – though there are other (usually, Midlands) registrations. So far, there seems to be little interest in later models – though presumably there will be such things as press-demonstrator Defender 90 with 2.4-litre engine. Midlands registrations are again typical, though some early factory Ninetys have various registration marks.