The ultimate automotive authority

Tuner / 10-24-17

2013 Land Rover Defender D90

By Francis G. Pallarco


Presenting the distinguished off roader


First of all, let’s get this straight: people don’t buy a Land Rover Defender D90 Series for comfort, ergonomics, or fuel economy. This is for those who want a proper off road vehicle that has British blood running through its veins. A whole lot of history and tradition is part of its provenance. After all, it isn’t all that different in terms of overall construction when compared to the very first model that was launched sixty-plus years ago. So it’s not surprising really that the Defender is pretty much unlike most modern SUVs as it does away with automatic transmission, traction control, elaborate suspension systems and other modern amenities. This means that whoever gets behind the wheel must really drive it. Hugely renowned for it’s superb off road capabilities where it can climb and tackle just about anything with its minimal overhang, and well-sorted 4×4 drivetrain that has seemingly stood the test of time. But just like most good things, one of the world’s most iconic 4x4s ended last year as Land Rover has built its final Defender to give way to a completely redesigned model that has yet to materialize. For those with a keen eye on acquiring future collectibles, pay attention, as this is definitely one vehicle worth hanging on to that will hold up in value. This would probably explain why Alex Isip of Alex Car Restoration has owned such an example for quite some time as he says, “It’s been my longtime dream to have one as I love the classic ‘box-type’ look of the body.” Obviously, since he has no plans of selling, let’s just take a closer look at this off-road icon and the subtle mods he’s undertaken in an effort to personalize it.

Opting to preserve most of his Defender’s originality and superb condition, Alex chose not to tamper with the engine and suspension components. After all, the robust solid differential and coil spring setup has proven to be an almost unbreakable combination in almost any terrain. The Getrag manual transmission offers six forward speeds and just like any analog component, there’s a dedicated gear lever to shift between high and low gears. As far as engine power is concerned, it’s not one of its strong traits, but the Ford-supplied turbo diesel engine remains a dependable power plant most especially in the lower rpm range where torque is of most importance. It might lack an ascent/descent control, but it does have an Anti-Stall device that adjusts fuel at low speed to maintain a steady supply of power even as low as 1000 rpm, perfect for traversing through treacherous terrain. For really tough terrain, there’s a center differential lock to keep excessive wheel slip to a minimum. River crossings? Well, the Defender has a water wading depth of 500mm and a ground clearance of 323mm that’s more than adequate. The floor even has removable rubber mats to make cleaning a breeze. Stopping power is handled well with discs all around and an ABS system for extra safety. Actually, these are just some of the traits that make the Defender a retro vehicle with serious off road capabilities.

As far as the exterior goes, rusting will never be an issue with its all aluminum body that’s riveted together like an aircraft fuselage. But that’s the way it was initially built, making it a true Defender character trait that only fuels its modern-day retro appeal. Placed in a car park full of swoopy sedans and curvaceous soft-roaders, the Defender brings a sense of rawness and true purpose.

In this case, Alex repainted the roof along with the grille and other vents a contrasting gray color using Cromax paints. This paint scheme somewhat mimics the limited edition, 65th anniversary LXV model of the Defender where only 65 units were built in 2013. The other exterior mod involves upgrading the headlamps to a pair of aftermarket Wipac headlamps that uses clear lenses and better reflectors for better lighting capability and come as a popular upgrade for Land Rover owners. Lastly, the black colored, 16-inch wheels also known as “Saw Tooth” wheels are highly desirable as they are exclusively used by Land Rover Defenders. Utilitarian and basic is what anyone would describe the simplistic interior. However, a few upgrades have made it more engaging to drive. This starts with E-leather-rimmed Moto-Lita steering wheel that’s found on most British sports cars. Next up would be the highly supportive, Sportster bucket seats made by Recaro to make the whole driving experience more comfortable. Most especially when Alex goes on long out-of-town triathlon events or biking treks.

Sure enough, the Defender D90 can make use of a few additional mods here and there. But it’s just one of those select vehicles that’s up to the task straight out of the factory. Overall, it is a highly capable off roader with retro styling that nostalgically brings us back to simpler times. In addition, it also represents another sector of the diverse automotive hobby, those whose passion revolves around taking their 4×4’s to remote places and play in the dirt. As such, I highly suggest that any 4×4 should be put through its outdoor habitat as often as possible to really enjoy what it is really meant and modded for.


2013 Land Rover Defender D90

Alex Isip, Alex Car Restoration

Engine: 2.2-Liter, Inline-4, DOHC, Common Rail, Turbocharged, Diesel Engine

Power: 122PS@3,500rpm and torque of 360Nm@2,000rpm,

Transmission: Six Speed Manual

Drivetrain: 4×4 full-time (all-wheel drive permanent, manually locked center differential)

Suspension: F/R: Live-axle with single rate coil springs and links

Brakes: F/R: Servo assisted brakes

Rollers: Land Rover Saw Tooth (Gloss Black) Wheels (16×7) Bridgestone Dueler Tires (235/85R16 LT)

Interior: Recaro Sportster Seats, Moto-Lita Steering Wheel

Exterior: Wipac Crystallized Headlamps, Custom Painted Grilles, Fender vents and Roof Panel

Body & Paint: Custom Painted Grilles and Roof Panel in Gray Color using Cromax paints