We created this guide to help cover the basics of the Land Rover Defender – from makes and models to options to acquire.
Introducing the Land Rover Defender
The Land Rover Defender is an iconic off-road vehicle that has been around since 1983. Originally called the “Land Rover One Ten”, it was designed as a rugged and utilitarian workhorse for farmers and other rural residents. The name changed to “Defender” in 1990 when production began on the second generation of vehicles.
The classic Land Rover Defender, built between 1984 and 2016, and is a vehicle beloved by automotive enthusiasts around the world. The iconic four-wheel drive vehicle was initially designed for military and agricultural use but has since become an essential part of British culture. Even after production ceased in 2016, these vehicles remain incredibly popular with collectors and hobbyists alike.
Throughout its lifetime, the Defender has earned a reputation for being one of the most capable off-roaders in existence, thanks to its robust construction and durable engine options. Its classic design – with boxy lines and no frills styling – also makes it instantly recognizable all over the world.
The North American Spec (NAS) Defender
The North American Spec (NAS) Defender was the first vehicle designed specifically for the US market since Land Rover’s inception in 1948. It was created to meet stricter US safety and emissions requirements while still providing an authentic, off-road capable vehicle. The NAS Defender was released in 1993 and quickly became a fan favorite due to its rugged styling, excellent performance capabilities, legendary reliability, and affordability compared with other 4×4 vehicles of the time.
Due to restrictions on imported parts caused by US tariffs and increased EPA and DOT safety standards at the end of 1997, production of the iconic model ceased after only four years; making it one of the shortest runs among all Land Rover models ever made – further adding to its appeal amongst collectors today.
The Making of a Collector’s Market
The Defender immediately became highly collectable due to the limited numbers originally imported to the US. The Defender was officially imported by Land Rover North America from 1993 through 1997, with roughly 500 of the long-wheelbase Defender 110s arriving for 1993, and roughly 6,500 of the short-wheelbase Defender 90s available between 1994 and 1997. In 1997, it’s estimated that only 700 Defenders (or less) were manufactured for the US market.
The Rest of the World (ROW) Defenders featured the same body style, but slightly different mechanical configurations, including the option of the robust 2.5L Tdi (diesel) power plant (not available in the US). It’s estimated that Land Rover produced 39,000 Defenders worldwide in 1997, by comparison to US numbers.
When these ROW Defenders turned 25 years old, they became eligible to be imported to the US market as EPA and DOT exempt collectable vehicles.
The 25 Year Rule for Classic Land Rovers
The 25 Year Rule, also known as the “Show and Display” rule, is a regulation in the United States that allows for the import of certain cars that are at least 25 years old. This rule applies to vintage Land Rovers, allowing them to be imported into the US from other countries. The cars must meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for import, including being manufactured as a complete car, being in good condition, and not having been significantly modified from its original design.
In order to import a Land Rover Defender into the United States, it must comply with the Department of Transportation (DOT), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regulations. This includes obtaining an import permit from the EPA, registering the vehicle with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and paying applicable duty and tax on the vehicle.
In some markets, you must also ensure that the vehicle is compliant with all applicable U.S. emissions and safety standards or get an exception. You may be required to have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic prior to import.
Resources + Education
The Bishop+Rook Journal
We’ve always believed in helping folks through the process of building or adopting their ideal Land Rover Defender. This is the place where we post about projects, give helpful advice, leave random posts unfinished, etc. It’s like a blog, but not really.