When the world is crumbling and electricity dwindles, how can you ensure your means of transportation is dependable? A diesel-powered Land Rover Defender may be the answer to survival in a doomsday scenario such as an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack – or even a few rogue zombies wandering your neighborhood.

While we initially approached this topic as funny banter among colleagues, we quickly realized how well a Defender would perform under conditions such as, you know, The End of Days. As we dug deeper into the topic, we started to make a checklist of what would make the ultimate survival vehicle.

This scenario was designed to answer the question:  What would you need to build the ultimate bug-out vehicle for a situation where there were urban riots, fuel shortages, energy grid collapse, roaming bands of flesh eating zombies, or your mother-in-law coming to town.  How would you escape and what would you need?

A Land Rover Defender to Get You Away From Everything

We took a lot of inspiration from the Mad Max series, opening scenes of War of The Worlds, the first Terminator movie, and a large archive of Zombie flicks.  No need to do all the research for ourselves when someone else has put a great deal of thought about what the future would look like if our power grid were to collapse and society was thrown back into darkness.

If you’re like me, a public school kid raised in Minnesota, you’ve played Oregon Trail when you should have been reading books in the library.  It was a classic computer game that taught me more about survival than anything else I could have ever read in our underfunded library.  The basics are:

  1. What transportation and supplies do you need?
  2. What skills do you need?
  3. Who’s coming with you?
  4. How much is it going to cost?

A Land Rover Defender as The Ultimate Survival Vehicle

The Land Rover Defender is renowned for its reliability, toughness and durability in any situation, and the Diesel powered variant is probably the best. In a crisis situation, such as an EMP attack, where technology has been compromised, the Land Rover Defender can still provide you with a reliable source of transportation.

A simple mechanical engine, such as those found in classic Defenders, does not contain any computer parts that can be damaged or destroyed by an EMP pulse. Their petrol counterpart, will typically include a coil, at a minimum, but also most modern vehicles have complicated computer controlled injection systems.  If you own a Tesla?  Good luck as zombie bait.

While you may buy your Defender to initially use as a reliable daily driver, or even to perform the occasional off-road training session, they perform really well even after sitting for a long period of time waiting for their moment to shine. We’ve had many diesel Defenders sitting around or workshop, many not moving for a year or more at a time. With a fresh battery and a flick of the key, they fire right off.

In a crisis situation, the Land Rover Defender’s diesel engine can provide a great advantage over petrol-powered vehicles. Diesel fuel has a much longer shelf life than petrol, making it ideal for long-term storage and emergency use. Additionally, diesel engines are known for their robustness, durability and efficiency, making them well suited to extreme conditions.

The Land Rover Defender is also known for its off-road capabilities, which means it can navigate difficult terrain and access remote areas that would be impossible for other vehicles. This is especially useful in a survival situation, as the Defender can access resources that may not be available in populated areas.  You’ll also be able to drive over rough terrain and piles of zombie bodies with ease.

The Defender is also highly customizable, meaning it can be adapted for specific needs in a survival situation. The vehicle can be outfitted with additional fuel tanks, water storage, recovery gear, and supplies.  We’ll discuss this in part two of this very informative series.

Fuel Efficiency and Economy of Land Rover Defenders

Diesel has a higher energy density than petrol, meaning that a given volume of diesel contains more energy than the same volume of petrol. This means that diesel engines are typically more efficient than petrol engines and can travel further on the same amount of fuel.  It’s never about horse power when trying to escape and get to your final location – it’s always about the most efficient way to propel you down the path you need to take.  While Mad Max’s blower was impressive, I can’t help but think his fuel struggles would have been eliminated if he was just a tiny bit more particular about this engine choice.

Diesel engines are also more reliable because they are designed to operate at a much higher compression ratio than gasoline engines. This higher compression ratio creates more efficient combustion, which in turn creates more torque and power. In addition, diesel is a natural lubricant, eliminating premature wear and engine damage under most driving conditions.

Fuel Economy and Getting Far Away in Your Land Rover Defender

A typical 200/300Tdi Land Rover Defender will get between 25 and 32 MPG, while the petrol V8 variant will generally get around 14 MPG (going downhill with a tailwind – from experience). The fuel tank capacity of a Diesel 1997 Land Rover Defender 110, for example, is around 24 gallons (91 liters). There are several options to add an extended fuel tank of 21 gallons (80 liters), giving you 1,350 miles of range at 30 MPG. If you throw in a couple extra 5 gallon Jerry cans on your roof rack, you’re up to 1,650 miles of range.

Let’s play this this math a little more: if you’re going 60 miles per hour for 1,650 miles, you will be able to drive for 27.5 hours straight. Granted, you might want to stop for a bathroom break, or to wipe off the zombie brains that collected on the front windscreen.  But you get the point: you can go really far.

For example, The Oregon Trail stretched 2,170 miles from Missouri to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, so to make it that far, you might need to stop for Diesel at one of the remaining fuel stations, or learn how to use a siphon hose and “borrow” some fuel from one of the many abandoned semi-trucks dotting the highway. Let’s be honest, at the end of the world there will be tons of Amazon delivery trucks dotting the highways not guaranteeing 2-day delivery.

You can also consider visiting any of the farms along the way, as most agricultural equipment are diesel powered. Beware: farmers have guns.

Long Term Storage and Quality Control of Your Fuel Supply

Petrol fuel starts to break down fairly quickly, usually within a few weeks. The exact rate of breakdown depends on the storage conditions and the quality of the fuel. Petrol fuel can last up to 12 months before it begins to break down and lose efficiency. However, it is best practice to replace petrol fuel after 3 to 6 months of storage to ensure maximum performance.

If diesel fuel has been stored properly with stabilizers, the time should have minimal impact on the fuel. Stabilizers are specifically designed to help preserve diesel fuel, so the fuel should remain in good condition even after extended periods of time.

Engine and Mechanical Longevity of a Diesel Defender

Diesel engines typically last longer than petrol engines due to their stronger construction and higher compression ratio. Diesel engines usually last between 250,000 to 300,000 miles while petrol engines usually last between 120,000 to 150,000 miles.  That means that can continue moving along in the aftermath without trying to find a mechanic to rebuild your motor.  Some very basic parts in your kit and you’ll be good for another generation of rebuilding society.

Outfitting Your Land Rover Defender

The next installment of this guide will focus on some of the key enhancements you may want to make to your Land Rover Defender before heading out on your travels.  With a little preparation and a few extra bits of kit, you can make sure your mother-in-law never finds you.  I mean … you know.