Slipping behind the wheel of a right hand drive (RHD) Defender evokes a feeling of going on an expedition to the far off reaches of the world – topped with a bit of visceral nostalgia for travel. You’re not quite sure why, but it feels like you’re going on an adventure. Phone away, hands reaching for the wheel, you gaze out the front windscreen with a twinkle in your eye. The second you turn the key and shift into gear, you discover long lost feeling of just driving. Simply driving.
If you’re in England – or anywhere else in the commonwealth – this would be an average day, of course. In the United States, when we drive a RHD Defender, we’re given the joy of sitting on the opposite side of normal, defying the traditions of our American driving position, having the experience of something different. Something new.
As travel writer, Pico Ayer once stated, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves” The same sentiment should hold true for driving a right hand drive Defender. If we typically drive a left hand drive vehicle to get from one place to the next, run errands, go to and from work, and generally travel through the banality of everyday life, sitting on the opposite side in a Defender should inspire us to find ourselves again the way Ayer described it: “And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
If you’re ready to fall in love with the driving experience again, we highly recommend looking at a right hand drive Defender as an option – for several reasons.
The Art of the Departure
Describing the experience of driving a RHD Defender for the first time is a hard task. It’s not even about describing it against a LHD Defender – we build and drive plenty of each of them – driving right hand drive is just completely different. There’s nothing wrong with a LHD Defender – for a lot of people it’s a necessity of how they drive, or where they drive. As for the RHD experience, the best way we can describe the difference is this:
Imagine having all the driving experience you’ve gained over the years, so you’re not nervous. You’re a teenager again going on your first solo drive after your parents hand you the keys and say, “be careful.” You’re confident you know the rules, you’ve passed your test, but everything seems fresh and exciting.
There’s a thrill of trying something new, but more than that, it’s about being present in the moment and enjoying the freedom of driving again. Pico Ayer’s parallel continues by saying, ” the sovereign freedom of traveling comes from the fact that it whirls you around and turns you upside down, and stands everything you took for granted on its head.”
It’s pretty fun.
As a daily driver, or as a fun second vehicle, this joy never seems to go away. Suddenly, you’ll be searching for reasons to go for a drive – either across town, or even a weekend getaway. Dirt roads become a destination, rather than something to be avoided. Rain, snow, mud, or uneven pavement only help to expand the experience. Pulling up to intersections next to people is one of my favorite. They’re typically not expecting you to be sitting there with at steering wheel in your hand.
Truth is, a RHD Defender is fun and cool and interesting and awesome.
The Art of the Arrival
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve pulled into a parking lot, hopped out of one of our RHD Defenders and had a crowed of people waiting to ask, “Is that even legal?” Half the time i would love to look at them deadpan and respond, “not even close, but you’re not going to call the cops on me are you?” The truth is that a RHD Defender is 100% legal to drive in every state of the union. We’re not aware of any rules that state regulations regarding RHD vs. LHD even for new cars – I think we’ve just always followed that guideline because the way our traffic flows (truthfully, we never looked).
Once you’ve established you’re not on the run from the law, you’ll find the conversations with folks to be quite fascinating. It’s something I enjoy every single day. I tell this to people looking to adopt a Defender: “If you’re a shy person, this isn’t a vehicle for you. People will want to ask you about it.”
The Presentness of the Experience of Driving a Right Hand Drive Defender
The title of this guide probably reaches closest to answering the question of why we love RHD driving. If you take the analog driving experience of a vintage Defender and add that to a different driving position than normal, you’re suddenly transported to a place of being present in the moment – mentally and physically.
As you relax and adjust, you’ll rest your arm on the window sill and settle into a comfortable driving position. The purr of the motor will replace any radio of podcast you might normally listen to. Your phone will happily rest in the center cubby boxy, offering a distraction free drive.
We build Defenders for those who want to be present and not distracted by the outside world. Just you and your Defender. That’s the way the engineers at Solihull would have wanted it to be and the way we continue to fall in love with driving each time we sit behind the wheel.