Land Rover 90/110 Defender
Although the 90/110 family were lineal descendants of the original Land Rover, and one could see the visual similarities between new and old, technically they were almost completely different. By that time, almost every component had been redesigned or renewed. As ever though, the chassis frame was very robust, and most of the body shell was in rot-proof aluminium sheet.
The main thrust behind the new models was to provide a softer ride and more wheel movement, an even more rigid chassis frame, and more civilised interiors. These became known at Solihull as the ‘Stage 2’ range. Existing engines were retained, but with a new transmission, new axles, new suspension front and rear, new brakes – and those style changes that have already been mentioned.
There were two different chassis: the Ninety had a 92.9in wheelbase (prototypes had been built around a 90in. frame), the One-Ten a 110in. wheelbase. The Ninety was unveiled in June 1984, the One-Ten a year earlier in March 1983, so there was a messy overlap with old-style leaf-spring models.
The two wheelbase types shared derivatives of the same chassis, with the same layout and components. There were stout spring towers at the front of the frame and the rear coil springs were squeezed between the frame side members and rear axle pads themselves. There were no common components with the Range Rover.
Front location was by radius arms and a Panhard rod, and rear by radius arms and an upper A-bracket. Self-levelling (by a Boge Hydramat strut, as on the Range Rover), was standard on the One-Ten County Station Wagons, optional on other types. Steering was by recirculating ball: power-assisted worm-and-roller steering was optional. This was the first time for a Land Rover to have servoassisted disc front brakes.
The existing 2.25-litre petrol unit got a new Weber carburettor, and produced 74bhp, the 2.25-litre diesel was unchanged at 60bhp, while the V8 3.5-litre unit was tuned to 114bhp. A modified version of the Rover-Triumph LT77 five-speed gearbox (with special ratios) was standard: the basis of this piece of kit was as used in several BL private cars, TR7 and Rover SD1 included. It was linked to the latest LT230 two-speed transfer gearbox, which provided five high-ratio and five low-ratio forward gears; the centre diff’ was lockable. However, the V8 engine, for the time being, came with the Range Rover type of LT95 four-speed gearbox.
Over the years Land Rover tried to use common drive-line components as much as possible, which explains the number of times the Discovery is mentioned here. Except that the wheelbase lengths had to be slightly reshuffled, and flexible wheel-arch extensions fitted (which meant that users could scrape gateposts, or pieces of countryside without incurring a big repair bill), the light alloy bodies looked, and were, much as before. This time around, the front-end styles were all the same, and the one-piece windscreen was 25 per cent larger.
In the next twenty years, changes were persistent, and can be summarised:
The new-generation One-Ten went on sale, with 74bhp 2.25-litre petrol, 60bhp 2.25-litre diesel and 114bhp 3.5-litre V8 petrol engine options. A wide variety of body options – pick-up, van, estate car, and a wide high-capacity pick-up – was topped out by the latest County Station Wagon.
The One-Ten was up-rated with a 2,495cc diesel instead of the earlier 2,286cc engine. Peak power rose from 60bhp to 67bhp, peak torque from 103lb.ft 114lb.ft. The two engines look very similar and many old models seem to have been up-rated at rebuild/restoration time.
The new 92.9in wheelbase Ninety model arrived – a short-wheelbase version of the One-Ten: only four-cylinder engine types – petrol or diesel – were available at first. All Land Rovers got one piece passenger door windows, with a package of trim upgrades to suit. Soon after this, the last old-type leaf-spring Land Rover was made.
A new, 114bhp 3.5-litre V8-powered version of the Ninety went on sale. At the same time V8-engined types got a new five-speed main gearbox, the LT85. This, though designed in the UK, was currently being manufactured and used in Spanish (Santana) Land Rovers.
Now it was time for further rationalisation. The company revealed the 2,495cc petrol engine – pushing up peak power from 74bhp to 83bhp – which meant that the two ‘fours’ shared the same bore and stroke, much of the cylinder block and crankshaft machine tooling, and could be assembled side by side.
Time for more significant changes to the engine line-up: the first turbo-diesel appeared (85bhp instead of 67bhp, more importantly 150lb.ft of torque compared with 114lb.ft)), while the rating of the V8 was pushed up to established Range Rover levels – 134bhp.
Maturity as ‘Defender’
Apart from changes to badging and to minor updates of trim and equipment options, no further changes were then made to the Ninety/One-Ten sisters. Before long these models were replaced by a ‘new’ type – called the Defender, which was first revealed in September 1989. The name change was little more than that, at first, and was really only made to clarify the range, against the Discovery, which was new at this time.
Old model-name numbers were retained – so the Ninety became a ‘Defender 90’, while a One-Ten became a ‘Defender 110’. – and the renamed cars received many new features during the 1990s. There would be new engines, new transmissions and a whole host of cosmetic and equipment updates – far more than could have been forecast in 1989. It must have made spares and technical provisioning a real nightmare.
In the autumn of 1990, there was a new generation of turbo-diesel engines, with direct fuel injection: the 200Tdi power unit, rated at 107bhp, had an aluminium cylinder instead of the cast-iron of the old (it was already being fitted to the new Discovery). At the same time, old-type normally-aspirated ‘fours’ became ‘special order only, and were soon dropped. The new engine represented a 78 per cent increase in just seven years.
From this point, the Defender got five-speed transmissions throughout – all now being versions of the LT77 design. The Spanish-built ‘Santana’ LT85 went back into the parts bin. At the same time, Defender interiors gradually became more ‘car like’; the choice of a trim colour was an innovation, as was a cubby box between the seats.
Henceforth, the Defender was only available with the 107bhp four-cylinder turbodiesel, and the thirsty 134bhp 3.5-litre V8. Power-assisted steering (previously optional) became standard, while the more refined LT77S transmission took over. Plus yet another type of steering wheel, and further trim changes...
NAS Defender 110
In August 1992, the company reintroduced the classic Land Rover - the Defender - to North America, eighteen long years after withdrawal. Because of American legislation, the new type was very different from ‘Rest of the World’ types: to meet the latest exhaust emissions regulations and to provide adequate performance, the NAS 110 was only sold with one engine - a 182bhp, fuel injected, 3.9-litre V8. It was the first time that a fuel-injected petrol engine had been used in the classic Land Rover chassis. Even so, because of the poor aerodynamic qualities of this body, the top speed was still limited to 90mph or so.
All the 510 NAS 110s based on the County Station Wagon specification were white with an external roll cage wrapped around the outside of the estate car shell. Along with a massive ‘roo bar’ at the front and a tubular roof rack on top, the NAS 110 was a 4x4 with real presence. Inside the cabin, air-conditioning was standard and there was a specially-fitted-out fascia/instrument panel with a radio/cassette unit in the centre console.
Two novelties and one re-introduction – the standardisation of rear-wheel disc brakes, and the re-introduction of the short-wheelbase seven-seater Station Wagon, plus the launch of the 90SV ‘fun’ Land Rover. The braking system was thoroughly revised, for to match the rear discs, the front discs became the ventilated type on 110s and ‘High Load Suspension’ 90s, too. The 90SV (SV = Special Vehicles) was the very first ‘fun’ or ‘life-style’ Land Rover. The 90SV was based on the shorter wheelbase Defender chassis, with an open pick-up body style and the 200Tdi turbo-diesel. Supplied with a full roll cage and often sold with Discovery-type alloys (optional), the 90SV sold only slowly. By 1996 it had disappeared.
NAS Defender 90
The car which Land Rover engineers dubbed NAS90 was meant to a limited edition model, but figured strongly in North American until 1999. This short wheelbase machine was an open-top pick up: a limited-edition, 500-off, Station Wagon type was available in 1995. All the best technical features of the NAS Defender 110 went into the shorter chassis, with the 182bhp/3.9-litre V8 engine. The extras list was colossal, and included air-conditioning.
From this point, the Defender was equipped with a revamped turbo-diesel engine (300Tdi) and a revised five-speed gearbox (R380). Although the new 300Tdi still kept the old bore and stroke dimensions and was a 2495cc engine, it had an extra four horsepower and seven more lb.ft of torque.
There were 208 new components, including a new cylinder head, pistons, conrods, turbocharger, exhaust manifold and fuel injectors. This new package had evolved to provide lower noise levels, lower diesel exhaust emissions, easier manufacture and easier maintenance (and it was also to be used in the Discovery). Even so, this engine would have a short life – the Td5 fivecylinder in-line unit arrived in late 1988.
This was a more robust transmission with a much higher torque capacity and was a new, all-can-do, manual transmission intended for every existing (and immediately planned) 4x4 in Solihull’s range. It was an all-synchromesh transmission, with synchromesh on reverse gear, a re-arranged ‘gate’ pattern and a much slicker change ‘feel’.
Td5 – a new five-cylinder diesel
At the end of 1998, there was another engine change for the Defender – an allnew 5-cylinder diesel. Related closely to the Rover four-cylinder L-Series diesel of the new Freelander, and also used in the new-generation Discovery II, it was a real advance for the Defender. No sooner had the new Td5 been launched in the Defender, than the four-cylinder 300Tdi was dropped from European-specification cars, though it remained available for other, non-USA, markets.
Although it was also a 2495cc power unit, it was not at all related to the outgoing 300Tdi engine – with five cylinders instead of four cylinders it could not be. The new engine was a snug, but still comfortable, fit into the Defender’s engine bay, and was not only smoother but more fuel-efficient than the older 300 Tdi variety (independent road tests proved this), and became the corner stone of the early-21st century Defender product line. Soon it be came the only engine available in this big line-up. It was also much more powerful than the 300TdI: New Td5 122bhp, 300Tdi 4-cyl 111bhp
Defender for the 2000s
By the dawn of the new Century, the Defender was looking distinctly venerable, yet demand was still robust. The latest model, of course, was already very different from the original of 1989/1990, and much more advanced than the original Ninety/One-Ten types of the mid-1980s, yet its character - and certainly its heritage - could still be related, directly, to the first-ever Land Rovers of the late 1940s.
Changes, though, continued to come through and many more, no doubt, will follow before the Defender is finally retired with honour. For 2003 – twenty years after launch of the Ninety - novelties included central door locking, electric front window lifts, and the option of four-channel ABS braking, along with new colour/trim specifications. Now is the time, for sure, to recall what Land Rover once boasted in the 1950s : "When better Land Rovers are made, the Rover company will make them."
Vehicle Production & Specification Summary
To ensure the parts that you order are correct for your vehicle, you will need to know exactly when the vehicle was mnaufatured. Although the registration document will tell you when it was first registered, this may have been some time after it ws actually built. The most accurate way to determine your Land Rover's age (as well as information relating to its specifications) is by the chassis - or VIN - number.
You can find this number on your registration document and on two different places on the vehicle:
1. On a plate riveted inside the engine bay.
2. Stamped onto the vehicle's chassis.
The VIN number contains details about where your vehicle was made, the year of manufacture and also the original specification. For example, a typical VIN for a 1995 300Tdi Defender Niety would begin SALLDVAF7MA
followed by the 6-figure serial number. This information is broken down as follows:
||300Tdi (non cat)
|Model year codes are as follows:
|Engine & Transmission
||2.5 NA diesel
||200 & 300tdi
|Max power (bhp)
|Max torque (lb/ft)
|Transmission - all models*
(*Except early 4-speed manual 110 & V8 efi auto)
|5 speed manual gearbox with separate transfer gearbox, featuering 2-speed reduction and permanent 4WD via third differential, which can be mechanically locked or unlocked by the driver.
||2.5 NA diesel
||200 & 300tdi
|Ave fuel cons
||3722mm (soft top), 3883mm (hard top*)
||4438mm (soft top), 4599mm (hard top*)
||1963-2061mm (depending on tyres)
|*Hard top models with rear-mounted spare.