The Land Rover Defender is one of the world’s great cars, with a history stretching back to the end of World War II. It’s loved by farmers, military, utility companies and those who tow for its go-anywhere attitude. So what possesses a customer to spend almost £40,000 on a complete makeover, including a full red leather interior and premium audio system?
Welcome to the world of Defender modification, a thriving if surprising aftermarket business. Take an iconic British 4×4 which can trace its roots back to 1948 and turn it into, well, whatever you want. The Landie is an appealing prospect for tuners, both professional and amateur, because its dated architecture makes it relatively easy to tinker with.
Twisted Performance is based near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, and has been in business for more than a decade. In the last few years it’s switched to concentrate solely on Defenders. In 2012 it completed 74 cars and this year is aiming for 120. Currently in the workshop are three vehicles going to a foreign royal family and almost everything is being changed. That includes replacing the standard 2.2-litre diesel engine with a 6.2-litre V8 from a Corvette.
‘The Defender is loved by people from all walks of life,’ says Twisted MD Charlie Fawcett. ‘They’re buying them as lifestyle vehicles but the standard car doesn’t do it for them. It creaks and groans, so what we’re doing is bridging the gap between their perception and reality.’
The price for each of the special trio will be £130,000, though somewhat cheaper is my test car. It’s Twisted’s Red Edition and “cheaper” is a relative term; Paying £24,000 for the car then £38,000 for the upgrades means that with tax this is a £75,000 machine.
The Red keeps the standard powertrain, though output rises from 122 to 156bhp. Exterior upgrades include a gloss black grille, unique 18-inch alloys, LED lights, racing brakes plus sports suspension and exhaust. Inside, the Recaro bucket seats and leather upholstery are all vibrant red, with smart black headlining. The car’s party trick is a slide-out £2,500 Alpine touch-screen media system with premium audio and sat-nav. It also displays images from the reversing camera.
Overall the quality of the makeover is impressive but there are some odd decisions. For example, with the slide-out screen in place, it’s impossible to turn on the rear wiper, hazard lights or rear demister because it blocks the buttons.
What Twisted doesn’t do is ditch the Defender’s charm and character, so you still get all the features it’s famed for – high seating, huge side-hinged rear door, great visibility and world-beating off-road ability. Sadly, you also get the bits which aren’t so desirable, including the agricultural driving experience, complete with heavy steering, noisy engine and unrefined ride.
Score: 4 stars
Vital statistics: Twisted Land Rover Red Edition
Engine: Retuned 2.2litre turbodiesel
0-62mph: 11sec (est)
Top speed: 94mph
CO2 emissions: 266g/km
On sale: Now