• Nov 27, 2006
UPDATED history posted after the jump!



Admittedly, none of the writers at Autoblog HQ are dedicated off-road hoons. But that doesn't mean we don't occasionally dream of fording streams, crawling over condo-sized rocks or just scaling the median on our commute to work. There's a short list of vehicles we'd assign to those fantastical tasks and this 1985 Land Rover 90 is one of them.

Owned by Autoblog reader and Flickr member tarheelvolvos40, this four-wheelin' gem is the picture of pure functionality. Equipped with both Hella fog lamps and 4000 Euros, a Dixon-Bate 5-ton tow jaw in the rear, an OME HD suspension, diff protectors, a Brownchurch roof rack and side ladders, it begs to be driven in the most abusive way. Power comes from a '93 Rover V8, mated to the stock LT77 transmission, which sends power down to BFGoodrich AT/KO tires.

A vehicle like this confirms that our little world shouldn't just be about powerslides, massive G's and big dyno numbers, but about the all 'round motoring experience. We're smitten, but we're pushovers like that.

As mentioned previously, we won't be having a theme for this week's RR of the Day, but next week, it's on. Submit your turbocharged and supercharged vehicles to our Flickr pool by following the directions after the jump. We want to see them all, whether it's a home-brewed Civic hatch or a modded Cummins diesel, all are welcome



The history of this vehicle is very cloudy. It was a grey market import back in the late 80's into the US. It spent most of its life in Minnesota until I bought it from the original owner. The odd thing about it, though, is that Land Rover has no records of this car ever being made!

What my father and I have deduced is that this car was registered in the US illegally as a 1965 Series II to pass by the DMV. Soon after those vins were taken off and never replaced. When it was tranferred down to my home in North Carolina there were no VIN plates on it. After much time spent trying to scratch out a VIN number on the very rusted (thanks to the lovely salted roads of the upper mid-west) chassis to no avail we eventually called Land Rover HQ in England to try and track it down. According to the record keepers at Solihull there is no record of the car being made with the vague description we gave him and the few VIN numbers/letters we did have. They told us that the number/letter combinations we did have fell in line with the records of the vehicles from that time but yet there was no positive match. The only logical explanation that could be made was that this was a Special Vehicle built for a Land Rover event and never meant to be registered for road use.

So Land Rover decided we were nice enough and issued us a set of VIN plates so we could have it registered. A few months later, however, we were doing some work on the vehicle and I noticed a unusual yellow undercoat to the paint in certain areas. This of course leds me to think this was a vehicle used the 1985 or 1986 Camel Trophy as those were the only two years that the event used Land Rover 90's. Of course this is all speculation and I have no proof to back up such a statement but based on the information from Land Rover HQ and the odd paint it seems logical enough and creates a fun story!

After I aquired the Land Rover 90 it went through a series of restorations. First was a new Chassis and suspension setup as both were close to breaking. We decided to use a stronger steel ladder frame chassis than the original and also an upgraded suspension setup to handle the trails it was bound to find itself on. Next was to sand blast and refinish the BrownChurch Roof Rack (also Camel Trophy equipment). A trip to the Military surplus store gained a set of Sand Ladders for those sticky situations where traction was lost. THe dimming lights and finiky wiring (thanks Lucas) led to the addition of extra lighting both front and rear with the help of Hella 500 Fog Lamps on the bumper, Hella 4000 Euro Beams up top and Hella 500 Fog Lamps on the rear of the roof rack for recovery situations. We also added a set of Jate Tow Rings up front for a solid recovery point and a Dixon-Bate 5-Ton Tow Jaw in the rear in case we needed a quick yank out of the muck. Finally we added some proper tires in the form of BFG A/T KO's for all around use and an extra set of Super Swamper SSR's if we were tackling some serious mud.

The engine was transplanted before I bought the vehicle and is a 1993 Land Rover 3.9L V8 that is found in the early Discoveries that came to the US. But, the old LT85 Tranny was kept as I would assume funds were not available for a LT77 or LT77S or even an R380. This meant that the torque was more powerful than the tranny could hold most times as the LT85 was meant for a 2.5L engine, not the honking 3.9L V8. It was a blessing in disguise however as it played very well for off-roading as I could power over anything in 1st gear as I got full torque in a lower RPM due to the gearing.

Alas, this setup would not last and the clutch had to be replaced which was the Land Rover 90's ultimate demise. We had to special order the clutch as nothing else would fit that was readily available in the states. The operation did not go well and soon after the clutch began to heat up and loose friction so the engine would just rev while I would go no where.

It is currently sitting at home awaiting funds for a much larger operation of replacing the whole transmission and hopefully an underdrive unit that whould give me a nice 4-wheel drive low ratio of 116:1 for serious crawling. It has served me very well and will always have a place in my heart for its unique indentity and character that defines Land Rovers and their owners.

How to submit to RR of the Day:
Create a
Flickr account if you don't already have one. Search for and join the group called 'Autoblog RR of the Day'. Upload up to three photos of your ride to your own account at a size no larger than 450 pixels wide if possible and include as much information about it and yourself as possible. Even if your ride is sweet, it will not be chosen if there's not a lot of info accompanying it. Click on each photo and just above the picture it will say "Send to group". Click that and select the Autoblog group. You're done, that's it!


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 24 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, Thats my car!!!!

      Oh, and you guys didnt mention the strange and mysterious history behind this sweet Land Rover....

      But get a Flickr account and check out the write up I did concerning the odd tales around this Truck. Man I love that thing....
      • 8 Years Ago

      This is a real hardcore off-road vehicle. Better than a Wrangler to take Off-Road. Too bad it is not sold in North America anymore.
      • 8 Years Ago
      These Rovers are the only ones to be keeping their resale value high, if Ebay is any gauge (and i think it is THE gauge) of the used car market.
      • 8 Years Ago
      @Moe: Sorry buddy, but you are wrong and this is not total bias speaking but there was this nice little event called the Camel Trophy which was basically the hardest, muddiest, rockiest, etc... event for SUV's ever in existance and the reason the organizers used Land Rovers so much was that when it was started they tried to cross some portion of the Amazon River/Jungle in Wranglers and they couldnt do it so they went out and got Land Rovers instead and have never looked back. There is also a statistic floating around somewhere that the first vehicle ever seen by 43% of the world was a Land Rover (mainly africa/remote SA/remote SE Asia) but thats pretty staggering considering world population statistics. And to answer your Rubicon Trail question, the D90 can certianly tackle it and still drive back home on regular roads and not be trailered like some many "jacked" wranglers.

      Lest we forget that this is the prefered vehicle of special forces the world over (for certain missions, not all mind you), including our own US Rangers and Recon Marines when they need a light, fast, reliable vehicle .

      @praetorian
      Go check out the write up did on the Flickr group about its history...its very interesting and you are right, there were many many problems we had registering the truck, not the least of which was missing VIN plates and no record of the car ever being made by Land Rover (they think it was a special vehicle, hence no "official" registration in their books).
        • 7 Years Ago
        want to get some of your facts straight?

        The first Camel Trophy, they used Jeep CJ6s ....NOT Wranglers. The first Wrangler was built in 1987, regardless, the Wranglers of today are vastly more capable and improved vs the Jeeps of that era and yes, they would lay an absolute smack down on Rovers.

        Have you considered the fact that aid agencies and the Camel Trophy event NEEDED hauling capacity for all their gear. This is a trait that Jeeps did not have, offroad ability is meaningless in this instance.

        Afterall, just pay extra attention to a Camel Trophy video and watch how many times they mention that one of these BRAND NEW Landrovers broke down.

        As far as the difficulty, well....Camel Trophy was indeed the most diffcult televised event for stock factory SUVs, but every day, people take lighty- heavily modded vehicles over far worse trails then the Camel Trophy which was more about pushing back all the over grown vegetation and building bridges in remote areas more then anything else.
        • 7 Years Ago
        JS is also wrong in that the first Camel Trophy was completed using those Jeeps (which were local rentals), they didn't even have winches!

        so much for your Land rover.......

      • 7 Years Ago
      asdasd
      • 7 Years Ago
      • 8 Years Ago

      I've always loved these Landrovers, but I always thought they were called Defenders...

      Can anyone set me straight on the differences similarities or links between the name Defender and 90?
      • 8 Years Ago
      #9/#11 Oh yea, I forgot about that Cherokee. That thing was AWESOME! Still, it seems SUVs and Trucks are under-represented.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I bought a 1995 Land Rover Disco new. Identical running gear to the D90. At the time, the D90 was only a few grand more than the disco. Key differences?

      - D90 has a shorter wheelbase
      - D90 has larger OEM wheels/tires
      - Disco had "luxury" features like A/C that was not grafted on, power windows & locks, usable rear seat, etc.


      So 22 years later, my Disco has depreciated to less than the cost of fixing the typical LR oil leaks (again) and the D90 has reached "cult" level pricing.

      Guess I should have bought the 90!
      • 8 Years Ago
      I think one of the original RRotD's was a jeep cherokee that was virtually indestructible... spray painted olive drab, etc... its the only other SUV i can think of in the category. But a great story behind it!
      • 8 Years Ago
      What an awesome car. I want to own one of these at some point in my life.
      • 8 Years Ago
      @Mattlach

      You are partially correct. Between 1983 and 1990 Land Rover used the names "Ninety" and "One Ten" with the number spelled out in full for all literature and manuals. After late 1989 Land rover introduced the Discovery and following this new naming scheme decided to rename the old Land Rover Ninety to the Defender 90. Same truck, different name....go figure.Two odd facts 1)the Land Rover 127 got renamed to Defender 130...but remained the same 127" wheelbase and 2) even more strange the Land Rover/Defender 90 has always been a 92.9" wheelbase!

      Thanks for posting the history Autoblog, you guys keep rocking out!
    • Load More Comments