1997 LAND ROVER Defender 90 2.5 TDi CountyView vehicle description
One of the most iconic vehicles to ever come from Land Rover’s Solihull plant, the Defender in both its 90 and 110 formats are numerous and plentiful on the UK’s roads to this day, despite the design dating to the mid-20th century and before.
In 1990, the Defender name was first branded on the vehicles, replacing the previous chassis length number as the model name, though vehicles were still referred to by their wheelbase length, becoming the Defender 90 or Defender 110 respectively.
Marketed to all walks of society from the land owners of Somerset and Scotland to royalty and the middle classes, the Defender was a true bridge between society’s classes, fitting in perfectly outside the local village pub, or indeed on the posh streets of Knightsbridge, with many urban-dwelling Defenders earning the nickname of ‘Chelsea tractors’ due to their agricultural roots being at odds with the posh streets of West London.
First registered in 1997 and fitted with the 2.5-litre TDi engine which was outlawed in ’98 due to the introduction of more stringent emissions standards (and the introduction of the Td5 power plant) this short-wheelbase Defender 90 also boasts the desirable ‘County’ pack, which introduced a more family-friendly interior, higher level of trim and more comfortable ride, without sacrificing the Defender’s off-road capabilities.
With its striking red paintwork, iconic ‘Defender’ branding and instantly-recognisable styling, most children of the 90s likely had a toy of this exact car lying around - the writer included - and there is no denying that there is a certain nostalgic charm that exists around the early Defender 90’s.
Purchased by the current owners around 15 years ago, this ’90 has proven itself to be a dependable, rugged and adaptable family wagon, which has been cherished by the current owners, kept garaged and serviced annually by a local motor factors, though the vendor states there is no paperwork for this work.
Evidently, it has been used sparingly and confined largely to the local area, with our vendor also stating that the car has “not left the county in years” with the MoT history also backing this up, with only a couple of thousand miles added to the odometer every year.
On the Outside
Classically squared-off lines, striking paintwork and bold graphics were order of the day at Solihull in the 90’s, and this County Defender was clearly no exception, still standing out to this day in a sea of largely identical grey, silver or black cars that dominate our roads.
Typically for a Land Rover of this age, the bodywork has seen better days, though looking along the flanks of the vehicle the basic shape is largely undisturbed, with only a few minor pin dents and indentations gained through years of loyal service.
The paintwork is largely patina’d and worn, however, and there are numerous patches of bubbling and flaking paint, deteriorated graphics, corrosion and general wear-and-tear noted around the bodywork, which has been detailed in the in-depth gallery below.
That said, this 90 still strikes an imposing silhouette from a distance, and all of the light lenses are free from damage, though the surrounding trim to the offside headlight is slightly cracked.
The bumpers are generally in good order with minimal signs of any contact, though like the bodywork these are also showing signs of corrosion.
Underneath the squared-off arches, all four wheels are in decent condition, though like the rest of the body they would benefit from attention to bring them back to their best.
As the vendor’s son - our contact - states, this is a fantastic opportunity for the next owner to choose how they wish to approach this 90; Whether it’s a custom job, body-off restoration or sympathetic (mechanical only) restoration, the opportunities are numerous for the next custodian to truly make this humble Defender theirs.
On the Inside
With the County trim pack, the original owner gained a more comfortable and compliant grey cloth interior, softer trims and a more family-friendly atmosphere, including an opening sunroof, upper rear windows and longitudinal fold-down rear seats.
The interior of this particular Defender is in well-worn condition, though everything looks to be present and correct as far as we could see, with all trims, fixings and fixtures looking to be in their correct places.
The seats are naturally worn, with varying levels of wear from standard creasing and slight distortion of the foams to light rips to the seat covers and more notable wear on the front seats in particular.
Up above, the headliner is complete, though it has started to come away from the roof skin around the tilting sunroof, which is in full working order and water-tight as far as we could tell.
Down below, the carpets have seen better days, and some of the trim has started coming away from underneath the dashboard, though this should be simple enough to rectify.
In the rear, the load area is free from any particularly heavy wear, though it would benefit from a thorough valet if nothing else. All of the fold-down seats are complete, though we did note that the base on the rearmost nearside seat needs re-securing to its forward hinge.
As far as we could tell, all systems and switches are working correctly, though the radio did not tune in particularly clearly, which could simply be due to the older aerial.
Starting with ease once the light for the glow plugs extinguishes on the dashboard, the 2.5-litre TDi engine sits happily idling once running, though there is a squeaking belt or bearing noted towards the front of the engine bay.
Out on the road, the steering is typically light as per Defenders of the era, whilst the gearshift and clutch action is reassuringly direct, though it would appear that the downshift between 3rd and 2nd was slightly notch in our experience.
The engine itself pulls well and responds well to throttle inputs, whilst the brakes also worked without any noted issues on our short test drive. We did note, however, that the rear offside tyre has a slow puncture, which was also picked up during the recent service in July 2021.
Underneath the bonnet, the engine bay, block would benefit from a thorough degreasing and cleaning, though other than the squeaking noise (which can be heard on the video below) we noticed no untoward behaviours.
There were a few patches of oil misting and build up noted along the offside of the engine block, however, though we’d wager this is the result of numerous years’ build-up, rather than a significant short-term problem.
The most recent MoT exam - dated 22 July 2021 - shows a first-time pass, with the following advisory items:
• Front Registration plate deteriorated but not likely to be misread
• Rear Registration plate deteriorated but not likely to be misread
• Offside Front Vehicle structure is corroded but structural rigidity is not significantly reduced
• Nearside Rear Vehicle structure is corroded but structural rigidity is not significantly reduced
• Nearside Front Vehicle structure is corroded but structural rigidity is not significantly reduced
• Vehicle chassis extensive corrosion
• Nearside Rear Shock absorbers has a slightly worn bush
• Offside Rear Shock absorbers has a slightly worn bush
• Oil leak, but not excessive
• Offside Rear Tyre worn close to legal limit/worn on edge
Included with the vehicle is the V5 Registered Keepers document showing six former keepers, a servicing invoice from July 2021, two MoT certificates, two sets of keys and a HPI report.
What We Think
Iconic, rugged and dependable, the Defender 90 is highly regarded by those that require a dependable and adaptable daily driver, from agricultural workers to the special forces.
This particular 1997, pre-Td5 example benefits from the desirable County specification pack, and would make a wonderful basis for restoration, a custom build or a mechanical overhaul with the fantastic hard-earned patina retained for visual effect - the possibilities are endless.
With an estimate of of £10,000 to £15,000 there will be plenty of scope for improvement and enjoyment, whilst remaining totally useable as it sits, as a rugged runabout for those living in rural areas. Good luck!
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BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.
Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.
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