Back in late January 2016, off-road enthusiasts the world over dropped to their muddy knees and cried out in despair. The 29th of the month was a day of automotive mourning for these diehard Defender fans — as it marked the last time one of their beloved, iconic Land Rovers would roll off the Solihull production line.
But, while most devotees took the news on the nose, getting on with polishing and preserving their existing cars, a enclave of enthusiasts near Krakow, Poland hatched a daring-do, high-octane, four-wheel-drive plan.
Land Serwis, founded in 1995, had over two decades’ worth of experience servicing and selling Land Rovers. So, rather than rolling over and letting the Defender drive itself into the history books, they bought up a huge amount of spare parts and decided to crank up their very own production line.
The ‘Defender Factory’ project, as it was termed, made use of an experienced team and specialised technical facilities to create start building cars. And, earlier this year, over a thousand days since the last new Solihull Defender was fired up, Land Serwis’ first ‘new build’ forged its way out of the factory and off the road.
This ‘Defender Crew Cab Pickup’ is no ordinary post-renovation Defender. All of the reclaimed parts used to create the car were fully refurbished and tailored to cope with the demands of the Polish countryside. And this is the cornerstone of Land Serwis’ ‘Defender Factory’ project — that every new Defender will be built to the exact — and often exacting — specifications of individual clients.
"This distinguishes us from other companies repairing Defenders..."
“We’re one of four companies in the world manufacturing Defender chassis,” says Peter Smith, Head of Land Serwis, “and the only one outside of Great Britain. So this distinguishes us from other companies repairing Defenders.
“At the design stage, we can introduce changes into chassis construction, reinforcements, handles, etc. We can mount additional tanks, give stronger suspension, add a mechanical winch, crane or lift…”
The options are many. And the main benefit of sourcing a ‘new’ Defender from these Polish enthusiasts is that everything is done on a case-by-case basis. No minimum quantity is required for the design of a single frame — so your Defender will truly be one-of-a-kind.
This first of the new age of Defenders is based on a 2010 model, equipped with a 2.4 litre Puma engine and fitted with new coolers and rubber elements. Goodyear Wrangler tyres and a two inch suspension lift give it even more off-roading capabilities than Land Rovers proper, and Dynamat acoustic mats lessen the noise and resonance that typified early models.
But the real joy is the paintwork. Aficionados will recognise Grasmere Green, a classic Land Rover colour — as well as the tradition of detailing the roof in distinct Alaska White. It’s a touch that pays homage to the history of the brand — specifically the 1947 series — and just one of the many nod’s to the brand’s heritage.
Land Serwis, then, are clearly ardent admirers of the Defender. And this gives us hope. For, even though there’s money to be had in resurrecting such a storied model, the main drive behind the Polish company’s ‘Defender Factory’ appears to be a genuine love for the car. And who can argue with that?
In the market for a more modern SUV? Take a look at the Gentleman’s Journal off-road test of the Lamborghini Urus…