Land Rover Defender V8 Works Islay Edition

Land Rover is about to let loose a new V8 Defender. Nope, not the new Defender in ultimate 130 V8 form – that was last week’s news. Solihull’s bent-eight 4×4 delight today is the Works V8 Islay Edition. It’s a classic Landie blast from the past – and just wait ‘til you hear the price…

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It’s definitely all V8 but it’s not new and its inspiration is not the Defender but the Series IIa, specifically the 1965 Series IIa owned by the man who jointly invented Land Rover, Spencer Wilks. The original machine of Land Rover’s founding father and Rover managing director is in the firm’s classic collection. The Islay Edition is a heritage-themed homage to it and the first time Land Rover Classic has given its reborn Defender in Works V8 form a bespoke character.

So why Islay Edition? The island in the Inner Hebrides is where Wilks had an estate which he used for holidays and, no surprise, for exploring off-road in one of the many early Land Rover prototypes. A plaque on the new 4×4 says Islay is where the name “Land Rover” was first coined.

A compelling backstory then, but equally compelling is just how pukka this thing looks. The upcycled Defender (the car in the pictures first registered in 2015 judging by the numberplate) looks as cool as ever, from its heavy-duty steel wheels to its Heritage Grey body and Limestone roof, all close to how Wilks specified for his own machine 60 years ago.

Bet his car didn’t have an interior swathed in Windsor leather, tweed, carpet and oak veneers though. And his Series IIa certainly didn’t have a 5.0-litre V8 pushing out 405PS (302kW) to an eight-speed automatic. Wilks’ 4×4 would have had 72PS (54kW) and a four-speed manual.

Would he have approved of such power and 0-62mph in a sprightly 5.6 seconds? You’d like to think so. It would be good to imagine a big Wilks thumbs up as well to power steering, upgraded suspension (but still beam axles front and rear) and beefed-up brakes – all part of the Works V8 spec incorporated into the Islay Edition. What he would make of LED lights, satellite navigation, DAB radio and Bluetooth is anyone’s guess.

Chances are he would definitely approve of the free bottle of Islay single malt that comes with every car; it’s from the Kilchoman distillery on Islay that was set up by his great-granddaughter in 2005.

The links to Islay go further with a disc of wood taken from a Kilchoman whisky barrel set into a tray in the centre console. The vehicle gets lots more hand-crafted little nods to Wilks, Islay and Land Rover’s 75th birthday this year.

Like anything from Land Rover Classic, the Islay special is subjected to a complete workover at the factory. Donor Defenders are from between 2012 and 2016 and each benefits not just from a full restoration but re-engineering and upgrading, along with plenty of hand finishing.

That’s all reflected in the price of course. There will only ever be 30 of them, all Station Wagons, with 17 available as a 90 short wheelbase and 13 available as a seven-seat 110 version. The small one costs from £230,000, the 110 from £245,000.

Whoever said heritage was cheap? Land Rover’s heritage is priceless and this surely is as good a way as any to celebrate it. At a time when “Land Rover” is being subsumed as a brand into the wider JLR group, it’s good to report this new model really is as Land Rover as they come.

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Report by Bob Murray

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