If there’s one thing you cannot trust, it’s your own memory. Studies have shown that even the recollections we think we’re sure of, so-called flashbulb memories—for example, where you were when you learned of the 9/11 attacks—can be corrupted by time. Even without those studies, many of us have had moments in adulthood when we reached for the name of a person we once knew well and came up empty. But for all of the mind’s fallibility, there are some things that can make its flashbulbs go off like a pack of paparazzi on the tail of a TikTok star. Things such as the Osprey Land Rover Defender.
This Defender looks a lot like the ones Land Rover sold in the United States from 1993 to 1997 and elsewhere almost continuously since 1983. But this one is newer than its 1993 registration suggests. It is the product of a small manufacturing outfit—Osprey Custom Cars—that puts Defender bodies on a new frame, drops in a fresh engine, fits some updated interior bits, and sells the resulting machine for six figures to people who’ve run out of reasons to say no.
The example we drove for this story had the body from a Land Rover Defender 110, which was shipped from England to Osprey’s assembly site in Wilmington, North Carolina. Once stateside, its panels were painted Keswick Green and bolted onto a new frame fabricated with galvanized steel. Underneath is a lifted suspension with taller-than-stock coil springs and dampers. Motivation comes from a General Motors-sourced LS3 V-8 mated to a GM six-speed automatic transmission. It makes about 430 horsepower in this application, though a 335-hp V-8 can be fitted, such as the one we drove earlier this year, to keep costs down.
Inside, the cabin is swathed in leather, including the seats. Various buttons and knobs feel period appropriate to the mid-1990s, although some aren’t. Osprey says the power front windows, for instance, were never available on North American-spec Defenders, nor were the obviously contemporary aftermarket touchscreen infotainment system and the pushbutton shifter setup.
Defenders also never came with stonking V-8s like the LS3. The original North American Defender 110 did have a V-8, but it was a 3.9-liter lump that made only 182 horsepower. The roaring LS3, on the other hand, is a 6.2-liter mill familiar from the C6 Corvette, where it made a strong 435 horses. That’s more power than you can get even in the new 2021 Land Rover Defender, which tops out at 395 ponies, and it’s a lot more than you need in a high-riding truck that feels permanently locked in battle with the laws of physics. At full thrust, the wind whistles past the Osprey’s wide side mirrors, its off-road-oriented tires squirm for traction, and the passing scenery flirts with being a blur. This is still a 4700-pound brick, after all.
That entertaining assault on your senses is surely a significant motivator for Osprey’s customers, as the rest of the truck’s driving experience will be unfamiliar to most people shopping for a $189,950 vehicle. The Osprey’s bumpy ride meant we had to brace our right foot against the center tunnel to keep steady pressure on the accelerator. The steering is slow, which makes navigating quick corners an act of future planning. And its running lights are so dim that we sometimes wondered whether they were on at all, even when the indicator icon on the dash said they were. Thankfully, flipping on the Osprey-installed LED headlights provides a more modern flood of light.
But perhaps those annoyances are what helps this Defender catapult its driver back in time so effectively. Even those of us who’ve never driven an original Defender were blasted with nostalgia by its various buttons, knobs, and levers that click in and out of place with a satisfying tactility absent in modern cars. And one staffer who was skeptical of this expensive monument to ruggedness still admitted that it brought back memories of driving authentic Land Rovers decades earlier.
Sadly, vehicles can be as imperfect as our memories. We ultimately weren’t able to complete our test of this Defender because, during the first pass down our test track’s straightaway at wide-open throttle, the buildup of pressure in the exhaust system blew a hole through its muffler. Osprey owner Aaron Richardet said that in light of our truck’s failure the company would spec a different muffler on Defenders with the LS3 engine, starting with the half-built ones already in the workshop. Issues such as this are one of the risks Richardet’s customers take when they opt for one of Osprey’s custom creations, which is why they’re covered by a full one-year warranty. “If you want a brand-new car that’s going to perform flawlessly, go buy a new Land Cruiser,” Richardet said. “But if you want something that looks cool, has a cool sound, retains its value, and fulfills that itch [for something unique], I think we do it best.”
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io