Land Rover has been the go-to off-road machine since before off-roading was a thing. Wind it back a few decades, and the Land Rover was a necessity for going bush; it pretty much replaced camels. Today, it’s no longer a necessity, it’s a luxury, and that luxury could be yours if you win Mater Cars for Cancer lottery No. 115.
While it’s true the Land Rover Defender is more luxury than necessity now, that’s only because other manufacturers have stepped up to build capable machines that share the same niche. But none have the poise, class, and history of the mighty Land Rover.
Price points, spec levels and features versus benefits are for people who must make an informed decision about what they’re about to invest in. For entrants in Mater Cars for Cancer lottery No. 115, you can throw caution to the wind. This isn’t about budgets, it’s about winning the incomparable Land Rover Defender 110, then hooking up the Essential Caravans C-Class that comes with it, then exploring Australia just like Alby Mangels. Getting a ticket is your first step towards adventuring in style.
Just how did the Defender 110 garner its mighty reputation for conquering all? Well, like America’s Jeep, the Land Rover was borne of necessity, a direct result of WWII. Annoyingly for the British, they didn’t really have anything Jeep-like when hostilities kicked off, and once the Americans joined the war, their Jeep quickly proved itself indispensable. The stiff upper lips back in Blighty weren’t overly happy they were being outdone by their former colony, and once things simmered down, Rover developed something that King and country could hold proud.
Work started on the ‘Land’ Rover in 1947 and after a couple of weird centre-steer, Jeep-based prototypes, the first pre-production Land Rover was built, registered HUE 166. ‘Huey’, as it became known, still exists today and I’ve had the pleasure of checking ‘him’ over at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon, UK.
HUE 166 aka ‘Huey’, the first pre-production Land Rover, photographed at the UK’s National Motor Museum in Gaydon, Warwick, 2019.
A cursory glance at Huey makes it plainly obvious that he doesn’t really exude luxury. Unsurprisingly, he’s a utilitarian workhorse, built on a sturdy, box frame and clad, thanks to a post-WWII steel shortage, in basic aluminium panels. But he had one thing over and above the American Jeep, well two things, actually—Huey had doors.
It was with the creation of Huey that the foundations of the modern SUV were laid, because until that first Land Rover, people had to sit on their Jeeps rather than in them, and the elements were a thing to be braved. While for the British, ‘elements’ generally meant pounding rain, Australia’s take on the word included some of that, along with endless, searing sun, heat, cold and drop bears. Fortunately, the production Land Rover also came with a roof, and thus its popularity in our Great Southern Land was assured.
The advent of the motor car made exploration of our nation easier, but it didn’t open the floodgates of unlimited travel. Crikey, not even the Land Rover did that, but it was first to give it a go straight out of the box, without the need for an engineering degree and endless roadside rebuilds. The Land Rover’s reliability and off-road ability, not to mention its doors and roof, meant it was the ideal machine to explore where few had trod, or driven before.
The traditional Land Rovers ran from 1948’s Series I until 1984/85 in the UK when the Series III was phased out by the new Land Rover range, named 90, 110 and 127 after their respective wheelbases. Five years later, they gained the Defender badge, but the updates weren’t a holistic paradigm shift for Land Rover; the guts and garters underpinning the platform had history going all the way back to 1948.
The original Defender bowed out in 2016, having an unbroken lineage back to old Huey, but the model didn’t finish there; it was just resting. Enter the L663-model Defender of 2020. The first all-new platform Defender platform since, well, ever. The L663 has been fully upgraded and updated for 2024 because like Huey, it’s in for the long haul. These days, an agricultural beast on a box-form chassis isn’t going to cut it, and because Land Rover was the first word in off-roading ability, it’s now also the last word in off-roading a luxury.
The L663 Defender was a clean sheet design and has been well received by the motoring press; a sure sign Land Rover have it right again. Gone is the body-on-frame construction, in favour of an all-aluminium monocoque, while engine wise it runs a 3.0 litre twin turbo six-cylinder diesel good for 220kw, just under six times what Huey could manage. Lego even put out a 2573-piece brick-based homage to the new Defender; if that’s not a great endorsement, I don’t know what is.
Getting your bottom behind the wheel of a Land Rover Defender has generally been a practical decision, but in 2024 it’s purely a personal one. Other cars can do the same thing, but are they as cool? Does James Bond drive one? That’s really all you have to know, but also know this; the dollars you spend that could win you this fantastic beast, will also help someone that is living with cancer, either via palliative care, treatment support or by funding vital research. Your ticket will help.
And if you win the Defender, Mater Cars for Cancer will also include the aforementioned $87,990 Essential C-Class Caravan and $100k cashable gold bullion. Tickets are selling like they’re going out of style, so get yours before the winds change and they’re gone.