1991 Land Rover Defender 110
1991 Land Rover Defender 110
Welcome to the listing for my personal truck. I wasn’t sure this was something I ever wanted to do, but the world of Defenders works in mysterious ways. I’ll be using this to lay out the history of my Arles Blue, 1991 Defender 110 Station Wagon. Thanks for reading. – Bill
I bought this truck in September 2015 in Baeza, Spain. It was advertised without much detail, and only a handful of photos showing a sunbaked but otherwise complete 110 Station Wagon. The seller, Andres, was pleasant and answered questions quickly. The truck, he explained, belonged to a man named Rafael in town. He’d had the truck for years and was moving on. The truck was built in April 1991, I’d later find out, meaning it wasn’t eligible for import until April 2016. The time between purchase and import was used to lay down new paint and install the 235/85/16 Goodyear Wrangler MT/Rs. It went on the first boat it was legally allowed to board.
The truck arrived at my house in Falls Church while I wasn’t there. Chris, the transport driver, routinely made runs between Baltimore and Fredericksburg, and getting it in my driveway and heading out before rush hour set in was key. Like a kid coming down the stairs on Christmas morning then, I turned the corner onto my street and saw Big Blue for the first time. The Arles Blue paint shined, the height was perfect, and the smell, strange as it sounds, is quintessentially this truck. She has a dustiness to it from its life in Spain. Not bad. Not funky. Not smoke. Not diesel. If you could smell patina, this would be it. (Note: Non-car people will stop reading now, thinking I’m nuts. Car people will take a sip of their coffee, nod their heads, and continue. Also “Car People” is a very 2019 thing to say, isn’t it?)
I found the keys, and there are many of them. One for the locking gas cap. One for the driver’s door and ignition, while another does the passenger door and rear door. “Character,” I thought. Or Anti-Theft. Who gave a damn? I was about to fire up my 200Tdi turbo diesel Defender for the first time in Virginia and charge triumphantly around town with the cocky swagger only a Defender will afford. The key went in the tumbler to the left of the steering column. “Damn this is cool”, I thought. I flicked it to life, and...
Dead battery. That’s all. But the lesson was learned quickly: The Defender is a truck. It’s a tool. Yes, it’s also an icon, but failing to treat it like a 25 year old truck was going to be mistake number one. A new battery got her to life quickly, and it’s been mechanically strong ever since. More on that later. First, back to Spain:
Rafael Viedma Lorite owns Talleres Viedma S.L. in Baeza, Spain. He’s the master mechanic, and bought the truck new. While Andalucia has tons of Land Rovers, there are two things I’ve found to be relatively consistently true:
99.5% of the time they’re Santanas (nothing wrong with that)
99.99% of the time, they’ve been used in the fields.
This was a rare find then. Nothing wrong with using a Rover to do work; that’s what they were built for. Down in Andalucía, during olive harvest season, the same scene plays out around town twice a day: Land Rovers laden with family, friends, and field-hands, towing trailers complete with nets, hand tools, and mechanized equipment, will follow a tractor out of the town and into their grove, where they’ll go from tree-to-tree shaking the olives out, collecting them on nets, and loading the haul into the tractor. At the end of the day, it takes the olives to the processing facility, where within 24-48 hours they’ll have been converted into some absolutely sublime olive oil. While we’re doing lists, here are two things I learned on my visit to Andalucía in January:
Manually harvesting olives from trees is some $#%&ing back-breaking work. Loads of respect there.
Using a truck in the fields isn’t abusive to the vehicle, but it will contribute to the amount of work that needs to be done to get it ready for use in the US. When your arms feel like 50-lbs sacks of sand at the end of the day, the dexterity required to not bump into the truck (read: collapse on the hood and hope they’ll strap you there before they drive home) doesn’t come easily.
Joking aside, I carried my own. At the bar in town the night before, Andres’ friend Alfonso asked: “So you’re really joining us in the fields tomorrow?” They’d heard for weeks that the American was going to join them, and they stood in disbelief that I’d have any interest in working the fields. “Of course,” I replied. I wanted to spend time with Andres, but more to the point, when the hell else was I going to get to learn about olive farming?
And so early on a Wednesday morning, 3,870 miles from home and about 7 hours before anyone I knew would be awake, we headed into the groves. I learned about olives the same way I learned about Defenders. I hadn’t owned any Defenders before Big Blue; just an ‘04 Discovery. Being thrust into it with a dead battery was the start of a good relationship well-known to many Rover enthusiasts: Over time you get to know the intricacies of your truck and make it your own. Trial by fire, in a sense. I learned that the lights on the front had all been wired strictly according to Spanish law, meaning that lights were one switch, fog lights were another, high beams were the stalk, and the spot lights required high beams to be on, in addition to a hidden switch under the dash. Clear as mud, but it works every time.
Once, diesel showed up on my back window while driving. I pulled over to find a fitting around an injector rail was loose. Nothing sinister, just needed a new washer. “Just.” Good luck buying “Just” a washer for a Defender. The itch to tinker was strong. By the time I was done, we’d rebuilt the turbo, removed the mechanical fan to reduce friction and replaced it with an electric setup, installed a larger intercooler to boost performance and replaced the fuel rails. And steering box. And probably some other stuff too. Why? I used this thing. At least for a while. In the Summer of 2016 it was my daily driver for two months after I rear-ended my wife’s Subaru on the way to the hospital to deliver our first child. Her Subaru? Fine. My BMW? Totaled. But you want to know what it’s like to drive a Defender 110 daily in the heat of Northern Virginia’s Summer? Ask me. I’ve done it.
We broke for lunch in the field strictly at 1pm. I was gassed, but pretending to be fine. Overwhelmed a bit, I hadn’t paid any attention to what lunch we brought that morning. Ochíos, freshly baked; a type of bread unique to Ubeda and Baeza. Potatoes. Fruit. Nuts. You name it. I had worked up an appetite like no other and wanted nothing more than a nap. Yup. I did a half day of work in Spain and I already wanted a siesta. I wasn’t about to get one. We stepped back to work before the ochíos had settled. I held a 10’ long fiberglass pole, while Andres used a vibrating machine that looked like an industrial weed whacker. The machine would grab a branch of the Olive tree and shake it, while I smacked the tree with the pole to knock the stubborn olives loose. They’d rain to the ground all around us, getting caught on the tarps laid out below. We methodically made our way around tree after tree after tree. Early in the day, my ‘Spanish Mother’ removed my jacket without asking. I understood by the third tree. Guidance was provided that while the baseball-style swing looked cool, that my faux-MLB swings would tire my arms quickly; a top-down chop would help me make it through the day. I think we did 48 trees total. I’m assured that’s a good number; I have absolutely no reference point.
After work that night, we went to the processing facility (OliBaeza) to see the steps from Olive to Oil. After, we visited Talleres Viedma, where we have another truck being worked on at the moment. It was late; maybe 7pm? I was expecting to see our truck. I was not expecting to meet Rafael.
He sauntered up in an old cap with white hair poking out from underneath. He started giving Andres updates on the current project. When it hit me that I was standing next to the original owner of my truck, I just stopped. I’ve imported trucks since 2014, and it’s been fun. Sometimes you get the story of where they came from. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you have no idea; what you were told might be just that: A story. But here I was, standing side-by-side with the original owner of my own personal truck. I was standing in the workshop where it was maintained. I was in the town where it lived. And while all I wanted was a glass of red wine and a nap, Rafael was kind enough to stand for a photo with me before showing me around our current project and eventually his shop (His son also works there, an expert in all things electrical. Their hospitality to a stranger late on a random Thursday was above and beyond).
Since receiving the truck here in April 2016 I removed the Euro trailer hitch and replaced it with a North American receiver. It has towed Lancia Fulvias, other Defenders, and Fiat 500s. A rubber-bottom commercial carpet was bought at Home Depot that fit the rear cargo area perfect, and so it has carried my ecstatic dog in the world’s best pup transport. It has explored trails and construction sites. It has driven through the Nation’s Capital, graced car shows, sat on the front of my website, moved my mountain bike, helped my parents move, and... well...
It transitioned from being this awesome, iconic imported truck into... a truck. And that’s where I’d like to leave this, if possible: Defenders have had some iconic status to them for awhile now. There are a thousand different flavors. Old, new. Stock, modified. You name it. For me, this was perfect. It was a time capsule with history. While the paint was new, it was originally an Arles Blue truck. The motor made it to 250,000 km under my watch, and still felt great. But with use, their mysterious allure fades away as they become an extension of self; a tool in the garage.
So why sell it? I need to put my money where my mouth is, candidly. We’ve started working with a new partner in Portugal to bring back some absolutely stunning restored Defenders. While they’re not stock, the choice of colors, materials, stitching, and more results in a truck that looks period correct while also dripping with cool; leather wrapped dashboards and vintage colors, all clad in those same iconic Goodyear Wrangler MT/Rs. So Big Blue must go. A Coniston Green ’91 Defender 110 has been purchased, to be restored in Portugal with our new partner. So that’s the plan. Blue > Green > We’ll see what happens.
I left Baeza with a strange feeling, both about the trip and Big Blue. Three years later, visiting the town where my truck came from and all the characters involved in its story was unexpected and satisfying. For the first time, I felt like my journey with Big Blue could be considered complete. As I write this, I have no idea where she’ll end up. I kept her stored indoors at the Commonwealth shop. Her chassis is dry; the bulkhead is intact. There are a few bubbles where your fingers might land on the door if your arm was resting on the window while driving. You can feel them; but they’re not overtly visible. Is it perfect? No. Is it the coolest $#%&ing Defender?
Yes. Yes it is.
Prior to listing the truck, we’re doing a few pieces of work. I want the next owner’s story to start not with a dead battery, but something more upbeat. To that end:
New timing belt and water pump
New VDO head unit to replace dated Spanish radio
New OEM mohair floor mats and rubber
The work has started. It’ll be done soon. This write-up may evolve a few more times before it goes live. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know:
1991 Land Rover Defender 110
Factory 200tdi, LT77 5-speed manual transmission
Left hand drive
Arles Blue under white roof and wheels
5x Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires in 235/85/16 over 16” steel wheels
A little over 155k miles on the truck
Comes from Baeza, Spain. Currently in Marshall, VA
Clear Virginia title
AM/FM Radio. 4-speakers
Stock fabric upholstery, matching throughout. Configured to seat 9
Brush bar with auxiliary lighting
Heat works. No A/C
No irreversible changes made; most parts removed convey.
2 owners. Well loved.