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The Gear

The Land Rover Defender Returns

We go behind the scenes at Twisted, a custom refitter transforming rough-and-ready into refined

The Land Rover Defender is a bona-fide motoring legend. Its blocky silhouette, famously sketched into the sands of a Welsh beach by its designer, Mr Maurice Wilks, back in 1947, has become an instantly recognisable symbol of British engineering, and its recent discontinuation – the last car rolled off the production line on 29 January this year – has only boosted its desirability as a collector’s item. But that isn’t to say it doesn’t come with its fair share of drawbacks. While endlessly versatile as a farming vehicle – the purpose for which it was originally designed – the Defender becomes a little unstuck when you take it out of its natural habitat.

The ride is bone-shaking on Tarmac, with every pothole registering as a shockwave delivered from the wheels directly to the base of your spine. There’s precious little in the way of soundproofing to shut out the noisy grumble of the 2.2-litre diesel engine. It has all the aerodynamic ability of the house brick it resembles. And it boasts a turning circle that would make a North Sea oil tanker look nimble by comparison.

  • V8 90 station wagon. Photograph by Mr GF Williams

There are few cars better equipped to navigate a waterlogged field than the Defender, but if you’re looking for something to tackle long drives in relative comfort, well... You wouldn’t enter the Tour de France on a mountain bike, would you? Put simply, the reality of owning one of these iconic vehicles falls somewhat short of the fantasy.

Helping to bridge that gap between fantasy and reality is Twisted, a British company that modifies and refits Defenders to better suit the lifestyle of its city-dwelling fans. There’s very little Twisted can’t do to a Landie that’s worth doing. A basic upgrade consists of engine tweaks, improved suspension, brakes and soundproofing, but if you want a 6.2-litre V8 Corvette engine installed under the bonnet, that’s no problem. If, like one anonymous customer, you want a shower in the back to wash the sand off your feet when you return from the beach, that’s fine, too.

Somewhat unusually for a custom refitter, Twisted eschews the production-line process, choosing, instead, to assign one solitary engineer to each project. That engineer is responsible for carrying out all modifications to the car, from stripping to soundproofing and refitting, and will also act as the point of contact for the customer. MR PORTER visited the Twisted workshop in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, to follow one senior engineer, Mr Rob Lewis through the entire process of creating one of these remarkable cars. Watch the video, above, to see what happened.