Pretender or Defender

Pretender or Defender

rover.fronviewOnce upon a time going on safari meant two weeks in a Landrover TDI110 “Defender” literally in the bush: no roads.

You found trails, usually elephant paths, and plowed your Landrover TDI110 “Defender” into the wild.
With roads and government tariffs and mercantile competition and especially, with tourists who are terrified that traveling off roads is what al-Qaeda wants you to, who need room for 30 pounds of cosmetics and hair shampoos, who schedule their spinal epidurals depending on air fare sales, who are allergic to Wonder Bread and need additional room to bring their sleep amnea machine and additional plugs in the cab for their kids’ Xbox …

… the “Defender” has died. “Long live the memory of the Defender!”


I still manage to slip real bush into some of my safaris, although I often play it by ear because many of my clients today would have a heart attack if a little cricket jumped on them.

But in the main I don’t. Nobody does. You don’t fork out ten grand to feel like you’re riding a jackhammer.

Once upon a time, we didn’t mind, but no one would tell you that the Defender was comfortable – it wasn’t. But that was a machine! You could drive it up a boulder. (Coming down was the problem.)

The Defender was expensive. Being so tough meant that we constantly challenged it, and so often man the ultimate defeated the machine and the machine had to be fixed. That was difficult: it was soooo expensive.

Even 20 years ago a simple universal joint exceeded most safari’s net costs. And it was hard to explain to clients that it was noble that, in fact, they couldn’t move for a while.

I mark that as the point at which Landrovers began to decline in popularity. It was about 20 years ago and spare parts were so expensive that clients would often get into the car and then not be able to go on safari because it wouldn’t start.

So in comes the New World, that is the new world of automotive mercantilism which in English is “Toyota.”

And shortly after “Toyota” came “Nissan.”

And Defender was overwhelmed by Pretender. They were so cheap. And besides, there were now roads, and the Toyota stretchie does pretty well on roads and it can easily be modified to carry cosmetic cases.

Modified is the key. Yes the Defender could be modified, but it was hard work, because it was thick metal. Toyota’s and Nissan’s metal is a tad better than aluminum foil, and there are a myriad of things you can do with such pliable material: origamy, for instance.

You can also add extra seats and stretch the sides and stretch the length, ergo the nickname “Stretchie.”cutofftops

You can cut out the roof then put it back on extenders so people can stand up and pretend they’re on the subway.

You can have all sorts of kinds of seats: pillows and cushions and even ones that warm themselves.

Windows is a problem we’re working on. When a vehicle is changed so much, the preformed window sometimes doesn’t work so well, but not to worry, stand up and look out.

So what has happened to my Defender?
Landrover is not to be displaced from modern times. It began after World War II, a copy of a military jeep, which farmers needed in Wales to defend themselves against Northumberlers. Ever since that courageous moment of birth, Landrover has evolved with the times.

So today, you’ll find these legendary machines mostly in mall parking lots, because it is today what the Landrover does best, defend its owners against obscurity.

On safari, we’ll make do with the “Pretender.” Bring on that Lacombe! We can handle it!

But ode to awesome, what a machine that was!