High-hour horsepower: Mega-mile Land Rover Defender still going strong

More than two million Defenders and their Land Rover predecessors were built in the 68 years until production ended in 2016, but few will have been as hard-worked as the 110 200Tdi owned by Warwickshire farmer John Fisher.

He took delivery of his brand-new Defender on New Year’s Day 1994 from Sturgess in Leicester, and it has been used on the farm every day since.

“The clock shows 217,900 miles,” says Mr Fisher. “However, there was a period of just over two years when the speedometer wasn’t working.

“At the time, the Land Rover was doing 15,000-plus miles per year, so it’s a fair assumption to say that it has clocked 250,000 miles in 25 years.

See also: 4 friends retrofit cabs to revitalise old Land Rover Discoverys

Odometer of the Defender reading 217,913 miles

“We bought it primarily for its carrying and towing capacity – we wanted a four-wheel-drive vehicle that could carry a ton of potatoes in bags and pull a cattle trailer.

“It was ordered with the high-capacity utility body, and for the first few years of its life its main jobs were delivering potatoes to local chip shops and moving around cattle and sheep.”

Land Rover Defender 110 200Tdi

Engine: 4-cyl, 2,495cc, 8-valve turbo-diesel
Power: 111hp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 265Nm @ 1,800rpm
Transmission: 5-speed/2-range
Drivetrain: Permanent AWD
Consumption: 20mpg (observed)
Weight: 2,055kg (empty)
Wheelbase: 109.8 inches

Impeccable service

The Defender has performed almost flawlessly during its working life. Remarkably, it still has the original four-cylinder 200Tdi engine and five-speed Land Rover gearbox, neither of which has ever been overhauled or repaired.

Engine bay of Defender

The 2.5-litre diesel is original and has never been overhauled

But while the heart of the vehicle remains pretty much as it left the factory, Mr Fisher concedes that his Land Rover has picked up a few battle scars in its life.

Farmer John Fisher

A former contractor, John Fisher farms at Nuneaton in Warwickshire

“I used to leave Smudge, my old Jack Russell, in the cab while we were moving cattle,” he recalls. “One day he got so wound up that he chewed a great lump out of the steering wheel and ripped out half the headlining. I wasn’t too pleased about that.

“And my wife got it caught in a chain link fence outside the village hall. The scratches are still on the side but fortunately the body panels are aluminium, so there’s no rust to contend with.”

Mechanical gremlins

Despite its generally reliable performance, Mr Fisher’s Defender has suffered some mechanical problems that will be familiar to many owners.

During its 25-year service it has required two new clutches, at least four half-shafts in the rear axle, a medley of replacement brake pipes, several exhaust silencers and four sets of tyres.

The towing hitch  has been reinforced, although the chassis itself has never required any welding.

One of the more alarming breakdowns was when the axle caps on the rear wheels failed.

This, disconcertingly, allowed the half-shafts to work their way out of the axle while the vehicle was travelling. New caps rectified the issue.

Cabin pressure

Like many farm Land Rovers, the 110’s cab is tired and tatty – and Defenders of this era were never renowned for the quality of their interiors.

“The driver’s seat has been re-covered twice,” Mr Fisher says. “Clambering in and out in wellies and boots constantly has worn out the upholstery and you can see where the metal on the door sill has worn through, too.

Scruffy interior of Defender

“In fact, we’ve had quite a lot of trouble with the doors. The hinges have been replaced on both sides and the latch has been replaced on the passenger door as it developed the annoying habit of opening while driving.

The door window winders have been replaced as well, though the driver’s side one broke again recently.”

Jack of all trades

During its life, Mr Fisher’s Defender has been used for carrying fencing equipment, welding gear, bales, livestock feed, farm goods, calves and lambs, and just about anything else imaginable.

The wheel arches in the pickup bed are beaten and dented, the tailgate is on its second set of latches and the cab roof has caved in to the point where it fills up like a swimming pool when it rains.

It’s covered thousands of miles pulling a sheep-shearing/dagging trailer, and many more hauling livestock.

It has towed the combine header and the farm diesel bowser, and despite this gruelling  workload, it has only got stuck twice.

Rear view of Defender

The chassis has never needed welding although the towing hitch has had some work

“We once put a set of wider tyres on it, which absolutely ruined its off-road performance,” says Mr Fisher. “Land Rover put narrow tyres on the Defender for a reason. With the right tyres, it’s almost impossible to get it stuck.”

For all it quirks and foibles, Mr Fisher’s Defender remains one of his prized possessions. Sure, its paint has faded in places and it bears a few battle scars, but even with a quarter of a million miles under its belt it remains turn-key reliable.

“It’s got more than enough life left in it for what I need,” he concludes. “Yes, it is getting a bit long in the tooth, but I’ve certainly got no intentions of ever selling it.”

Show us yours…

If you’ve got a high-mileage 4×4 that’s given you sterling service and is still on its original engine, we’d like to hear from you.

The gallery of high-milers below will clearly be tough to beat, so we’d be interested to see vehicles with 300,000 miles or more on the clock. We’re also still eagerly awaiting news of any vehicles from the Land Rover stable that have made it into the high-mileage club.

If you’d like to be featured, email a few details to oliver.mark@markallengroup.com

Other high-milers

Here’s the league table of mile-munching motors we’ve featured in the past:

Andy Gay’s 1997 Isuzu Trooper – 490,000 miles

Andy Gay and his Isuzu Trooper

Anthony Simpson’s 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon 80-series – 419,000 miles

Anthony Simpson and his Toyota Land Cruiser

Peter Hanifin’s 2007 Toyota Land Cruiser 3.0 D4D GX – 397,678 miles

Peter Hanifin's Land Cruiser

David Wootton’s 2000 Toyota Hilux – 387,0000 miles

David Wootton with his Toyoya Hilux

See more