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Osprey Custom Cars Land Rover Defender Review: Classic Cool

Osprey Custom Cars Land Rover Defender Review: Classic Cool


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The off-road SUV revival has been remarkable of late. We've seen the return of the Ford Bronco and Land Rover Defender, and staples such as the Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Wrangler have been seeing some of the best sales in their recent histories. But this popularity extends beyond new cars to classic off-roaders. Vintage Broncos, Jeeps, Land Rovers, Blazers and more are seriously hot. And as a result, multiple outfits have popped up to deliver not just restored trucks, but modified ones to make them better than ever. We've had the opportunity to sample an updated Land Rover Defender from Osprey Custom Cars, based out of North Carolina, and we're quite impressed.

Osprey starts with customer's old Land Rover Series or Defender models, or other existing Land Rover Defenders, in this case a 1991 U.S.-market example, and tears them down to the frame and rebuilds them. But it can go beyond that. Osprey can do all kinds of interior and exterior upgrades, as well as swapping out engines. Diesels as well as LS V8s are available to create your ultimate Landie.

Osprey Custom Cars 1991 Land Rover Defender 90
Osprey Custom Cars 1991 Land Rover Defender 90

First impressions of our test Osprey Defender 90 are quite good. The paint is very smooth and glossy. Panels all seem to fit well. The updates such as the grille and headlights modernize it without betraying the original design that made people love the Defender in the first place. In particular, the flush-fitting windows on the new top really bring it up-to-date. The official Land Rover wheels are another thoughtfully modern, but authentic touch.

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The interior continues the theme of making a classic Defender really nice and well-built, but retaining the feeling of it being a Defender. And importantly, not only does it feel high-quality, but it also feels like it can still be used like an actual off-road SUV. There's loads of leather with contrast diamond-stitching; from the seats up to the roof liner. It's a thick and tough leather that feels as though it can withstand rough and dirty handling. The brown hue is a perfect complement to the green exterior. This particular example comes with a real wood steering wheel that also feels classy and tough. There are even rubber floor mats, again, perfect for making this usable as an actual truck.

Osprey Custom Cars 1991 Land Rover Defender 90
Osprey Custom Cars 1991 Land Rover Defender 90

Osprey has added some useful modern features to this Defender, too. Mainly, it's the Atoto aftermarket head unit, which features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It's a little small, but that's because it fits in the standard double-DIN head unit slot. It’s also surprisingly responsive for an aftermarket unit. Osprey also added a modern Chevrolet console shifter, a heated windshield and rearview camera. But the rest of the dash is very much classic Land Rover. The factory gauges, column stalks and climate control are all original. It still uses the original key and ignition. And we appreciate these decisions, as the switches are all robust and clicky, and it means that it still feels like a classic Land Rover.

Granted, even if Osprey had gone farther in changing the interior, the driving position would give away the old-school nature of the Defender. Nothing quite sits like this. The position is extremely high, so much so that my 1997 Suburban suddenly felt like a sports car by comparison. The front passengers are pushed to the absolute edges of the cabin, with shoulders rubbing up against the doors (which are themselves a bit small and make ingress and egress tricky). The pedal placement is weird, too, with the pedals seemingly in the middle of one's legs. But the seats themselves are thickly padded and comfortable, and there's plenty of space. Headroom in particular is shocking. So much room for hats! And surprisingly, the rear jump seats are suitable for adults. They’re also easier to reach than the front seats since you get to them from the rear cargo door. Obviously, none of this is special to the Osprey. It’s just what an old Defender is like.

Osprey Custom Cars 1991 Land Rover Defender 90
Osprey Custom Cars 1991 Land Rover Defender 90