Cool Land Rover Defender. You don’t see many of these soft-tops around — and certainly not with a woman behind the wheel. Did you always want one of these?
Ever since I saw one on television back in the US I wanted one. I loved how they looked like nothing else that was out there. Unfortunately, we do not have too many of them back home, so I never thought it would be possible. Then I moved to the UAE and happened to be looking for a new car and searched for “Defenders for sale”, not expecting to find anything. But this one was the first listed and I called immediately and booked a viewing. I ended up buying it the next day. It’s my dream car and I call it Sultan.
A very apt name. The removable roof must have played a big factor in wanting it…
It did indeed — there is nothing better than driving around on a beautiful day enjoying the weather with the top down. I also like that it is not too large so I can still park it quite easily in those small underground parking spaces.
But why one of these and not a more, how can I put it, umm, girly car?
Well, once I’d arrived in the UAE, I began taking more notice of cars and became interested in them, particularly 4x4s. I went out dune-bashing with some friends a few times and really enjoyed it, so much so that I joined the Land Rover Owners Club. With a 4x4, you can go anywhere and that was quite appealing. While my friends like to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over sportscars, I am more impressed by the Nissan Patrols and older Toyota Land Cruisers.
Yours has a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine. Is it gutsy enough to tackle the dunes?
Well, it has its moments. It is definitely not something you want to drive in if you need to get anywhere fast. In the sand it does alright; it does not have immense power to do anything too big or crazy, which suits me just fine. I took it on a wadi drive once and though I was a little hesitant on taking it too far, it kept travelling along. By the end of the day I was surprised at how well it did, and with ease.
A lot of that is down to the driver. How good would you say you are in the rough stuff?
I still classify myself as a beginner although some of my friends claim I am better than that. I am still working on getting my confidence up to do some of the more difficult things. I try to go out in the sand on the weekends, so I am getting better each time. I am hoping that within the next few months I will get more adventurous and move on to bigger things.
You’re being a bit hard on yourself and deserve some credit, especially since your Defender has a manual gearbox.
Thanks. I find that with a manual, it is quite a bit easier to get out of the sand if you happen to get stuck. The only drawback is when you are driving on the road and get stuck in traffic. You get quite a workout while driving during rush hour.
It’s a great-looking car and it must make you feel quite special too…
I have to admit, it does. I was lucky to find an older one here in such good condition. When I purchased it, the soft-top was riveted to the car. My first mission was to get the roof off as it is so much nicer when it is all open. I love driving it either way, but it is so much nicer with the roof down.
Like all Land Rovers, it has led a hard life. But you’ve done a fair amount of work to it to keep it going, right?
I have made many upgrades and repairs in the time I have owned it and like to think of it as a work in progress. When I purchased it, the engine was a little shoddy, but is now in excellent running order. It recently had a full respray — a rather fetching Lexus Pearl White — which really makes it pop. I also painted the wheel flares and the rims black and added beefier tyres to give it more of an aggressive look. My next project is to tackle the interior and give it a bit of a refresh. It’s pretty reliable but has its moments, like all Land Rovers. I can go for months without any problems, but then it always seems like everything goes wrong at once. The fun part is pinpointing exactly what the problem is because you may think it’s one thing and it turns out to be something completely different. I like to think of it as a sort of scavenger hunt.
That’s a nice way to put it. What sort of reaction does it get from people?
The number one question I always get asked is, “Is this yours?” and when I tell them it is, this is followed by, “For sale?” Most people are confused when they see that a girl is driving the car, but they still give me the thumbs up when they pass by.
You drive your Defender come rain or shine, don’t you?
Yep, in fact, it’s such a blast that some days I even just drive it around the neighbourhood for something fun to do. I love taking it off road, but I also love driving it on the road.