junkYARD 2003 Land Rover Defender 90 TD5 Pick-up Review

First Look:

I loved my previous petrol Defender so much so that I started looking for a replacement.

I was constantly looking online for a decent price, decent age, condition etc.

Then the quandary of engines came in to play.

For my price range, there was the older 300Tdi or the even older 200Tdi, both of which are extremely proven and reliable lumps.

However, I was just about floating in to the later and more modern TD5 unit…at a stretch.

I did research of the different engines and the general consensus was that any engine before the TD5 could be worked on and easily maintained by a competent mechanic, so much so the British Army insisted that all of their Defenders would keep the 300Tdi unit for it’s simplicity and ability to repair out in the field.

The TD5 was a result of much more stringent emissions targets. However, for me, it was the fact it was a 5 cylinder engine and not the 4 pot.

The one that stood out was a green 90 pick-up located in rural Lincolnshire.

Price Paid:


Price Sold:




Overview and Experience

So, for some reason unbeknownst to me now I think I managed to somehow make a work trip up to the area and take a look at the Defender a good week or so before returning to buy it.

I took it for a test drive and everything seemed as it should. It sounded amazing, looked in great condition, the chassis had no rust on it whatsoever, the tires were good and it had some service history.

I was sold on the test drive, so I returned to London and essentially sold myself the car to me, as a result I headed over one Saturday morning using two trains and a taxi ride with a steaming hangover and bought the Landy.

The drive back to London along the A1 was brilliant. It has the great commanding driving position, the engine sounded sweet and had plenty of torque and power to make good progress until I returned to London and headed over to a mates house to get pissed up again.

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It was previously a farm vehicle, and a good power wash of the truck saw lots of bits of straw coming out of crevices, before selling the truck the dealer I had bought it off had fixed or replaced a lengthy number of parts such as cracked light lenses, seat bases, broken wing mirrors tires and the like. All the bits that get some serious wear and hammer as a working vehicle. 



As soon as I got the Landy I set about enhancing it, but not without losing its original feel. I didn’t want to stick on massive alloys with low profile tires for example, nor did I think a snorkel would have been appropriate.

However, this was the bare bones commercial truck. It didn’t even have a stereo but did have speakers wired up.

So, I bought a stereo, bought black chequer plating for the wing tops and along the sills as well as a bull bar.

On occasion I wanted to pop something in the tub at the rear so I bought a frame and a canvas cover.

Over the time that I had it, I went to Paris during the winter months, I ragged it around in the snow, bought a motor boat and towed it home as well as tow a large caravan full of materials for a stage at the Glastonbury music festival.

Never once did it feel stressed or incapable at doing the task in hand.

Even on the highways it was okay, top speed was limited to 85mph and depending on how fast I went, it would probably achieve around 25mpg. Although high speed meant there was a lot of buffering from the wind and the consumption would plummet.

People often complain that the seats are uncomfortable to drive.

So, for me the only real difficulty to learn was the harshness of the clutch and the high torque.

If you didn’t bring the clutch up in a deft enough manner it would ‘snap’ in to lurching you forward, however, I would also experience something similar in a Jeep Cherokee XJ I bought at a later date.

The seats to me were fine, as was the driving position. You could see every corner of the truck so visibility, parking and maneuverability was good.

I think  lot of people will drive one after either driving a SUV or a normal car and not appreciate that this is nothing more than either a mobile working or fighting platform. What makes it so different on road to even many other commercial vehicles is it’s ability to perform off road compared to the rest.

I eventually sold it because of two reasons…

  1. I wanted to buy a house and this was a bit of capital tied up
  2. I know had relocated from London to the North and my commute to work was no longer a 5 miles bicycle ride or using the Tube

One of the problems with a Defender is that unless you buy one to do a specific job such as being a mobile fighting platform in a war, or to use in remote and inhospitable locations for service jobs or agriculture jobs it can be difficult to understand why they cost the amount that they do.

They are much more expensive than regular pick-up trucks which offer much better driving dynamics, better economy, more comfort and luxury.

It is because they are a cult vehicle that they hold their value so well.

Land Rover 90 TD5 Pick-up Problems:

This was a working vehicle prior to my ownership and as already stated many cosmetic components had been replaced.

For myself, I was once just driving down a slip road to merge with highway traffic when I noticed a severe vibration then a loud clunk.

The universal joint on the prop shaft had sheared off. I was towed home and a friend then replaced the UJ for me by the side of the road.

I also experienced what felt like a random misfire occasionally when in use, obviously being diesel you do not get misfires, but it seems it could have been an injector fault so I took it to the garage who sorted that out for me and replaced the ECU loom as a preventative measure.

It had the common door seal leaks when you used a high pressure hose for cleaning but other than that I had no other issues.

It didn’t leak oil and the heater controls worked impeccably.

I really liked that truck and I do miss it, but it really wasn’t right for the time when I had to sell it. Since the production of the Defender has stopped if it is in the same condition as I had sold it, it would probably fetch more money that what I sold it for.

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