junkYARD 1987 Land Rover 90 Defender 2.5 Petrol Review

junkYARD 1987 Land Rover 90 Defender 2.5 Petrol Review

First Look:

What can you say about the Defender that hasn’t been said before?

Classic and timeless styling, utilitarian, rugged, classless and now quite the collectors piece. 

Mine wasn’t what you would call in good condition or worthy of any form of restoration unless of course the chassis and VIN were to be used for a full nut and bolt restoration which could then be exported to the USA.

However, then again, people say a Land Rover should have a well worn patina and not be the blinged up, massive alloy wheel poseur pseudo truck that it has become with many found in urban landscapes…

Ahem, I had mine when I lived in London.

Price Paid:


Price Sold:

£1900 – insurance pay out


Can’t remember it was quite low, so either it had been around the clock considering the age or it was used very locally as a farm vehicle. The notchy first gear would probably be a testament to this.

Overview and Experience

I was bored and I was at work. I was supposed to be selling offices in the Square Mile in the City of London.

However, I had my head in eBay…

I c an’t remember why but I started looking at Defenders, I think as a child I was quite obsessed by them and had them as toy cars.

As I was scrolling through analyzing the market it was obvious diesel one’s were cheaper than petrol.

However, there were much more diesel one’s available. I did a bit of research and found out that after the series III came the Defender or actually it was either known as the ’90’ or the ‘110’ before the Defender name was given.

However, there was a bit of engine crossover between the series III and the 90/110.

That meant if you wanted the ‘improved’ coil sprung 90/110 you had to pay a bit more but you could find one’s with either the older 2.25 liter petrol or the newer 2.5 liter petrol.

There wasn’t much extra power available from the newer 2.5 liter inline 4 cylinder but I wanted one anyway.

I also learned that fuel consumption and economy was horrendous. In fact it was dire, not much behind the carb 3.5 v8 engines that were also available on a lesser scale, for the UK market anyway.

So, upon deciding that I wanted the 90 with the slightly larger capacity 2.5 petrol engine I narrowed down my search.

I found one that didn’t seem to be that far away in Devon and won the auction, unseen of course apart from a few photo’s that basically showed that it was a faded blue color, had good tires and white steel wheels.

Oh, and some chequer plating to the tops of the wings and the sills.


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Typically, Devon was not quite as close as I has imagined and hoped. It was a good 3.5 hours on the train, but not before travelling by tube from North London to West London to get to the required train station.

Once I arrived in Devon there it was at the station waiting for me.

It was tatty to say the least and smelled just like the Leyland Sherpa, I can’t really describe it other than a car smell from another era. It also shared some of the same switch gear, not like there was much.

The seats were old, the clutch heavy, the steering loose, the transmission was notchy and the petrol low.

So I went to the nearest petrol station to fill her up.

Bare in mind these do not have the biggest or most powerful of engines so it’s all about gears and ratios. This has the central locking differential. Five forward gear and one reverse with a lower ratio transfer box.

Top speed was about 60 mph, but when in the lower transfer and the low gears it provided slow but strong and unstoppable progress.

This high torque and low speed is required for off road driving when there’s rough terrain.

Obviously being in London, I barely engaged the lower transfer case nor the locking center diff.

However, upon collection I filled it with petrol at a fairly high cost and hit the roads.

I arrived back in London much later and not before having to fill it up again.

The trip was about 200 miles in total so you can guess how uneconomical this was, it was laughable.

It was definitely below 20mpg with the wind buffering the brick shaped dynamics all the way.

Once back in London it is fair to say that actually it suited city driving quite well.

A commanding driving position, dimensions that actually weren’t too wide or long and plenty of bashes already in place. Plus, no one would cut you up on the road.

For most of it, it was merely used as a thing to mess around with. I did the occasional long journey which was as deafening, bouncy and uncomfortable as a work or fighting platform on wheels would be.

Visits to my parents would require about 4 tanks worth of petrol, so an expensive affair in the UK.

On one occasion it was useful and used as it was intended for.

I  went to pick up a double axle caravan for a friend who was to turn it in to a mobile night club for the Glastonbury festival.

When we went to pick it up, the caravan had been sat unused in a field for what looked like years and the trailer was big, old and heavy.

However, the Landy dragged it along just fine. In fact, upon driving and towing this thing behind us, it seemed to not alter the performance at all.

Unless you looked in the mirrors you wouldn’t have noticed you were hauling anything whatsoever.

Later down the line the middle silencer corroded and a new box was required, rather than that, a friend of mine suggested and fit a straight through pipe.

This meant it popped and banged on the overrun and the old cast iron 2.5 lump up front sounded quite knarly.

However, its demise was on the horizon…

When I lived on the South West edge of Hampstead Heath in a area known as Dartmouth Park, the nearest parking I could get without a permit was a tube journey away in Highgate where I would park the Landy on the street.

One Saturday afternoon I was going to Battersea and thought I would like to drive over, hit the pubs for a friends’ birthday and then just leave the Landy down there for the night.

I caught the tube, jumped in the truck and tried to start it…but to no avail.

So, I jumped out, when to open the bonnet and saw that another vehicle had smashed in to it head on.

It had obliterated the front, bearing in mind the front bumper was like a steel girder and had a heavy duty ladder chassis.

A closer inspection saw that while even looking from the drivers seat you wouldn’t notice much damage (I certainly didn’t), from the front and particularly the lower part the truck was a bit of a mess.

I looked around and found other fragments of what actually looked like a Ford Transit van.

It seems someone in a Transit van had hit it straight on and then judging by the damage to my Landy had everything towed away without leaving insurance details.

I called the insurance company and it was towed away for inspection.

About a week later the insurance company called and offered to pay me £1500 to which I haggled up to £1900.

More annoyingly though, my no claims bonus was taken away.

Overall, actually this truck suited urban driving really well, it could obviously do what it needed was built to do when the time was right.

I even recall towing that caravan across a deep quagmire of mud with loads of people watching expecting me to get stuck but I didn’t even need to engage the low ratio or even diff lock.

For anything other than this though, it was a dog to drive.

Land Rover Defender 90 Reliability:

Extremely reliable. It never failed to start except for the time when someone had crashed in to it.

I guess it needed some welding doing along the way and the bulkhead was full of sealant but overall, mechanically, I never had a problem.

I even dropped some stuff from my hand (I can’t remember what) in to the petrol tank and it never suffered any problems.

The engine itself could probably run on a bit of spit and mustard powder it seemed that durable.

Ben BA(Hons), PGCert

Ben established this site to be a free resource in 2015. Since then it has gained over half a million visits. He has always been interested in sport and he started playing rugby at the age of 6 represented his town, county and school. Ben also enjoys cycling, has started skiing and is in the Army Reserve representing his Regiment as part of the 150 Regimental Shooting Team. He holds a bachelor's and postgraduate degree in sport exercise & nutrition.

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