The engineers at Twisted Automotive know their way round the classic Land Rover Defender better than most. But how do a few choice tweaks improve the driving experience?
This all feels slightly familiar. Back in the summer, we spent a few days with Bowler’s ‘Fast Road’ Defender 110, an attempt by Land Rover specialist Bowler Motors to tame the overly physical driving experience of the classic Defender. That was Derbyshire’s effort in this crowded field – now it’s time to look at Yorkshire’s.
You can read more about our visit to Twisted Automotive and the myriad ways in which it seeks to make Land Rover’s lovable old workhorse feel less like a piece of construction equipment. Before we trekked up to North Yorkshire to see the Twisted guys and gals, though, we got to grips with this, the Twisted T110 Series IIA.
One of 10 cars built to this spec, it’s a tribute to 1961’s Series IIA Land Rover – arguably the most iconic of the pre-Defender Landies – and it uses a 2016 Defender 110 Utility Wagon as its base.
By Twisted standards, this car remains relatively original. There’s no great rumbling Chevy V8 or a torque-filled electric motor; just the humble 2.2-litre Ford diesel engine fitted to Defenders from 2012 that allowed them to scrape past emissions regulations. A performance upgrade, developed in-house by Twisted (this will become a running theme), includes an ECU reprogramme, a high-performance air filter and a stainless-steel exhaust, lifting power from a meagre 120bhp to a far more useful 168bhp.
Complementing this is a suspension overhaul – also Twisted-developed – to tighten up the vague handling of the original. Together, these gentle tweaks to the car’s bones are a marked improvement. They don’t miraculously turn the Defender into a B-road hero, but they make it far more amenable to pedalling along country roads at a steady stride, provided you work the engine and keep up momentum.
Some of the more physical aspects are still there. The gearshift has a long, vague throw, and the pedals still require real force to operate. Acclimatise to these foibles, though, and it’s a genuinely enjoyable thing to drive, a throwback to an age of physicality and involvement that’s long gone in new cars. On motorways and faster A-roads, it’s still very much an old Defender, wandering around on chunky all-terrain tyres and requiring constant steering input, but then that kind of driving is really not what these cars are for.
Visually, there’s a whole lot more Twisted influence going on – the brand is fastidious about making parts in-house wherever possible. On the outside, that includes the 18-inch alloys, the overhauled look of the front end, and little aluminium details like the fuel filler cap and doorhandles. On the interior, the steering wheel and all the leather trim elements are Twisted’s designs.
None of this comes cheap. The icon tax that’s been ramping up on used Defenders since they went out of production, combined with the considerable amount of in-house work that went into it, means this car, for sale at time of writing with just over 6,000 miles on the clock, is £125,000. Without VAT.
What you’re buying, though, isn’t just a car – it’s a piece of history. For while Bowler is now part of the Jaguar Land Rover family, it’s Twisted that bought up a stock of the very last original Defenders, and this is one of those cars. The work that’s gone into not only preserving this car but improving it means you can own one of the very last examples of a bona fide legend, and properly enjoy it too.