Rare Find: 1986 Land Rover Defender 90 TDI


This week on “Rare Finds,” we’ve found one of the toughest, most reliable off-roaders in the world for sale in North Springs, CO, right near TFLcar’s headquarters in Denver, CO. This 1986 Land Rover Defender 90 TDI, in addition to its rare engine and right-hand-drive configuration, has just received a fresh, complete restoration, making it an extremely desirable example of the classic Defender range.

According to an online source, a total of 19,195 Land Rover Defenders were produced in 1986, though no distinction is made between the numbers of 90 and 110 chassis Defenders sold. Fewer 110s rolled off the assembly line than 90s, but despite this, this D90 example is rare, with probably around 10,000 examples produced worldwide. In addition, very few D90 examples are as mechanically and cosmetically sound as the one we’ve located, with head gasket failures, rust, and leaks plaguing many of the cars. Simply adding to its appeal is the fact that this Defender is in right-hand-drive configuration–because of their limited market, few right hand drive Defenders were produced, with many more left-hand-drive cars exported to the US and to Europe.


1986 was also an important year for the Defender line, as it was the first year that a 2.5-liter turbo diesel I-4 would sit under the hood of the off-road workhorse. Producing a meager 85 horsepower, the diesel I-4 was much more about hill-conquering torque than freeway acceleration, part of the reason why the turbo diesel disappeared after the 1990 model year. However, many Rover enthusiasts prefer the gobs of torque that the diesels produce over the civility of the gasoline Defenders. This example, too has the more desirable 5-speed manual transmission, something that makes this Defender’s powertrain very desirable.

This Defender also has an impressive pedigree to go along with a host of serious off-road features. According to the seller, this D90 was restored by one of the UK’s premier Land Rover specialists before being imported to the US, and its quality of restoration certainly shows. It also appears that the owner made a number of rugged upgrades to the vehicle–the car wears a winch, a snorkel, and a set of four serious off-road tires to give it traction on any terrain. Most importantly, this Defender has a full safari cage surrounding the cab, allowing for maximum structural rigidity in the most trying of off-road conditions.


This Defender is unconventional in every way, from its eye-catching color scheme to its great history and right-hand-drive configuration. Few Defenders on the road are quite as unique. And considering that Defender production is slated to cease altogether in 2015, this car, with a current asking price of just $20,000, may become a serious collector’s item in the near future.

If you would like more information about this week’s featured vehicle, please follow the link below:


Please enjoy this TFLcar.com video review of the newest Land Rover product, the 2014 Range Rover Sport.