Even though I am not affected by it, I can’t pass up another chance to mock the ridiculous 25-year old importation restriction that vexes every gearhead in America. It was born out of a desire to serve the people or ensure their well-being, but rather as a means to save profits at the expense of choice. One of the most notorious applications of this law saw the crushing of several non-compliant Land Rovers, which got quite a bit of the car community up in arms. This one, at least, is unlikely to get that treatment.
If you want a complete, 100% legal Defender in the United States, you have only one of two options. You can go the long way and import a 1990 or earlier Defender, do all the paperwork and make sure it ends on a boat stateside, get plates for it, and then hope in the superior being of your choice that the Feds don’t come knocking on your door telling you it was VIN swapped and that they’ll turn it into scrap to keep the American people safe. Or, you could spend a couple of hours a day on auction sites waiting for one of these to arrive. You see, starting from 1994 and all the way through late 1997, Defenders were federalized and sold to the public in very small numbers through Land Rover dealerships. All but the latest came with a 3.9 Liter V8 mated to a five-speed manual transmission.
Our featured vehicle is a black 1995 model with the aforementioned engine and gearbox combination. It has covered 84,636 miles and has been fitted with a hardtop, winch, yellow accents, huge off-road tires and a roof rack, all of them no doubt to ensure it’d keep running even on the roughest trails. The previous owner undoubtedly invested quite a bit of cash to ensure that he’d be able to get his car exactly the way he wanted it. The interior remains as practical as ever, with the addition of new seats and a new head unit being the only concessions to interior comfort. Best of all is the price–while you regularly see Defenders going for around $50,000 (and up to $100,000 for a longer 110), this one is out of the door for a very reasonable $33,000.
Drawbacks? Well, it goes without saying that you should not expect to be surrounded by the luxury and style typical Land Rover’s other offerings. This a car for the Rubicon, not the Ruby-Con. Also, remember those federally seized defenders that were VIN swapped? There’s a nasty little rumor going around that some of them were not actually VIN swapped and were, in fact, legally imported. This one should not even have that issue, but considering there’s still an ongoing trial to get the alleged “unsafe and illegal” cars from the roads, do you want the possibility of a clerical error meaning you’ll wake up one morning to have Homeland Security knocking at the door or, more accurately, knocking down the door? If you don’t mind and you just want to own an interesting car, the listing is here.
Some 26 years on, thanks to the advent of the internet, several petitions have been created in order to get the the Feds to at least respond to the complaints of the people, but there isn’t yet enough clout; odd, because all it takes is two minutes to sign. If you want to truly have a free car market and wish the authorities would direct resources toward something that really matters, write your congressman or sign the next petition that shows up.