Behind The HYPE: How the Land Rover Defender Became King of Customizable SUVs

The latest Behind the HYPE episode explores the history and lasting appeal of the Land Rover Defender, from its early manufacturing start in the late 1940s after World Ward 2 all the way through the model’s luxury status symbol today.

The Land Rover Defender is no doubt one of the most sought-after all-terrain vehicles amongst thrill ride seekers and luxury car fans alike. Big celebrity names such as Justin Bieber and Idris Elba are renowned for getting snapped by paparazzi driving their Defenders. It’s no secret that this SUV icon has serious car culture clout, too. For one, big fashion brands like Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton have utilized the ride in some of their stylized fashion shoots and ad campaigns. Appearances alongside these house-hold clothing brands have solidified the Land Rover as an aspirational car status symbol. In streetwear, Los Angeles imprint UNDEFEATED and Galpin motors created not one but two custom Defenders — a blue 110 series inspired by camping and a green surf-focused 90 P400. Elsewhere, toy brands like Lego and Hot Wheels have released their own renditions. The latter created designs mirroring the SUVs that appeared in the famous Fast and Furious film.

The Defender’s rugged city-to-country vibe is what makes it a lasting classic. The car has deep roots in outdoor, all-terrain driving which is at the core of its brand identity. More importantly, the British Army, Navy and Air Force have produced military versions of the model but has now since been retired for service. Consequently, as seen from heavy military and outdoor use, the Defender has been constantly customized by its most creative cult followers. While some prefer the ride’s stripped-down analog look of 90s models, others celebrate the Defender by engineering their own functional to futuristic renditions. Even vintage editions are snapped up at high prices because of their minimal styles, allowing for easier modifications.

In retrospect, today’s newer models start at a base price of $51,700 USD and can run up to $112,200 USD for the V8 Carpathian. Modified versions can even go higher in the six-figure range — UK-based custom workshop Arkonik released a few priced at approximately $240,000 USD which were designed by Bugatti alum Etienne Salomé.

Ultimately, The Land Rover Defender has seen a heavy evolution from its utilitarian British roots to a now global luxury lifestyle vehicle. Its design as a performance SUV is still unmatched and many changes under the hood and in looks have garnered it a wider cult-following. Many see the Land Rover Defender as the highest standard in all-terrain driving, while others will continue to hype over its appeal for customizations and timeless vintage style.

Watch our Behind The HYPE: Land Rover episode above and in case you missed it, see how the Rolls-Royce Phantom became today’s ultimate luxury car.
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