The Land Rover Defender is one of the only cars that can claim to have an instantly recognisable shape. Released at around the time that the British Empire was slowly losing its hold on vast swathes of land all across the globe, the Defender became an icon of the post-Second World War attempts at rebuilding nations and creating new ones. For nearly three decades, the boxy, utilitarian Land Rover brought aid and care to the suffering masses, helped bridge remote locales with civilisation, and sometimes enforced the peace where necessary. From the United Nations to the British Army to hospitals in rural Bangladesh, the Land Rover was seen and heard by millions of people across all social divides and social classes.
The Defender you're seeing today is seen and heard by high school students and teachers at coaching centres all across Dhaka. The sticky heat of the forests of the Congo have been replaced with the sticky heat that emanates from hormonal teens scared of professing their love for one another. The swamps and the waterlogged savannahs have been traded for impenetrable traffic jams and impassable potholes. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to what might be one of the few daily driven Defenders in Bangladesh – that too, an open top, black as the night piece.
We caught up with its owner, Navid Nowroz Kneal, high school kid and old-school enthusiast, and asked him what it's like owning a daily driven Defender.
Why do you like the Defender? How often do you use it? What is it like driving on Dhaka roads?
“I love the Defender because I saw one being used on the farm in Shaun the Sheep, a cartoon I grew up watching. I've wanted a Defender ever since. I do all my classes everyday with the Defender and roam around the city with my friends on weekends. Potholes are never a concern when driving an off-road legend, and I have to say it really is fun driving such a car in Dhaka.”
Is it better to have an open top Defender or a closed shell one? What are the mechanicals?
“Soft top Defenders are head-turners, especially on roads filled with Prem-allions. Currently it has a 2.5 litre 300 TDI diesel engine with 5 speed manual, worked on by Sujan Hannan at MARM Automobiles.”
What is the maintenance cost like? Fuel costs? What breaks down most often?
“Zero. Literally ZERO. Gives around 5-6 kmpl inside Dhaka. The clutch plate is the only thing that requires regular replacement, along with the basic maintenance which doesn't cost much at all.”
What accessories are necessary for daily driving an open top Defender?
“Shades are a must. Always need to carry clutch oil (DOT4 brake oil).”
Photos: Farhan Ahmed