I have been thinking a lot lately about the South African BMW-powered Land Rover Defender. This was an uncommon car that many people don’t know much about. Most car lovers don’t know that BMW once owned Land Rover in the 1990s. A couple of genius madmen from BMW South Africa built a BMW-powered Defender during that period. Unfortunately, it was mostly forgotten.
Frank Isenberg, a BMW chassis engineer was employed by the Bavarian company in South Africa during the BMW/Land Rover years. As he was walking around the workshop, Frank Isenberg noticed a Land Rover Defender 110 equipped with a 3.5-liter V8 engine and an M52 BMW engine (2.8-liter inline six) placed next to it. These engines were ready for him to put into his BMW 3 Series. He was inspired by this.
Isenberg measured both the Defender’s engine and engine bay, then decided it would fit. Then he began the process of designing how the Land Rover could accommodate the BMW straight-six of 2.8 liters. It was a huge success once the prototype had been built. Customers had a major complaint about Defender 110’s V8-powered carburetor. The Defender’s character was completely transformed by the addition of a powerful BMW I6 engine. It is now much more fun to drive.
While the engine was a BMW engine, the rest of the powertrain and drivetrain were from a Range Rover P38 DSE, which ironically used a BMW diesel engine. The prototype was called “Green Mamba”, due to the fact that it was faster and more fun… and green.
The BMW-powered Land Rover Defender Defender 2.8i was not only faster than the original Landy but it also felt more comfortable and enjoyable to drive. It was the exact same engine that I had for nearly 10 years in my E36328i, and it is easy to see why. The engine was smooth and linear, powerful at low revs, but very responsive at higher revs. It was a beautiful engine, far superior to the Rover V8 in the Defender’s original Defender.
Unfortunately, Land Rover and BMW did not sell the vehicle in other markets. It would have been a great deal if either Land Rover or BMW had offered it for sale in the ‘States. But I am glad such a vehicle exists. Even today, it looks like it would be fun to drive.
Publiated at Wednesday, 01 Sep 2021 21.34:04 +0000