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Land Rover Classic has revealed its first heritage themed special edition Defender – the Classic Defender Works V8 Islay Edition. The themed edition celebrates both the remarkable Spencer Wilks, Managing Director of the Rover Car Company and one of the founders of Land Rover, and the Isle of Islay, Scotland, where the Land Rover name was born, as contributors to the unrivalled legacy of Defender.  

The Classic Defender Works V8 Islay Edition is inspired by a Series IIa Land Rover owned and used by Spencer Wilks, that now forms part of the Land Rover Classic collection, and the Hebridean island where he holidayed.  

The Wilks’ Laggan estate on Islay was used to test early prototypes and in 1947, while driving his heavily modified Rover across the rugged landscape, the estate’s gamekeeper remarked that it must be a “Land Rover”, thus the name was born. 

Based on the same technical specification as the Classic Defender Works V8, the Islay Edition is powered by a 405hp 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Each one is comprehensively restored, re-engineered and upgraded, utilising donor vehicles from 2012-2016. Each carefully crafted and hand-assembled vehicle provides a unique proposition to discerning clients looking for a truly luxurious, comprehensively engineered, collectible classic Defender, direct from the original manufacturer. 

The Works V8 Islay Edition will be limited to 30 examples, all Station Wagons, with 17 available as a 90 short wheelbase and 13 available as a seven-seat 110 version.  

Paul Barritt, Director of Land Rover Classic, said: “In 2023, we celebrate 75 years of Land Rover. Spencer Wilks and the Isle of Islay are an important part of our history, and the Classic Defender Works V8 Islay Edition is a fitting way to help us celebrate a landmark anniversary. It references a special vehicle in our collection, Spencer Wilks’ beautiful Series IIa, and is influenced by the special products and incredible nature of Islay itself. The authenticity, modern engineering, and exquisite execution from our skilled engineers and technicians, make this limited-edition Classic Defender a very special vehicle for our discerning clients looking for the ultimate heritage Land Rover.” 

Timeless Exterior 

The Classic Defender Works V8 Islay Edition is finished in Heritage Grey – informed by the Mid Grey paint of Wilks’ original vehicle – with a contrast roof and heavy-duty steel wheels finished in Limestone. The wheelarches are also finished in Heritage Grey for an even more refined exterior design. 

Traditional Land Rover logos and badging are finished in body colour and there’s a classic-style grille, familiar from the run-out Defender Heritage Limited Edition, while rear mudflaps also feature the iconic heritage branding.  

Unique to the Works V8 Islay Edition is a side graphic reading ‘GXC 639C’ – the registration of Wilks’ Series IIa – which provides a subtle nod to the vehicle that inspired this themed version of the ultimate classic Defender.  

As has been the case for previous editions of Defender Works V8s, the Islay Edition features modern enhancements including LED headlights for enhanced visibility. These technical additions extend to comprehensive enhancements under the skin, which include uprated suspension and braking systems, tailored for superior on-road performance and dynamics.  

Authentic Interior 

The interior of the Classic Defender Works V8 Islay Edition is where the vehicle’s connection to the Isle of Islay, the origins of Land Rover (including the genesis of the Land Rover name itself), really comes to life, with thoughtful touches and incredible attention to detail. 

Luxurious Land Rover Windsor Ebony leather covers the Premium Defender seats, side trim, doors, roof lining and dashboard. A body colour detail surrounds the centre console and Classic Infotainment System, the latter incorporates modern functionality such as satellite navigation, DAB radio and Bluetooth into an original display and facia. The same Heritage Grey body colour surrounds the pistol shifter gearlever for the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. 

Beside the gearlever is a plaque detailing the story of how the Land Rover name came to be, when the estate gamekeeper, Ian Duncan, is reported to have exclaimed to Wilks – who was testing a heavily modified Rover that would become the Series I on Islay’s Laggan estate – that it must be the new “Land” Rover he was driving. In addition, the Land Rover heritage logo is embossed on the steering wheel and seat headrests. Meanwhile, unusually for a Classic Defender, all the footwells are carpeted for an added touch of luxury.  

The links to the Isle of Islay are weaved into the thoughtful details found throughout the interior. The shoulder area of the seats, sections of the door cards, the lid of the central armrest and detail hidden behind the sun visor are all finished in a tactile specially chosen tweed, crafted by the Islay Woollen Mill – providing a unique connection to the location and its place in Defender’s history.  

The pattern of the tweed features an earthy base that echoes the local landscape. Land Rover Classic chose colours to represent the area, with blue for the sea and the sky of Islay, purple to reference the local heather, and a subtle yellow chosen to reference the peaty grassy landscape. The special fabric also features on a unique pouch in the centre cubby, for stowing small items such as a smartphone.  

The central stowage space features a bespoke detail that strengthens the link back to Islay. Its removable tray, complete with leather tabs, features the oak of whisky barrels sourced from the local Kilchoman distillery.  

Each tray features a unique 110mm wooden disc replicating the end of a whisky barrel and is made from a specific piece of the wood that displays the authentic stencilled lettering, meaning every vehicle is a one of a kind. The disc is set into the tray, which is finished in American Walnut wood veneer to complement the whisky barrel oak, with beautiful dovetail joints for an exquisite finish. The specially crafted surround showcases the distillery and Woollen Mill in the same stencilled font, just like a genuine whisky barrel – and includes the official Land Rover 75th anniversary logo. The base of each cup holder is also made from the whisky barrel wood. 

Kilchoman has a family connection to Spencer Wilks, whose granddaughter Kathy Wills established the distillery with her husband, Anthony, in 2005, providing an authentic link between the original vehicle’s heritage, its namesake, the beautiful island and the unique features found in the Classic Defender Works V8 Islay Edition. A ‘639’ limited edition whisky is also being produced in honour of the Defender Islay, and each client will be presented with a bottle to enhance their vehicle’s collectability.  

Oak wood veneer detailing extends to the rear loadspace floor, and the beautifully finished and durable feature meets the same rigorous quality and engineering standards as those used on the latest production Range Rovers. The clock on the centre of the dashboard also mirrors the wood grain of the other features.  

Technical specification  

The Classic Defender Works V8 Islay Edition uses the same foundations as the Classic Defender Works V8. Each vehicle is a painstakingly restored and rebuilt classic Defender that has been expertly sourced by Land Rover Classic’s specialists. 

Donor vehicles date from 2012-2016 and Land Rover Classic installs a modern naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 powertrain with eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Offering 405hp and 515Nm of torque, performance is effortless.  

The Islay Edition – like the Works V8 – will accelerate from 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds, while top speed is rated at 106mph. Every example is specially selected and reengineered, with the Defender Suspension Upgrade Kit comprising uniquely tuned suspension that’s tailored for enhanced on-road comfort and dynamics, with revised coil spring rate and dampers. The Handling Upgrade Kit is also included, which provides uprated Works V8 specification brake discs, pads and calipers for enhanced stopping power. 

The Defender Islay Edition is priced from £230,000 for the 90, and £245,000 for the 110.  


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