Blog : Defender, but turned up to 11

Keith Adams

Canary Wharf area of London at dusk

Here’s an interesting visual and audio juxtaposition. If you end up playing the video below, please make sure your speakers are on high – because it comes with the most amazing V8 backbeat you’re likely to hear this side of top fuel day at Santa Pod. But the car in shot is a Land Rover. Why would such a utilitarian beast be making such a noise? And why is it motoring at an unfeasable rate of knots?

Clearly this Defender is rather special. It’s by JE Engineering, based in Coventry a company that has rater a long history of Rover V8 stuff. It was responsible for the first ever 3.9-litre Rover V8, and then it went on to follow up with the 4.2-litre – an engine conversion so successful that Land Rover ending up buying the rights to, and then using it in the Range Rover LSE and Autobiography. If you own a Rover V8 and want to give it a little more poke, JE Engineering will bore and stroke it out to 4.5- and 5.0-litres.

The Defender 90 in the video is JE’s Zulu conversion. Essentially, it’s powered by a supercharged 4.2-litre AJV8, which pumps out 490bhp. JE claims it will turn in a 0-60mph time of 4.9 seconds, which as you can imagine in a car like the Defender, must be quite a scary experience. There are suspension changes needed, clearly – so the Zulu runs special road springs, AP brakes, Fox dampers, and a heavily beefed-up drivetrain including a paddle clutch.

You can buy your Zulu in automatic or manual form – and usefully,  the auto removes most of the trouble of a Defender, namely the ultra low first gear, which makes town driving a pain. The auto means you literally just point, and squirt. And JE’s electronic handbrake means you also have space for your knees on a long journey.

The reason for the blog? I was at a launch recently, and sat on my table was photographer friend – and Range Rover nut – Alisdair Cusick. He was telling me about his recent Range Rover purchase, and the sheer amount of Land Rover work he’s been up to recently. And then the conversation turned to the video (below) he’d just made for JE. He looked quite excited as he told me about the amazing Zulu – and I can see why having now seen (and heard) the video. He told me, ‘I’ve driven both their 110 auto, and that 90 – and it is easily faster than my Porsche 964, and feels it, too.’

And it did get me thinking about Jaguar Land Rover, and a potential missed opportunity. Having been to the Middle East and seen the sheer number of AMG-powered Mercedes-Benz Geländewagens over there, usually packing 5.5-litre supercharged V8s, surely it would make sense for Land Rover to offer a rival for those markets that can afford them. Mercedes-Benz clearly makes money out of these cars, or else it wouldn’t offer them – so could Land Rover do well by doing the same?

It recently paired up with Bowler Engineering to formalise the arrangement that sees that company offering Land Rover flavoured vehicles for rally-raids. So why not do the same with JE Engineering, and start selling fast Landies in the Middle East? Here’s a sobering thought – the JE Zulu costs £69,000, which seems a lot until you consider that a Mercedes-Benz G55 5.5L AMG costs a little more than £96,000.

And I bet it doesn’t sound half as good…

Keith Adams


  1. Keith, that would be a bloody good idea! The Oil rich Saudis would love it I bet! V8 and Defender go together like fish & chips in my view anyway.

  2. OK, I could make the usual comments about being obscenely gas guzzling, and about as politically correct as a private jet trimmed exclusively in dolphin skin.

    But I won’t. Because from the split second that V8 woffled into life I watched that clip with a great big grin on my face.

    I want one. I shouldn’t. But I just do.

  3. Old-style V8 Defenders are sought after in this part of the world. I’ve often wondered why LR don’t offer such a beast for those markets that would buy them.

  4. If I was an entrepreneur with piles of money, I’d invest in it because there’s definitely a market for such an idea.

  5. Fabulous! Obviously it would need very clear roads to be unleashed, so that the roll centre & brakes wouldn’t be tested.

    But what a joyous vehicle. JLRl are you reading this? Put it into production for the Saudi market. Then hopefully the asking price will come down & people like me can pick one up when depreciation has done its work.

  6. From the JE website, it’s clear that the props and axles are uprated, but does anyone know what they do with the LT230 transfer box?

  7. Towie tastic!!! Love it!! got to be white with bigger wheels!! and a driver who can’t park it!! Unless she goes to the sugar hut and see’s that flash git who owns it!! He is a smoothy!! the bloody wife watches it on here Ipond in bed!! Well shall I come to essex in my 216sli and show them how to be classy!! I have 16 inch alloys and a sunroof!! anyone want to meet up there for the aronline towie night!
    Berny rover 216sli in red

  8. WHY DONT SOMEONE PUT A TRIUMPH 2.3CC ENGINE into one .must be 1 cwt lighter , 90 realable horses ,the bike can have 134 bhp .

  9. It is really nice but the new Brabus G 6,3 with 800 BHP´s and 25o kmph is nicer and it is more serious. It is like an Rolls and the Land Rover is more the TVR with a trailer.

  10. @Oliver.. but an S2a can smash any G wagen off road, no matter how much power it’s got.. the stadard G wagen suspesnion is just too harsh to compete with any LR product off road.. let alone one thats been stiffend up.. Hopless like all german 4x4s

  11. @ G Scoth,

    At first I thought you meant a Triumph car engine, then I realised you meant the 3 cylinder motorbike engine from the Rocket.

    Trouble is, motorbike engines usually have very little torque compared to a car. This Zulu has 460bhp and 406 lb-ft of torque compared to 140bhp and 150 lb-ft of torque for the Triumph. To tune the Triumph engine sufficiently to get a heavy Land Rover cleanly off the mark would probably not make for a reliable power unit, and would probably be extremely ‘peaky’- not what you need for a heavy-bodied and very un-aerodynamic Defender.

    Bike engines only work well with very lightweight cars, such as Lotus 7 inspired kitcars. I’ve always felt that the six cylinder Honda Goldwing engine would work well in a suitably configured car- the horizontally opposed engine would lower the centre of gravity nicely, as well as providing a good deal of heft at fewer revs, and a reverse gear as standard.

  12. it was not ment to compet with boy racers ,just a replacement for the old type 2.3 petrol engine ,in some overseas countries petrol is widly used , it would give 5 miles to the gallon better ,i bet ,

  13. @22, g scoth,

    Still wouldn’t work well. Motorbike engines are not designed for the kind of stresses that use in an ordinary (ie non-lightweight) car would subject them too- much less the kind of stresses that a Land Rover would create- both by being a heavy vehicle to begin with, and being an off-roader. That Triumph engine would have to be so heavily modified as to not be worth the effort. Whilst that particular engine will be designed with heavy touring in mind, ie two up, luggage, and possibly a sidecar or trailer, that is nothing compared to the weight of a Land Rover- which is designed to carry up to 12 occupants, a heavy roofrack load, and tow up to about 3.5 tons!

    An old-school small diesel, such as the Perkins Prima, a Transit Di, or an engine transplant from a Japanese pickup would be far more sensible.

  14. Mr Scoth clearly doesn’t get the need for ultra low down, tree uprooting torque that 4×4’s like this Landy need. Diesels and V8’s are absolutely perfect, as when ofroading the toque will simply pull you along in 1st low at tickover, without the need for touching the throttle. A bike engine has all its power at the top end, which is totally useless in a big 4×4

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