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…