“What makes the Defender so special?  We can’t have them, that’s what…and we always want that which we don’t have.”

We Americans pride ourselves on all the luxuries we are afforded like low unemployment and mortgage rates, a record setting GDP, McDondald’s and Starbucks on every corner, 64oz fountain drinks, and cars with 12 cup-holders to accommodate 64oz fountain drinks…we even own 797 cars per 1000 people compared to Togo’s 2.  But you know what Togo has that we don’t?  Defenders.  Land Rover Defenders.  Lots of them.

Reader submission, photo courtesy of Tlaysa Amos Jacob

Earlier we covered a piece on the Defender, it’s history, how it evolved from the Series III, and how the U.S. EPA robbed America of the best 4x4xfar, allowing in less than 7000 total in the 4 years they were legal here.  Those 7000 or so U.S. legal Defenders became known as the North American Specification (NAS) trucks, each badged and numbered on the right rear panels.  

Each NAS Defender was badged and numbered on the right rear panel

They were, and are, a very hot commodity here in America…so much so that we even had our own little Defender-gate a few years back that ended in a scene no weak stomach could bear, as hundreds of perfectly good, though lamentably illegal, Defenders were sent to the crushers.


Well we’re past all that now…we’ve washed our hands of that madness and we’re back on the straight and narrow.  Thanks to Box 1 of the HS-7 US DOT Declaration of Importation document, we are happily and legally importing Defenders at a rate never seen before in the U.S.  This states the vehicle does not need to conform to current safety and emissions standards as long as it 25 years old or older.  Alloy + Grit, an independent resource/magazine for all things Land Rover, cover this in great detail in their Summer 2017 edition.  

Fresh new imports coming into U.S. Port

The imported trucks come from the rest of the world, and so, are cleverly named ROW trucks.  In America, we can currently import trucks up through July 1992 (based on build month).  You can only compare ROW and NAS trucks fairly for years 1993-1997, that’s when NAS trucks were allowed in to the U.S.  During that time, NAS trucks do have some slight differences that extend beyond the badging.  The biggest differences are NAS trucks do not have bulkheads behind the front seats, and are equipped with some extra safety devices like internally fitted roll cages.

Look closely and you can see the full internal roll cage fitted in NAS trucks

The biggest challenge in the U.S. is parts supplies, mainly due to the low volume of trucks here.  Couple that with the high retail value means no parts trucks are ever for sale.  Rovers North and Atlantic British are the two big parts suppliers in the North American market. The forums are rich with knowledge, and lately a new forum has popped up dedicated specifically to the NAS-ROW trucks.  We caught up with Chris Snell of NAS-ROW and asked him what separates them from the other boards…

“NAS-ROW is a Defender board with a strong technical focus. We try to differentiate ourselves from the others by the quality of technical advice and by keeping technical threads on-topic. Though we don’t prohibit it, you’ll tend to find less political and off-topic chit-chat than you will on other boards. We’re also the only Land Rover board with LS and Cummins conversion-specific forums; many of the most knowledgeable drivetrain conversion folks are active here and many of their innovations and discoveries are discussed here first.”

1983 Land Rover 110, first year of the 110 anywhere.  Sent in by reader Clay Ayers

Many of these trucks due to their age can be registered as antiques.  This helps not only with taxes but often avoids emissions testing.  California, you guys aren’t so lucky…but hey, you live in California so no one’s feeling that sorry for you.  

1983 Defender 110 ROW truck.  Currently for sale, contact us for more details…and yes, it’s 100% legal and already tagged/titled in the U.S.

To be clear though…if you are ROW shopping and unless you really want to go through the all the headache and angst, we highly recommend you purchase one already titled and registered in the U.S.  They’re out there, just contact us and we’ll help find you one.  In fact, the grey 110 you see above/below is for sale in Virginia, we’ll be doing a feature story on it next week.  Contact us for more details.

What makes the Defender so special?  We can’t have them, that’s what…and we always want that which we don’t have.  The market is highly volatile right now with Defenders, though NAS trucks are still holding their values.  Yet to really know what will happen once ’93 and ’94 Defenders are legal here.  NAS trucks will always have a special place in Land Rover history, so there will always be value in that.  But ROW trucks allow us to enjoy a Defender without the NAS pricing.  What do you all think?  Please register if you haven’t done so already and comment below.


**This shot and cover photo courtesy of NAS-ROW member Adam Santamaria of his 1991 D90 tdi 200

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