I’ve had two Defenders, a 90 hardtop and then a 90 pickup both in Keswick Green, lovingly called Ronnie and Reggie. I absolutely loved driving them, but, you really do have to love a Defender to want to drive one. And, we all know they like to fall apart (in most cases their fixable with a hammer) but I think that all adds to their charm.
So when a crew like Arkonik decide to restore and reimagine Land Rover Defenders, each unique to the client, then us Defender fans have to sit up and listen. And when that crew invited me to the launch of a very special build I had to go, and of course I took Anthony with me.
In amongst a sea of other Landy fans Arkonik unveiled UJO. A station wagon from 1984 rebuilt from the ground up and treated to some very special custom touches including a beasty LS3 6.2L V8 with 430hp. The traditional paint scheme was cleverly revamped with Stratos Blue and Cream Pearl – perfectly. At first glance this vehicle does look classic, but a second glance reveals it’s very special and there’s much more to it. From it’s billet aluminium door handles, heated LED headlights, retractable side steps and alloys to the digital instrument panel and tweed and leather seats – this is by no means an ordinary Defender. Every detail has been considered including the chassis which also has a custom paint job.
With everyone crowding around UJO at the event it was tricky to see all the creative touches but the next day we had a tour of the factory and a test drive so got to explore the build further. To see how much work goes into their builds, meet the whole team and see their flagship Defender in the daylight. Arkonik definitely have something special going on there, their work is incredible and the team clearly love what they do.
UJO drives really well, I’ve never driven an automatic Landy before and the power from the LS3 seems alien. But it’s definitely fun, it doesn’t feel sluggish or hard work – yet it still retains the character of a Defender. Arkonik have managed to strike a good balance. I’m used to driving the compact 90, which I loved because it’s so easy to park and manoeuvre – a 110 is very different, but still drivable. If I had to pick a fault I’d say for the power, the steering wheel needs to be a bit smaller – but that’s it and that’s being picky.
The whole experience was nostalgic and inspiring, I certainly want another Land Rover Defender and a better version because I think the lesson here is that you don’t have to settle just because you love a Defender. You just have to put your hand in your pocket and mix things up.
Photographs by Sigh Jones.