Shannon and I got invited to the 2018 Wheels & Waves event in Biàrritz, France through Ricardo, the owner of Cool N Vintage, a bespoke Land Rover builder in Lisbon, Portugal. We quickly packed our bags for a two week adventure.
I have never met anyone so gracious, kind, and welcoming as Ricardo. He represents the Land Rover lifestyle and everything that it stands for. Whenever I travel to a new country, I am always intrigued by how each culture puts its own distinct twist on Land Rover.
The most meaningful thing for Ricardo is his family, his friends, and making the most of his journey. His goal is to ensure that you have fun doing whatever you wish. He will do anything in his power to ensure that you are satisfied with the Defender he provides.
In my experience, his custom-built Land Rovers are very similar to our Defenders. Simple and clean with not a lot of fluff. In America you will see a lot of overbuilt, blinged out Defenders that just feel out of place.
The color spectrum he chooses for this Defenders is colorful yet vintage. Whether it is the older series trucks or the early Ninety / One Ten and Defender models, they remain true to the Land Rover brand. A soft pastel color palette consisting of greens, blues, and beige. They all have a certain Portuguese vibrancy to them.
Having cruised around Lisbon and Porto for a couple of days, I immediately recognized Ricardo's inspiration. The architecture of these cities is simple. Their heritage is still being kept alive as they move into a new modern age.
Rather than demolish their old buildings, Portugal revamps them into upscale developments, new housing developments, while maintaining their classic lines and colors. Vibrant whites, pinks, greens, and blues mimic the style of Land Rovers from Cool & Vintage.
A Cool N Vintage investment is an investment into Portugal. You can only access remote cliffside beaches along the coastline with a Defender. It is here that the Defender belongs. Their simplicity and purity complement each other.
No surprise as to how well our Defender 90 TD5 performed. It was more comfortable than any Defender I have ever been in before. Shannon and I loved the drive. Their style has always captivated me since the first time I saw them years ago. There is no doubt that they are breathtaking as well as are a please to drive.
There is something very unique about Ricardo's philosophy. He is a purist when it comes to the brand as well as his builds. In his eyes, simple is better. I asked him if he would build an LS now that they are very popular. "This isn't what these vehicles were designed for", he said. They should be original and built as originally intended. Compared to the TD5 engine, he prefers the 300tdi because it makes better noise and is more enjoyable to drive.
The Td5 Defender 90 was incredible in town as well. Its a very nimble car. It's four tires are planted all the way in the corners with very little overhanging weight to compensate for. All the weight is lower down on the steel chassis while the engine, transmission and transfercase sits tightly in the middle of the car. At just 70" wide and 153" long this is a very stout coupé SUV.
I also love the BFGoodrich KM2 tires. This were the best tire at the time. We also fit these to all of our cars, but in the slightly larger 255/85R16 size. These 235/85R16 KM2s are now discontinued and the size as well. But we always felt the 255/85R16 was a slightly better fit for the stance of the car and drive. The width helped firm up the cars handling. The 255/85R16 is also the largest tire you can fit without body or driveline modifications.
From Lisbon we headed north to Porto for lunch. Like your typical busy New Yorkers, we had to stop into the best restaurant, have a bite and drink, take some photos and let our friends know back home about the best little restaurant in Porto.
The pastel green TD5 was so simple. Similar to a Defender new from the factory, but stripped down. In some ways, it reminded me of a Series III. It was fitted with Series III doors. Shelter from the sun was provided by a simple hoop set and canvas. It was much easier to remove and enter than any other soft top. It had a fresh pastel green interior without carpet or rubber mats. That's it. There was a light cream-colored leather wrap around the dash. They had gorgeous square stitching and matched the dash of the TD5. Both inside and out are of the highest quality. It had a center box in the middle and no storage boxes in the rear. Despite being bare, it was just right.
We were able to drive 80mph comfortably while still enjoying the freedom and feeling of a Series III. The Defender's ride was smooth and predictable.
He fits his trucks with 235/85R16 BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tires because he feels that is the ideal size. You only need 31" of height if you are a skilled off-road driver. The 1954 Series One he owned was also fitted with them.
My girlfriend Shannon and I took our Cool N Vintage Defender 90 on a drive up the coast of Portugal and would need to cross through Spain on our way to Biàrritz, France. We would need to meet Ricardo and friend at a villa on the sea for the Wheels and Waves event.
The biggest inspiration for our interiors comes from Ricardo and Cool N Vintage. Subtle, gorgeous leather that is never overdone and follows the traditional lines of the original seats and interiors.