The picture was taken in 2006, not long after I purchased my brand-new-to-me 1994 NAS Defender 90 (No. 916). It cost me $29,900, which is $100 less than it did 12 years earlier when it was brand new. However, it was my childhood dream car. No... Not the Testarossa. I wanted the 2-door truck produced by the English.
I was chatting with the NJLR (New Jersey Land Rover) Club because they were the closest club that enjoyed off-roading, exploring, and camping. A weekend outing to Paragon, Pennsylvania, was being organized by them and I decided to go out and make some friends.
Ryan Muller, Jarek Maras and Eric Choy organized the trip to Paragon. Later did we know we are all still very close friends to this day. I did some quick research and Paragon looked like a fun place to test out my new Defender.
She was as stock as could be. factory 265/75R16 BFGoodrich T/A All-Terrain tires. That brush-guard and side step feel so NAS. I do love the Safety Devices roll bar. That was a really nice feature on the NAS Defenders. My only upgrade was fitting a steering protector and differential guards. I was now off-road ready!
I was a little apprehensive on my first trip. I have been off-road before in my friend's Jeep Wrangler back in high school, but this was my car, and it still had payments.
The NJLR crew had nicely set up Land Rover Discoveries. 31 - 33" tires, Eric and Ryan had lockers and winches, their equipment made their trucks look so good. I felt like I was in good hands. I was the only one with a Defender so I felt like I couldn't back out now anyways.
The first thing I noticed was how much better a BFGoodrich KM Mud-Terrian tire performed in the nasty stuff than a BFGoodrich KO All-Terrian. It had almost twice the grip off-road, which was impressive. They looked aggressive, but they were also very nice on the road. As KM rubber compound is softer than KO, it will wear slightly more, but I feel it does not produce much road noise. My next modification would be to swap in some BFGoodrich KM tires.
Ironically, Land Rover fitted BFGoodrich KM Mud-Terrian tires on its early models in the U.S. back in 1994. After clients complained about road noise, they switched to the KO All-Terrian. In other words, it was Land Rover's tire of choice right from the start.
Compared to these Discoveries, I had better approach and departure angles. However, they all had better ground clearance as they were all mounted on 31 - 33" tires or above.
It amazed me how well my Defender performed off-road throughout the day. Despite being on moderate to difficult trails, the car didn't exert more effort than it would in a parking lot. With no throttle response from the driver, the car would crawl up and down hills in low range. I felt that the car was well-posed and did not feel off balance at all.
I really enjoyed the day. The sense of freedom I got from my car was something I always wanted. To be able to know I can go anywhere if I wanted. This was the car for me. I drove back home to New York that night, some 4 hours away. The car again drove perfectly on the highway. It had the speed to keep up with everyone else on I-78. These cars didn't need much from the start, they were really good stock. Over the next 17 years you will see me transform this car to fit my needs. I will admit, I went a little overboard right away at first. But I think that was needed to understand the cars limitations so that I could settle on what would be 17 years of knowledge and wisdom from driving these cars everyday.