bulldust

MOST MOTORING ENTHUSIASTS HAVE AT LEAST A FEW CARS THEY MUST DRIVE BEFORE THEY CARK IT. DEANO CROSSES ONE OFF THE TOP OF HIS BUCKET LIST WHEN HE DRIVES A LAND ROVER DEFENDER 90 HERITAGE.

DEAN MELLOR

I can hardly contain myself; I just caught the train to Sydney to pick up a Land Rover Defender 90 Heritage, which is currently waiting in my driveway for a long drive in the bush, although I am under strict instructions not to damage it in any way Ö in any way! Not even bush pinstripes are allowed.

Despite the limitations put on my test drive, Iím so excited by the prospect of driving this little green beastie that even the pissed, drug-affected moron on the Sydney-bound train Ė who proposed to an equally drug-riddled biddy and outlined his unobtainable plan for a future together in a quaint shack on an acre block Ė couldnít dampen my enthusiasm.

Prolonging the delay to drive the vehicle that has been my desktop picture for the past 12 months was also a 10-minute wait at the Land Rover dealer in Concord, located on the banks of the picturesque and tranquil Parramatta Road. Lucky for me they have a comfy white leather couch. Unlucky for me the reading material at the dealership is aimed more at the Range Rover buyer than the Defender enthusiast.

Nevertheless, flicking through Gourmet Traveller I learnt how to roast the perfect Chrissie turkey and then had the opportunity to purvey spectacular images of restaurants I will likely never be able to afford to eat at.

Just as I picked up a copy of Menís Health to learn how I could transform my natural beer-drinkerís physique into a tryhard six-pack bod, the amicable Don from Concord Land Rover rescued me from a potential lifetime of agony in the gym by ushering me into his office, where he asked for my driverís licence. Like renting a car from Avis, this is standard procedure when picking up any press vehicle. Except this time, he checked my licence details extra closely, just in case I was tempted to not return the pristine and very limited edition Defender.

Paperwork sorted, we descended to the basement carpark where the Defender stood tall, surrounded by modern, swoopy Land Rovers with names like Sport and Evoque. Even in the dim light of the carpark, it was easy to see that this was no ordinary Defender. Other than the unique Heritage-style grille, colour-matched steel rims and special HUE 166 logos that pay homage to the original Land Rover, this example had deep, lustrous paint with just a hint of metallic.

After completing the obligatory 360-degree walk-around, I pointed the key-fob at the Landy and unlocked the doors Ö remotely! Despite this surprising touch of modernity, familiarity returned when I approached the door and pressed the button to open it. And although the interior was decked out in fancy Almond cloth seat trim, with special Heritage stitching and a leather-clad steering wheel, the oft-complained-about driving position remained.

Personally, I like the Defenderís driving position. Sure, itís only really comfortable when the window is down so you can rest your right arm on the sill, but the high seat gives the Defender driver a commanding view out the upright windows, and forward vision over the stubby little bonnet is unequalled in todayís world of wind-tunnel-designed four-wheel drives.

As I eyed the ceiling of the carpark, Don assured me that the Defender had plenty of clearance, and then he bid me farewell. I fired up the little 2.2-litre diesel donk, selected first and eased out the clutch. It took a couple of goes to make the sharp left turn out of the Defenderís tight parking spot; it may have a short 2360mm wheelbase, but it still has a massive 13.4m turning circle. Sure, this is less than convenient in the city, but in the Defenderís natural habitat, out in the scrub, itís hardly an issue.

So far Iíve only driven the D90 Heritage about 100km on the road, straight back to my joint, but soon Iím going on a Ďproperí drive. I already love it and Iím already trying to figure out how to raise the funds to buy one. Perhaps I could accidently scratch this one and pick it up for a song?

Nah, I could never do that to such a beautiful Landy Ö and, after all, Iím under strict instructions.