East Coast Defender gives 1993 Defender a taste of modern luxury with Project XIII

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The East Coast Defender Project XIII is rougher, tougher and faster than a regular Defender(Credit: East Coast Defender)

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The Land Rover Defender reached the end of its life in February this year, but that hasn't slowed East Coast Defender down. Based in Florida, the tuning house continues to take old Land Rovers and treat them to overblown engine swaps and interior redesigns. Its latest creation is the Project XIII, a 1993 North American Defender 110 with an LS7 Chevy V8.

At the core of the Project XIII is the 6.2-liter V8 from the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. With 430 hp (321 kW) being channeled through a GM 6L60 automatic gearbox, the car will now hit 60 mph (96 km/h) in around seven seconds. That's not particularly quick, especially compared to latest generation super four-wheel drives, but it's still a big improvement on the glacial 1993 original.

East Coast has mounted the new transmission to the original Rover LT230 transfer case with an adapter, and a new center limited-slip differential and hardened-steel axle shafts have been fitted to deal with the extra power on tap.

As exciting as the new powertrain is, perhaps the most exciting part of the Project XIII is the way it looks. Even though the car used as a base for this is incredibly rare – Land Rover built just 500 examples of the 1993 North American Spec Defender 110 – the team at East Coast has totally reworked it. The full external roll-cage and rear ladder are both fitted for a bit of extra off-road credibility, and a custom front fender kit adds a bit of visual drama.

It doesn't go quite as far as the bodykit on the Kahn Design Flying Huntsman, but we still think it looks fantastic, like a distant cousin of the Defender from Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.

The changes extend beyond vanity, too. Running boards make it easier for passengers to climb inside, and new panoramic windows improve the view out of the troop-carrier rear end. A heavy-duty winch has been fitted for bush rescues, and the standard head and tail lamps have been replaced with modern LED lighting. The car sits on 32.5-inch BFGoodrich Radial All-Terrain KO2 tires, too, which should improve on-road refinement without sacrificing reliability in the rough stuff.

On the inside, the standard Defender's interior has been completely retrimmed and refitted with all the luxuries you'd expect of a modern four-wheel drive. Small things like remote central locking and power windows have been fitted, along with reverse parking sensors and a backup camera. The image from that camera is displayed on an Alpine infotainment system, which can play Bluetooth music through a 13-speaker JBL audio system.

All nine passengers sit on leather-trimmed seats with custom stitching, and the Momo steering wheel has also been wrapped in black leather.

This luxury, combined with the rough and tough exterior, make the Project XIII a compelling prospect. East Coast Defenders is heralds it as its "current apex in manufacturing," although custom builds like this are generally usurped by something bigger and better very quickly.

As you'd expect of a project like this, the owner paid a suitably high price. How much? Try US$225,000 on for size. Still it's impossible to put a price on exclusivity, right?

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