Looking for the ultimate off-roader? Get ready to write a big check

The Land Rover Defender started out as a simple, utilitarian vehicle, but a Florida-based outfit called East Coast Defenders has transformed it into something very different. Meet “Project Viper,” a tricked out Defender with a $285,000 price tag.

What makes this Defender worth Lamborghini money? For starters, it has some upgrades under the hood. While the Project Viper name might suggest a V10, this SUV actually has a General Motors-sourced, 6.2-liter LS3 V8, producing 430 horsepower. Power is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Along with the engine, virtually every part of this Defender has been customized. It features upgraded Wilwood brakes, a stainless-steel fuel cell, beefed-up KAM axles with electronic locking differentials, King Off-Road Racing shocks, and a 2.0-inch Old Man Emu lift kit. Project Viper rides on 20-inch wheels shod with Nitto Mud Grappler tires.

The modifications on the outside are just as extensive as the ones under the skin. Starting at the front, a tubular bumper houses a Warn winch, in the case the driver encounters any terrain the Defender can’t handle. The vehicle also gets an external roll cage, and LED spot lights and work lights. At the back, the spare tire is mounted on a swing-away carrier, to allow easier access to the cargo area.

The interior takes the Defender far away from its spartan origins. It sports leather seats, wireless phone charging, and a Kenwood head unit that incorporates a touchscreen, navigation, rearview camera feed, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

East Coast Defenders has been building one-off custom Defenders since 2013. Project Viper was commissioned last year by a “renowned doctor,” according to the company, and is being held up as an example of East Coast Defenders’ handiwork. Project Viper is the first vehicle to come out of East Coast Defenders’ “Ultimate Vehicle Concept” division, which will produce 10 custom Defenders per year.

The Defender may be out of production, but enthusiasm for it is still strong. So despite its high price tag, East Coast Defenders probably won’t have any trouble filling its order slots. Because if you’re going to spend almost $300,000 on a car, why not buy one that you won’t have to worry about getting dirty?


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