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Himalaya Land Rover

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Himalaya is Giving Land Rover Defenders a Contemporary American Makeover

Photos by Himalaya

Aston Martin was nearing bankruptcy before an increasingly popular movie franchise put a certain MI6 agent behind the wheel of a tricked-out DB5. Although it was a fairly new concept at the time, it showed the power of product placement. Nowadays, cinema and corporate marketing go together like lawyers and tasseled loafers. If you’re a fan of the Bond movies, you’ve probably felt the urge to go buy something its star was wearing, drinking, or driving. Now’s your chance.

Recently there’s been a rise in boutique companies taking older platforms and giving them modern enhancements. Whether it’s Singer’s pulse-pounding take on vintage 911 Porsches or our recent look at Mil-Spec Automotive’s revamped Hummers in Issue 44, the level of artistry and upgraded engineering are enough to make discerning car buffs like Jay Leno take notice. They saved the best aspects of the old, worked out the kinks in the original design, and infused it all with the best technology on the market. Himalaya is just such a company applying this approach to Land Rover Defenders.

Himalaya's flagship model is the Spectre, a handmade, crew-cab-style Defender.

The original Defender line was part of Land Rover’s fleet from the ’80s up until it ceased production in 2016. Part of this model’s appeal was the consistency of the iconic body. For instance, you could take the doors off a 2015 model and bolt them onto a 1988. However, since the Defender was utilitarian in nature, its fit and finish wasn’t what you’d see (or expect) in current SUVs. If you’ve ever driven an original Defender then you know they’re loud, hot, and clanky. That is, until Himalaya gets a hold of them.

The company gives customers three tiers of options. If original is your thing, they offer Defenders by Himalaya, which are essentially resto-mods. Refinements at this level include new body panels, better insulation, larger brake packages, tighter panel fitment, improved engine gearing, modern audio systems, and custom interiors, just to name a few. Even if you want a total stock-spec restoration, Himalaya offers that option as well. According to company president Greg Shondel, the company has the largest supply of new takeoff parts in North America from sets of doors to bonnets to full bodies.

The mid-level tier takes that classic build and upgrades it to a modern drivetrain with custom brakes and suspension, among other updates. On the top end is the true Himalaya, which is a limited yearly production. Himalaya’s flagship model is a reimagined Defender 110 called the Spectre and named after the Land Rover Defender SVX seen in the previous Bond flick of the same name. Himalaya didn’t build the one in the movie, but its vehicular tribute is one we’d gladly survive on Cup O’Noodles long enough to be able to buy.

The Spectre's suspension includes 4 inches of ride height to clear the 37-inch tires. Custom coil springs are inserted, and extended-length control arms are built in-house with articulating Johnny Joints from Currie Enterprises. Ride is controlled by Fox Racing remote-reservoir shocks.

Since GM has practically cornered the market on gas crate engines, drivetrains have been punched up with a 525-horsepower LS3 with an optional Whipple supercharger or a Cummins R2.8 turbodiesel. The motor is tied to a six-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive transfer case. Dynatrac axles, 37-inch Toyo tires, and Brembo brakes occupy a custom-designed coilover suspension setup and Richards frame that’s been fully welded, boxed, and hot-dip galvanized. The only thing that’s “Land Rover” on the vehicle are the new body panels themselves.

Touches like billet adornments where plastic resided on the originals, a rear tire carrier, a slant-back Safety Devices cage, and crew-cab-style body give them a well-balanced practicality beyond the factory pedigree. On the inside, you’ll be treated to Ruskin leather, heated Recaro seats, Dakota Digital gauges, Momo steering wheel, Alcantara headliner, Exmoor LED lighting, Kenwood head unit, and JL Audio speakers. And yes, the list goes on.

This year, Himalaya plans on building a proving grounds-type facility in Wyoming, as testing its builds thoroughly enough to identify weaknesses is a big part of their playbook. Whether it’s pinpointing areas that need improvement while sitting in traffic or trying to break something off-road, they want customers to feel like they got it right and work with them to select the build that’s conducive to their lifestyle. One-off custom builds are something they’re constantly taking orders for.

Himalaya can work with customers on creating custom one-off builds that make sense for their unique needs.

“When you pull up in Spectre, in a lot of ways it seems like you’re invading wherever you’re pulling up,” Shondel says. That’s the kind of first impression we’d enjoy far more than whatever arriving in a Maserati Levante might evoke. Chances are that’d cause assumptions that you smell like Drakkar and still listen to Coldplay.

We’re impressed with Himalaya’s ability to combine sophistication, aggressive looks, and functional architecture. Expect to spend $115,000 to $250,000, depending on your preferences. As far as a martini shaker, Omega watch, and white dinner jacket, you’ll have to spring for those on your own. Oddly enough, Land Rover has reintroduced the Defender for 2020, and you’ll be seeing it in the 25th Bond movie if you haven’t already.

If you own a stock Defender and want a ground-up restoration, Himalaya can bring it back to all its original glory.

Himalaya Spectre
6L80E six-speed automatic

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