Since stock Land Rover Defenders are pretty basic and also illegal in the United States up until they turn 25-years-old, the aftermarket and restoration business is huge. That's why there are numerous companies out there tweaking these stylish off-roaders, with the most famous being Charles Fawcett's Twisted Automotive in the UK.
Twisted made a name for itself by jamming an LS3 into the Defender, and needless to say that Jonathan Ward's Icon can do something very similar for you in America. Yet you might also want to turn your attention to The Netherlands, home of TopHat Defenders.
TopHat came to be when Carel van Helsdingen got tired of selling garlic pills to the Middle East, and found Alex Zeeman, the man who once decided to work on a rusty Mustang instead of hammering fences as a blacksmith. The company started off by selling old Defenders to America, but since those trucks were beaten beyond belief, the operation quickly added nut and bolt restorations and various upgrades to its portfolio. One thing led to another, and today, they build Defenders with LS3 V8s that come with a Tremec six-speed manual thanks to TopHat's very own adaptor design. The package also includes an air suspension with Koni shocks, new bearings and bushings, anti roll bars and AP Racing brakes, because 565 horsepower can even make bricks fly. The result is what some might call the most desirable Defender in the world.
Of course the beauty of the job is that since Defenders were hand-built by Land Rover to begin with, no truck is like the next, making it a rewarding challenge to figure out how to make every part fits perfectly. Call that the puzzle.