It has sharp edges and box-like face. When it rains, this older model leaks and some people have called it ugly.
But to its owners and those who know it, it is the car to go for. The Land Rover Defender. For Stephen Kavuma, a director at One Touch Tour Safaris, owning a Land Rover Defender was not just a random thought.
“I like it. I had passion for it when I was young,” said Kavuma. “I used to see army men driving them and had a dream to get one when I grew up.”
Last Saturday, Kavuma joined tens of other Land Rover owners at Velocity Bar & Grill in Kyanja, Kampala where they shared experiences about their very British vehicles.
Kavuma acquired the Land Rover Defender 110 a year ago and this qualifies him to join a lean group of enthusiasts that annually meet to take pride in their possessions.
Not everyone can own the vehicle; it costs an arm and a leg. Kavuma can only say, he bought his at “a fortune”.
“Cheap things are very expensive,” he said, adding that for Land Rovers, you buy spare parts once and then take years without bothering.
The vehicle costs between $15,000 (Shs 54m) and $70,000 (Shs 254m) depending on the condition it is in.
“It has been a year since I acquired this vehicle. I have already erased the info concerning other vehicles. It is an all-weather vehicle.”
Moses Wakhasa, a humanitarian worker who also races in the 4x4 competitions, says his father used to own a Defender and this inspired him to get his own in 2007.
“I had some mechanic background. I have travelled [with the land rover] between Uganda and South Sudan. After the Defender, I got a Discovery.”
He said some people fear the vehicle because “sometimes, it is an unreliable vehicle; it has its own moods, but once you treat it well, it will work for you”.
Its body also makes a lot of noise on rough roads, discomforting for those who fancy a quiet ride. To Milton M Wetaka, a health worker and farmer, his yearning for total confidence on the road drove him to acquire the Defender 110.
“Whether it is sunshine or flooding. I needed that feeling [of total confidence],” Wetaka told The Observer. “I needed a car that goes where no other car can go.”
He bought his Defender in 2011 after owning a Peugeot 504 pickup and VW Golf.
“There is a difference,” he said.
“I go through potato heaps [with the Defender]. I load it with any agricultural produce I want,” he said.
The resilience of his Defender was tested when a friend borrowed it and went through DRC to Rwanda and back. He has also driven it through Arua, Moyo and all the way to Sironko.
“I plan to go to Tanzania,” he said.
The association of Land Rover owners in Uganda is an exclusive class of about 150 people so far registered. They share a love for the safe, powerful car that is stable on the road, according to Ronnie Kyazze, one of the organisers.
At the Saturday show, 90, 110, 130 classes were on show.
“The way they were built was to be safe with the A & B pillars. If it rolled, it would never crash you. Unless they knock you from the sides but on head- on collision, you are safe,” he said.
But beyond the car, there are benefits that come with this club. For instance, Wetaka said when they come, they meet people who are more experienced with handling the vehicle.
They share knowledge on where to get the best parts and those who want to do some modifications on their vehicles get advice from peers.
There are newer Land Rovers, with sleek designs such as the TDI 5 designed mainly to show class. But Defender lovers don’t care much about the TDI 5.
Wetaka said, “The TDI 5 has been a disappointment. Some Land Rovers are being manufactured from India and they have lost a little bit of touch.”