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When Land Rover Defender received Cup holders

By Dean Mellor, 19 Apr 2016 Opinion

When Land Rover Defender received Cup holders

Only a true Landie-phile will remember the time when the Defender got cup holders

There’s obviously been a lot of talk about Land Rover Defenders lately. After all, production of this iconic vehicle has finally come to an end after an incredible 67-year stint.

Despite the Defender’s extremely old architecture, it’s amazing how much the vehicle has been developed over the decades. Forget about coil springs, common-rail injection, electronic traction control and the like – I’m talking about the cup holders.

Yep, for a number of years, wagon variants of the Defender have sported cup holders. Two of them, in fact, located conveniently in the centre console area between the front seats.

Prior to this upgrade, there was really nowhere you could safely deposit an open can or bottle, other than to hold it between your legs and hope that it didn’t splash all over your pants while bouncing along a track. On the upside, at least you could open the vent flaps beneath the windscreen to hasten the drying-up process. 

An alternative was to make your own cup holders. Not requiring the use of the centre seat in my short-wheelbase Series IIA, I once fashioned a centre console not dissimilar to the one that Land Rover came up with.

My version was made of MDF board and featured a big storage section and a couple of cup holders at the front. It had a hinged lid with a cushion on which you could rest your arm, and the whole lot was covered in vinyl. I was so proud of its functionality and appearance that I transferred it to my 1977 Series III several years later.

I then modified it by fitting a rearward-facing subwoofer to enhance the audio performance of the sound system I had fitted.

Driving a 2015 MY Defender 90 Heritage the other day, I noted the similarity of Land Rover’s most recent cup-holder solution; a centre console made of MDF board with a big storage area, a hinged lid with a cushion on top, two cup holders at the leading edge and a rear-facing subwoofer. Hmmm! Awfully familiar, I thought. Perhaps Land Rover saw my design in an old issue of 4X4 Australia and decided to copy it.

It’s just as well they didn’t copy an earlier cup-holder design that we came up with while traversing the Simpson Desert in a 130 Crew Cab. For this design, we cut the bottoms out of a couple of 1.25-litre plastic drink bottles and gaffa-taped them to the dashboard and the inside of the windscreen. They were deep enough to comfortably hold an aluminium drink can, or even a smaller-capacity 600ml plastic bottle, but they soon presented a problem.

On particularly rough sections of track, when the drink cans/bottles had only recently been opened, any spillage would end up on the inside of the windscreen. The first time this happened I instinctively flicked on the wipers, which, of course, offered zero benefit.

Despite trying to perfect this cup-holder design over the next week or so, we never resolved the splashing problem, and eventually gave up on the idea altogether.

I’ve seen a lot of different cup-holder designs over the years, but none have impressed me as much as those fitted to mid-1990s Toyota Hiluxes and 4Runners. These clever devices pull out of the dashboard so your drink is located directly in front of the air vents. One advantage of this design is that your drink is located up high where you can access it easily without diverting your eyes from the road.

More importantly, perhaps, it means that the air conditioner keeps your soft drink cool in summer and the heater keeps your coffee warm in winter. Genius! It was an idea copied by many manufacturers over the years to varying degrees (excuse the pun) of success.

When the all-new Defender comes in 2018, it will be interesting to see what the cup-holder solution is. I doubt that Land Rover will copy the ‘too close to the windscreen’ design, and I hope that it doesn’t stick with the ‘between the seats’ design. With any luck, the Poms will copy the Japanese for a change and rip off the Hilux cup-holder design. I certainly won’t take offence at that.