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by Patrick Cruywagen, 5th August 2016

Ray Mears has always owned and driven Land Rovers. LRM and Ray talk Land Rovers.

You own a Defender. What are your thoughts on the much-anticipated new one?

I’m very excited to see what they do with the new Defender because it definitely needs updating. Everybody is nervous because the new one is so important for Land Rover. If I were saying something to management, it would be that the whole brand is built upon the Defender, whether they like that or not.

We all know the Defender’s flaws and faults, this is a great opportunity to update it and improve the steering and comfort. It needs to be a design for the modern age without losing its sparkling robustness. I think that it would be cool if it came out with the option of modular boxes for storage, very much like the standard load boxes in the back of my Discovery 4.

Tell us more about your Defender?

As for my own one I have to hide it away or else it might get stolen. The way they are being stolen at the moment is disgraceful; something needs to be done about it.

What do Land Rovers mean to you?
To me a Land Rover means life, they are amazing vehicles. I have travelled all over the world and driven all sorts of 4x4s, sadly not always a Land Rover, you can only drive what is available of course.

Have you ever done any hairy off-roading?

The worst you can do. I have driven across Zaire; it is like no other place in the world. There are no slats on the bridges. The driving was so difficult and technical that we did not have the time to stop and take photographs. We would just look at the roads and think to ourselves how on earth are we going to get up there? Then Lady Land Rover would lift us up and take us up, they are truly amazing vehicles.

Standard or modified?

I am not one for fitting air lockers or Old Man Emu suspension. I like them as they come out of the factory. If you drive it properly they can do whatever you ask of them. People sometimes go mad with the mods on their off-road vehicles. I say keep it simple. I take my Land Rovers to really remote places and so I treat them as if they are made of crystal because it is a hell of a long walk if you break it. So drive it carefully and keep a cool head.

Have you ever been stuck?

My biggest lesson with Land Rovers is that you always seem to get stuck when you have been pushing for too long and you are dehydrated. Stop, have a brew, think about what you have done and normally after that you can get out. They are amazing vehicles and they are the best 4x4 by far.

Why a brand ambassador for Land Rover?

There are many special things about the company. The morale of the workforce where they make them is pretty unique. The people there take such pride in the fact that they are making Land Rovers. I have had a long association with the brand. Right back to the days when they were owned by BMW and Ford, I have seen the changes and the difficulties, yet through all of that the workforce has had this sense of pride in their product. We as a nation should take great pride in what Land Rover have achieved.

Land Rovers have been good to me and I would never have got to some of the places I did without them. The company has made so many good decisions of late. Putting the transit engine into the Defender means that they now have power, so they are popular again in Africa for use as safari vehicles, for example.

Do you have a favourite?

I think that the Discovery is the best car that they have ever made. I can put on a black tie and drive across Arnhem Land in Australia and still get out the other end feeling fresh. Not many other cars in the world can do that.

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