The new Defender has cemented itself in the hearts of many over the past three years, but there’s one place it still can’t compete with the original: roof-free fun. While almost every Series and Defender from 1948 to 2016 could go topless, the unibody structure of the new model prevents that tradition from carrying on. Dutch Defender outfitter Heritage Customs finally figured out a workaround though, with their Valiance Convertible the first-ever soft top L663 Defender conversion.
Heritage Customs is owned by Niels van Roij, who has done some Land Rover conversions under his separate Niels van Roij Design company, including a revival of the factory-built two-door fourth-generation Range Rover project that was cancelled during JLR’s major cost-cutting in the late 2010s.
The Valiance is built off the Defender 90, and each one is entirely custom. There are some suggested colorways, inspired by several of the world’s fine beaches, but the buyer can do whatever they want. After the hardtop Defender is delivered to Heritage Customs, they remove the roof and replace it with their in-house designed roll cage and soft top. The roll cage is FIA-certified for safety and structural rigidity, and the soft top is semi-electric. The vehicle also comes with a full leather interior, a set of one of Heritage Customs' in-house special wheel designs, and a custom paint job. All this costs €85,000, with the cost of the Defender itself extra.
Because the Defender 90 is supplied by the customer, it can be any specification you want, which means that you can totally get a Defender 90 V8, chop the top, and have a fire-breathing roofless beach runner, if you so desire.
The whole process takes three months, and retaining the L663’s trademark rigidity takes a lot of that work. The B-pillars, which remain in place to latch the doors to, are joined together with a new structural bar. Then the cage is added to add more protection and stiffness. The soft-top folds behind the rear seats, like a normal convertible instead of the roll-up style of the old Defenders.
While it’s not as easy to get a soft top as it was in the olden days, it’s still possible with work and a six-figure investment. Presumably, if you felt like shipping a North American Specification Defender to The Netherlands round-trip, you can even have one here – and be the talk of Nantucket next summer if you get things going now. If you want to order, get your wire transfer ready and head over to Heritage Customs' website for more info.
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