Media Land Rover

This Land Rover Defender is 'screwed up in a beautiful way'

“Why paint a car where no one can see it?”

For Ricardo Pessoa, CEO of Land Rover custom restoration shop CoolNVintage, art is profoundly personal. Like a journey or a place, it’s the awareness of the experience that makes it meaningful.

That philosophy underlies all the Land Rovers brought back to life at the Lisbon company. Rather than building “flashy attention-getters,” the restoration focuses on what the vehicles will enable their new owners to do.

Pessoa calls the creations “a physical embodiment of what is possible if only we can imagine it.” The simplicity and honesty of the Land Rover is preserved, with around 1,000 hours added to get the journey underway.

This build, No. 77, is about Lisbon itself. Pessoa enlisted artist and long-time collaborator Vasco Costa to hand-paint the chassis in a celebration of the city, Land Rovers, and art itself. Over 2,000 hours were invested in the project. With the restored body back on the frame, the finished vehicle is elevated on a foundation of vibrant color.

“Every square centimeter of that painted chassis that cannot be seen is about Lisbon,” says Pessoa. “It is the soul of the machine.”

At the start of this project, some people said, “This is a stupid idea. Why paint a car where no one can see it?”

“The one fortunate owner of this vehicle will always have the opportunity to put it up on a lift or crawl underneath it,” Pessoa explains, “To reveal the artistry of the artist and engineers who brought this car back to life—and share it with whomever he or she wishes.”

Rather than a garish paintjob braying that this vehicle is unique, the hidden artwork creates an intimate experience that demands the viewer drop everything to contemplate only the Land Rover, and as Pessoa explains, “how and why we screwed it up in a beautiful way.”

The mindfulness demanded by the vehicle is clearly the “why.” Pessoa insists No. 77 is rolling art meant to be used and enjoyed, that the journey in it is the experience he intended to build.

The donor Defender 110 is a 1983 model and one of the first to roll off the Solihull, England assembly line. CoolNVintage completely disassembled it—engine, gearbox and all mechanical parts—before beginning a complete nuts-and-bolts rebuild and restoration.

Nothing was left untouched. All the panels were stripped to bare metal before priming, hard parts were powder coated, the wiring was restored or refitted, new brakes and Fox suspension were installed, and new fuel tank and lines fitted.

A black mohair top protects Connolly leather seats and a wireless Marshall sound system. On the tailgate, a handmade saddle leather tool bag hides a Alentejo blanket for cold nights. A brass CoolNVintage plaque displays the No. 77 build number, and even the No. 77 keychain demands pause.

Pessoa says he “first tasted real freedom” in a Land Rover. This unique build expresses that freedom and invites its new owner to turn off the hectic high-tech world and be the journey.

Or, as Pessoa puts it, “Live the signal, lose the noise.”

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