Media Land Rover

Bumped off: turning a Land Rover Defender into a hearse

"He was always in his Land Rover – he’d never have wanted to arrive in a Volvo.”

It’s a line the car maker could consider for an advertisement featuring a chisel-jawed adventurer fording a river in his all-new Defender on his way, perhaps, to a black-tie dinner in the jungle but for the fact that the words were spoken by a mourner at a recent funeral, overcome by the sight of a Defender-based hearse.

“The family were absolutely stoked,” says Jacqui Whinnett, founder of Alpha 4x4 Funerals that provided the vehicle. “The order of service carried a picture of the deceased driving his Landie; that’s how much he loved it.”

Who on earth, and in heaven, requests to be taken on their final journey in a Defender, I ask her: “Lots of people. Land Rover enthusiasts, of course, but also free spirits, adventurers… I recently did a funeral for a young chap who’d done a lot of travelling and who had planned to buy a Land Rover. Another organised illegal raves and the floral tributes were stuffed with marijuana leaves.

“Farmers like to go in a Land Rover, too. Only a few weeks ago, in the Cotswolds, I drove one to the top of a field overlooking his farm to be buried. His relatives said it was so he could keep an eye on everyone.”

Forget images of a smoky old Landie chugging up a boggy field with a coffin poking perilously out of the back. Whinnett’s Defender would do a royal funeral justice (she’d love to do one of those, too). It’s a 130 she bought in 2003 and had converted by Foley specialist vehicles.

“It’s an ex-army vehicle that used to tow Rapier missiles,” she says. “Being a 130 it’ll take a coffin lengthways, where a competitor who runs a Defender 110 has to squeeze it in diagonally.”