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Could this 1997 Land Rover Defender really sell for $250,000 at auction?

The United States collector car market is preparing for the annual Arizona auction period, which sees numerous major sales taking place. 

Amongst the hundreds of cars set to cross the block in the winter sun is a rare and valuable Land Rover Defender 90, listed for the Gooding & Company Scottsdale 2020 auction. 

Should it achieve the estimated sale price of $200,000 to $250,000 (£150,000 to £190,000), it would become one of the most expensive Defenders ever sold. 

Land Rover experimented with limited imports of the Defender to North America in the early 1990s, having previously sold utility vehicles there until 1974. 

The first Defenders, sold for the 1993 model year, consisted of 500 examples of the long-wheelbase 110 for the United States, with a further 25 going to Canada. All were painted white, and powered by a 3.9-V8 engine. 

Later, Land Rover also introduced the Defender 90 to North America, built specifically to cater for the market. Air conditioning was fitted as standard, as was an external roll cage and a soft-top roof. 

American customers would also have the chance to buy a proper Defender 90 Station Wagon with a hard-top metal roof, but the roll cage and V8 engine remained constant factors. 

However, by 1997 Land Rover faced the challenge of changes to federal safety requirements. To continue selling the Defender in the USA, airbags would need to be fitted along with side-impact protection. 

Modifying the Defender for these changes was uneconomical, with Land Rover deciding instead to conclude North American sales with a limited edition run of 300 units.  

All 300 of the Limited Edition Defenders like this one were painted in Willow Green with a white Station Wagon roof. Power came from an upgraded 4.0-V8 engine, whilst an automatic transmission was fitted as standard. 

The final North American Defenders featured numbered build plaques, and this is number 300 of 300 – the very last one made. 

Despite being owned by seven people across the United States, the last Defender Limited Edition has covered just 36,000 miles from new. The impressive roof rack, front A-bar, driving lights, and Warn winch were all accessories specified by the original owner.

Low numbers and an interest in classic off-roaders has seen demand for Defenders in the U.S. increase dramatically in recent years. News that the all-new Defender will be sold there has only fanned the flames.

Even if this Defender 90 sells for the maximum estimated price, it will still not be the most expensive one ever sold. That honour was taken in 2015, with £400,000 ($525,000) paid for the two-millionth Defender produced. 

The Gooding & Company auction takes place in Scottsdale, Arizona on the 17th and 18th of January., with more than 150 other classic vehicles on offer.