THIS week marks three years since Land Rover ceased producing its legendary Defender. But, thanks to a small Thirsk company, the vehicle is anything but history

THIRSK and Abu Dhabi may be poles apart geographically and culturally, but the small North Yorkshire town is linked to the Middle East via a thoroughly British export – with a twist.

For Thirsk is home to Twisted Automotive, a company that specialises in re-engineering the iconic Land Rover Defender.

And the Twisted version of the quintessential British vehicle has become a hit among Middle Eastern Sheiks who are lining their luxury garages with the sought-after machines.

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Attracting such high-profile customers is just one part of a remarkable journey for Twisted which first started life in 2000 in “a little garden shed” at the North Yorkshire home of company founder Charles Fawcett.

Of course, a shed was not going to contain Charles’s passion for the Defender – or his ambition – and in 2008 the business moved onto Thirsk Industrial Estate.

In 2016, when Land Rover announced that it was ceasing production of its much-loved Defender, Twisted swooped in and snapped up some of the last vehicles off the production line. They have since spent months in the workshop as Twisted improve on a vehicle that has become something of a British institution.

And while the modifications vastly improve the Defender’s performance – with some spending up to 800 hours in the workshop – don’t call them pimped.

“We are obviously a modifier of a stock standard vehicle, says Charles, “but I don’t like the term ‘modifier’ because modification often means change for the sake of change.

“Whereas I do think, genuinely, the work that we carry out only complements the vehicle and it only makes it better.

“I would refuse to fit anything that didn’t improve the vehicle.”

He added: “You can bolt big bodykits on and whatever else, and there will be people that love it, but you are taking it away from what it was.

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“And what it was, is something that we have all fallen in love with, and therefore what it was needs protecting.

“So I think you’d never see one of ours ‘pimped’ or ‘blinged’.”

Charles says that there is “no love, no honour and no preservation” in bolting unnecessary kit to a vehicle and that is something Twisted would never do.

And whilst Premier League footballers are famed for their love of ostentatious 4x4s with massive chrome wheels, blacked out windows and eyewatering price tags, that is not the sort of market that Twisted driving towards.

Without a hint of arrogance, but with a clear passion for protecting the Defender’s heritage, Charles explains: “I don’t know where the influence has come from, but I do think that anything that is really ‘English’, anything that is possibly green with tan leather is considered to be supercool, even if it is 30-years-old.”

With Twisted now being possibly the only company in the world with any significant stock of new Defenders, Charles clearly feels a responsibility to keep the vehicle’s original heart beating.

And to that end, Twisted are releasing 45 limited edition models this week which take all their inspiration from the classic model to honour their end.

Much-loved features such as the middle front seat have been reintroduced – albeit in a modern incarnation – and the vehicles are un-carpeted to invoke that pure, raw feeling synonymous with the old-school Defender.

Charles says, tongue in cheek, that he wanted to do “a better job than Land Rover did” of marking the end of the Defender’s production.

He said: “I just think that these models that we have come up with, while they are very simply what Land Rover did originally, we have looked back at the past and said we are going to take inspiration from what went before.”

He added: “I don’t think anybody realises what we have actually gone through – the end of Land Rover production.

“It has been on the go for 70-years, for all our generation it is all we have known and it has stopped; it has gone.

“And when these vehicles of ours have gone, that is really it, there aren’t any more.”

And as yesterday marked three-years to the day that the last brand new Defender rolled off the production line, enthusiasts of this iconic vehicle can rest assured that Twisted are in the driving seat when it comes to ensuring the legend lives on.