We at Tophat Defenders


In 2012 business partners Carel van Helsidingen and Alex Zeeman started shipping Land Rover Defenders from Europe to the United States. This turned out to be quite a lucrative business, as Land Rover never sold the Defender in large quantities in the US. In Europe however, it was the vehicle of choice for anybody in need of at least some level of off-road capability in either their professional or personal life. Not entirely happy with this business, Tophat wanted to do more than just ship old 4x4s from one continent to the next. ‘We wanted to add something of our own’, phrases Van Helsdingen. From that point on the Defenders were restored before being shipped to the American customers and this brought a great deal of knowledge to our team. ‘Not just about the different technical aspects of the Defender, but also about technical shortcomings that we wanted to improve without harming intrinsic aspects of this icon’, explains Van Helsdingen. He then continues by saying, ‘We really wanted to create something according to our own philosophy. We just knew that somewhere out there, there had to be people who would be interested in these slightly unhinged but oh so enjoyable vehicles.’

Drastically modifying the Defender and restoring the parts that remain stock sounds like a form of restomodding, but we at Tophat are rather skeptical about this mostly overrated term. There are plenty examples of Land Rovers around that have not been restored properly and modified in a downright unsafe manner. That is exactly what Tophat tries to avoid at all cost and that is why we put so much effort in developing completely new suspension and brakes.

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The love for the Defander’s basic design is an important factor for us, but this doesn’t mean we love every single detail about it. Many quirks and peculiarities become minor or even major annoyances overtime and we don’t want our customers to only experience love at first sight when they see our vehicles; we want them to develop a lasting affection. By using our creativity, we managed to develop a basic concept – a starting point if you will – that is already quite out of the ordinary. Every Tophat Defender comes standard with an LS3, LT1 or LT4 V8 engine, ranging from just over 400 to almost 700 horsepower, or more if clients so desire. The standard suspension of a Defender is not known for its comfort, precision and roadholding, so to keep the driving experience both enjoyable and safe, every Tophat Defender comes standard with a custom designed air suspension system including Koni shock absorbers, large AP Racing brakes and enforced internals from the gearbox through the transfer case and differentials to the drive shafts.

tophat custom design