Meet Doctor Defender
Autocar UK|March 22,2017

There’s more demand than ever for modifications to Land Rovers, and Jonathan Douglas probably knows more about it than anyone. Matt Saunders heads to Coventry to find out what he does

Matt Saunders

On the outskirts of Coventry, barely a mile from the base of what is now Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations performance tuning department, are the premises of the company that might have put what we now know as SVO out of business before it even got started.

JE Motorworks will be a name familiar to anyone who deals in extraspecial Land Rovers. Established in 1975 as a fairly small-scale garage by former proprietor John Eales (whose initials the company still carries), JE earned itself a reputation throughout the 1970s and 1980s for rebuilding, tuning and enlarging Rover V8s. They were used to power Morgans, TVRs, Rover SD1s and, of course, Range Rovers.

“JE’s tuned engines were so good at the time that Land Rover copied one,” says Jonathan Douglas, JE’s current managing director and chief engineer. “After that we did a 4.2, which was the engine for the popular Dakar Range Rover. About 100 were made throughout the 1980s, but that was long before I got involved.

“Later, after I joined the team, came our 4.7-litre supercharged Range Rover ‘P38A’. It was as close a car as you’ll find to an unofficial prototype for the modern Range Rover Sport, I suppose.”

Douglas is explaining how the firm he ended up owning and running went from making its reputation with go-faster Range Rovers to now offering perhaps the most complete set of mechanical modification and upgrade programmes available anywhere for the SUV that the car collecting world has suddenly gone mad for: the Land Rover Defender.

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