Me And My Car

Jungle boogie

Mr Tan Meng Choon bought the Land Rover Defender in 2006 for $79,000.
Mr Tan Meng Choon bought the Land Rover Defender in 2006 for $79,000.PHOTOS: JEREMY CHUA
Mr Tan Meng Choon bought the Land Rover Defender in 2006 for $79,000.

Tan Meng Choon's 2006 Land Rover Defender gets him around the city for work and into the forests for play

Most sport utility vehicle owners do not venture far from paved surfaces. Not Mr Tan Meng Choon.

The 46-year-old freelance photographer owns a 2006 Land Rover Defender which he goes "off-roading" in regularly.

Mr Tan, married with a five-year-old daughter, is usually quiet and unassuming. But once you start asking him about his "Landie", he opens up.

He says his foray into the 4x4 world began in 2001, when he rented a Land Rover Defender 110 during a trip to Darwin, Australia. The experience got him hooked.

In 2006, he bought the Defender for $79,000. And in 2016, he renewed the car's certificate of entitlement for another 10 years.

Like many other Defender owners, he modified his car - mainly the suspension - to better withstand the rigours of going off the beaten track.

  • What's in the back?

    • Cameras and lenses (in hard cases)

    • Light stands

    • A tripod

    • Diffusing paper

He has also installed a snorkel, which enables the Defender to ford through waters up to 1.2m deep.

Asked how much he spent doing the car up, he says after a pause: "It's been 12 years. I really can't recall."

And despite all the modifications, has he ever got stuck while off-roading?

"Lots of times," he says. "Sometimes, the terrain is just too unforgiving. Anyway, that's what winches are for."

Indeed, his Landie bears the scars of his many adventures. Dents and scratches can be found everywhere and he washes the car only when it is caked in mud.

"But despite all the abuse, the paintwork is still original," he says beaming.

Between 2006 and 2009, he clocked about half a dozen off-road expeditions.

But he has since slowed down because of work and family commitments. These days, he goes on about three such trips a year, mostly to Malaysia.

These excursions are a way for Mr Tan to escape the city with his buddies from Land Rover Owners Singapore. They pitch tents, build campfires and sleep under the stars.

He says he used to take along a compact generator to power a fridge, but has stopped doing so to "really enjoy nature".

Last year, he and fellow Defender owners embarked on a 2,000km road trip to Pai in northern Thailand. The journey took five days.

Mr Tan is thinking of going further. "Perhaps I'll drive my Defender to China," he says. "But I haven't made any plans yet."

• The writer is the associate editor of Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2018, with the headline 'Jungle boogie'. Print Edition | Subscribe