By Jeffrey Aronson [Courtesy of Rovers Magazine, September 2011]
[Amir Sepahban, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, loves his wife, Lois, children Bella and Julian, and Choo-Choo, the family Shi-Tzu, as much as his Defender 110. He’s taken his love of Defenders even deeper, as you’ll read below –ed]
Amir Sepahban started his life in Iran, attended schools in France, Switzerland and England, and graduated from the University of Houston in the USA. Despite his multi-national background, he found himself grounded by a childhood experience.
“It’s etched in my memory,” Amir recounted in a telephone conversation. “When I was a child in the 1970’s, perhaps age 7, a family member had a Series Land Rover. It was probably a 109” because I remember the four single seats in the rear. He would take us across rivers in Iran. I would sit in the back with other family members and really enjoy the drives. I loved the individual seats and I loved it that we crossed rivers when no other cars would do that.”
At university Amir graduated with a degree in music (percussion) with a minor in piano. He later took a masters degree in conducting and composition. As you might expect from a Land Rover enthusiast – and long before Garage Band - he promptly took music engineering courses to synthesize and compose using a computer. “Unlike band members, the computer performed my music perfectly and didn’t make rude comments,” he joked. From there, Amir continued to study software development and then entered the field of robotics.
For many years Amir owned high-end Mercedes models, but because of their complexity, “there was nothing I could do to the cars.” Two years ago he moved his family to the Big Bear region of California where, his wife Lois contends, “he’s recreated his childhood memories” through the purchase of NAS 1993 Defender 110 #46. “I found it in New Jersey two years ago. I did a lot of homework on the Defender 110’s and had a friend in New York examine the car closely.” Amir had his Defender shipped by carrier across the continent to California. The driver of the carrier noted that the Defender had to sit on the end of top level because of its height, and because of its oil leaks, the driver couldn’t put another car beneath it.
Amir swapped out the transmission and has performed other maintenance tasks. “I think there’s a connection between myself and the Defender, unlike any other car I’ve ever owned. It has its own temperament. I know I can depend on it, even though I know I must maintain it. If I don’t, it’s the worst car to own! You’re in a car in which you don’t feel pretentious. A $100,000 car is not my style. The Defender is old and needs repairs, just like me.”
Up to this point Amir’s enthusiasm mirrors that of thousands of Defender fans worldwide, but his expertise in software development, video production [he founded AMT] and robotics [RC Rovers] has enabled him to “go further” [if you’ll excuse the pun –ed].
First he created and maintains DefenderHelp.com, an amazing online resource for owners and fans of the NAS Defender 100. He’s compiled information from many sources in the US [Rovers North, East Coast Rover] and the UK [Ashcroft Transmissions], as well as his personal experiences with his 110, and edited it into an easily-referenced yet highly detailed fount of information. If you’re a Defender 110 fanatic with an important deadline looming over your head, avoid this site at any cost – you can spend days surfing this huge archive.
His robotics expertise helped him create RCRover.com, which sells radio controlled, unmanned vehicles, for police, military and personal use. Combining this technology with his wealth of Defender knowledge enabled Amir to create an extraordinary radio controlled Defender model car. Another subsidiary, Really Cool Toys, manufactures one-off and made-to-order products regularly with fabrication times ranging from 200 hours to well over 1000 hours per product.
Amir accepted nothing less than perfection in creating the 8.5:1 scale Defender. Using diagrams from Rovers North publications and website, visualization technique honed from his video production background and a dogged determination for exactitude, Amir’s Defender is a masterful miniaturization. His quest for perfection includes working windshield wipers and seat belts, even upholstery. “It’s the next generation – scale realism – of radio control cars,” Amir contends. “They look real and run real. We videotape the cars in motion to assure that you won’t be able to tell one of our RC Defenders from a real one when you watch our videos.” You can watch those videos on YouTube’s DefenderHelp channel.
At the moment this Defender is even more exclusive than the 500 NAS Defender 110’s. Amir stated that it’s taken him 450 hours of labor to produce this prototype model but a manufacturing run may be in the future plans. He noted that “The overall objective is to offer 100% assembled ready-to-run, scale-realistic Defender 110 vehicles produced in large quantity at or below $1500 per assembled kit. This would make it possible for all serious enthusiasts to own one rather than only dealers or wealthy collectors. It would be ideal if we could joint venture with Land Rover to mass produce RC scale Defenders, Series, Range Rovers and Discoverys.” In the meantime, many of the components he’s created, such as windshield wipers, could be used on other radio controlled models.
His full-sized Defender has proven invaluable since he moved to his rural haunts. He notes that “my family members have moved to Big Bear area. If I ever need a car to help evacuate my family, this is the car for the job. The Defender will always get you through. It seats nine; I can get the whole family in there and still make another run for other people.”
Even in the absence of a natural disaster, Amir enjoys driving his Defender, noting “it’s my daily driver as well. I put a camera on the windshield, just to capture the sound of the V-8, and to put it online. Someone from Australia heard it and said ‘it’s music to his ears.’”
To paraphrase an old television ad, is it real or robotics? Only a Defender owner knows for sure.
[Copyright Jeffrey B. Aronson and Rovers North 2011]
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."