A cry of “come on old girl, don’t let me down” rang through the bush house in Marloth Park. My mother-in-law was standing next to me, so my father-in-law couldn’t have been talking to her. Aah, of course. He was in the garage with the Landy. A V8 grumble confirmed this.

My idea of enjoying a car typically involves twisties, noise, an acceptable risk of death and the smallest possible gap between my crown jewels and the tar. This is, of course, very far removed from the world of winches, manne-wat-spanners-kan-gebruik and cars with snorkels. I’m thrilled when I can successfully fit my battery to my 2-stroke kart, so the 4×4 world was never going to be for me.

But, a recent trip to the Kruger was another good reminder of why most international tourists think that Joburg is nothing more than a convenient airport. The brave ones do Soweto (and experience something rather special in the process), but most take a sho’t left straight to the Kruger and then onwards to Cape Town. Poor Umhlanga probably deserves better.

The Kruger is nothing compared to the really rugged 4×4 stuff, but it’s good enough for me. South Africans love the bush, family time around the fire and a glass (or several) of Amarula. They also love Toyotas. Some, thankfully, love Land Rovers. They love them so much that they wave to each other on the road, just to check that the other guy still has oil pressure.

On that note, I recognise that I am perhaps just drawn to oil leaks like a moth to a flame, which explains how I can love an Alfa Junior and this particular beast – a Land Rover Defender 110 V8. Not equally, mind you. I’m scared my Junior is listening.

Everything in it is so simple. Acceleration is virtually non-existent, the turning circle is massive and the closest you get to a working air-con is a vent that whistles so loudly that even the V8 is almost drowned out. Then there’s the gearbox – let’s just say that if you really want to build your left tricep, a classic Defender might be for you. I love it.

Bombshell time – an Alfa Junior and a Land Rover Defender share the same heart. Let me explain.

I accept that these cars are designed for different things. My Alfa is perfect for a Sunday morning blast around the Cape, but I wouldn’t want to stare down an elephant from that low on the ground. The part of a bull elephant that I can see from that low down definitely isn’t going to make me feel any better about my chances.

Likewise, the Defender isn’t going to inspire confidence through Franschhoek Pass with a blanket of fog below me, but with huge ground clearance, a bottle opener on the back, a scratch-proof body and a massive bull-bar on the front, it’s the perfect car for the South African bush.

Both cars are cult favourites. They have a loyal following of enthusiasts that span several generations. The Defender itself only recently went out of production, long after Alfa forgot how to make affordable rear-wheel drive sports cars. Alfa still hasn’t remembered how to do this, putting the really great Alfas way out of reach of most of us (unless you are smart enough to wait for depreciation to sort the problem out – you can currently buy a low-mileage 4C for about half the price of a new one).

There is an “outlaw” style following for both brands, but predictably with very different approaches. The Alfas get bigger GTA-replica wheels, roll-cages, curved trumpets on 45 DCOE carbs and suspension upgrades imported from the UK. Where the Alfa modifications have speed and handling as the ultimate goal, the Defender approach is to turn them into uber-cool urban warriors. A matt grey paint job with black bonnet, black wheels and redesigned interior takes your 90 or 110 from bush-whacker to Sandton pavement icon.

Either car is an exceptional base for an outlaw, which is critical in keeping these cars desirable for younger generations. There will always be a place for concourse cars, but getting a 21 year old to turn his attention from a new GTI to a classic car requires more than a perfectly original number plate light.

There are clearly more sensible ways to go fast or to go places, but sensible is boring. Being sensible on a holiday is especially overrated. The best game drives start with a V8 burble and a collective sigh of relief that the Landy is still working. Family memories mean more when centred around a motoring icon. Long live the Defender.