Historically, the Land Rover Defender has had more than a few competitors in Europe. In many countries the Defender fought head-to-head against the Fiat Nuova Campagnola and the Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen, and buyers could conceivably cross-shop it against the Lada Niva, the Portugese-built UMM Alter, the Romanian-built ARO, the Jeep CJ and, later, the Wrangler. Japanese companies like Nissan, Mitsubishi and Toyota also offered similarly-capable off-roaders in the 1980s.
Many of the Defender’s competitors disappeared in the early 1990s and the truck essentially found itself in a class of its own by the time the new millennium rolled around. The G-Wagen and many Japanese off-roaders had moved too far upscale to be considered true competitors, the Campagnola, the Alter and the ARO had all vanished and Jeep’s non-existent European dealer network greatly limited Wrangler sales.
Fiat-owned Iveco saw a niche to fill but it didn’t want to develop a rudimentary off-roader from scratch so it inked a deal with Santana, a small company owned by the autonomous Andalusian government that started building Land Rovers under license in 1958 and hadn’t stopped since. The PS10, Santana’s newest model model at the time, was nearly identical to the Land Rover Defender when viewed from the outside but it featured a brand-specific front fascia with four headlights, leaf springs out back and a part-time four wheel drive system. Iveco convinced Santana to provide it with a re-badged version of the PS10 (pictured below).
The mid-2000s were a rough time for Santana. The off-roader manufacturer had just ended a decades-long partnership with Suzuki and lost its dealer network in the process, meaning that it could no longer sell cars on its own. The deal with Iveco was a win-win situation because it enabled Santana to stay afloat while giving Iveco a Defender-fighting 4×4 without spending the time and money required to develop one from a blank sheet of paper.
Called Massif, the off-roader was introduced across Europe in 2007 and billed as a modern day Fiat Campagnola. Iveco executives explained that they hoped to initially capture a 20-percent share of the professional off-roader market, and they ambitiously predicted that they could eventually grab 50-percent of the segment.
To take on the Defender on all fronts, four different Massif models were offered at launch: a long-wheelbase version available as a station wagon, a pickup and a cab-chassis and a shot-wheelbase station wagon. All models shared the same Giugiaro-designed front end with a four-slat radiator grille accented by a sizable “IVECO” emblem and a pair of round headlights stacked diagonally on either side. Past the A-pillar, the biggest visual differences between the Massif and the Defender were the door handles, the wheels and the tail lamps.
The cockpit was fitted with a flat, tall dashboard with a grab handle on the passenger side, a Spartan analog instrument cluster and a large center console, meaning that anyone who had ever sat in a Defender instantly felt at home in the Massif. The steering was commanded through a large four-spoke wheel.
Iveco offered the Massif with two engines sourced from the popular Daily van. The entry-level mill was a 3.0-liter four-cylinder HPI turbodiesel unit rated at 146 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque, while power-hungry buyers could order a 3.0-liter HPT four-banger that made 176 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission came standard regardless of which oil-burner was chosen.
While the Defender offered full-time all-wheel drive, the Massif came with a part-time system that let the driver disengage the front axle to improve fuel economy. A two-speed transfer case came standard, and the PS-10’s rear leaf springs were carried over unchanged. The Massif was a serious off-roader, not merely a car-turned-crossover-on-stilts. It boasted a 100% fully-laden gradeability, an approach angle of 50°, a departure angle of 30° and a ramp angle of 24°. Additionally, it could drive through nearly 20 inches (50 centimeters) of water.
In 2008, Iveco introduced a more expensive family-focused version of the Massif called Campagnola. Exclusively offered with a short wheelbase and the 176-horsepower engine, the Campagnola gained a better finished interior with niceties like an alarm, central locks, manual A/C, a leather-upholstered steering wheel and a rear window wiper. Clearly, Iveco was aiming for a bigger share of the off-roader market and it announced plans to buy Santana from the Andalusian government if the Massif and the Campagnola lived up to their expectations.
Unfortunately, the Massif and the Campagnola missed their sales targets month after month and Iveco’s mainstream aspirations quickly crumbled. The deal between Santana and Iveco ended prematurely in 2010 after less than 10,000 examples of both models were built, though the precise number largely depends on who you ask. This left Santana without an industrial partner and, perhaps more importantly, without a dealer network to sell the PS10. The factory in Linares, Spain, was shut down by the government a year later.
Note: All pictures courtesy of Iveco’s archives department. The white 4×4 is a Massif while the green and the beige ones are Campagnolas.