Marking the end of production of what is the ultimate ‘camp & adventure’ vehicle, the Last Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line this week at the same Solihull factory where Land Rovers have been made since the beginning of The Legend in 1948. We were lucky enough to go on a Land Rover Heritage Factory Tour and it was amazing to see the new Defenders still being made mostly in a traditional way, only one robot in sight! While just a few feet away the modern Land Rover Discoverys and Range Rovers were being produced in an altogether different mode, fully modernised automated production lines, not too many humans in sight over there in fact!
THE FAMILIAR FACE OF LAND ROVER, FOR 68 YEARS
The instantly recognisable face of a Land Rover remained largely the same to the 2015 Spectre James Bond movie Defender (top left), or the ‘Pink Panther’ of the SAS in the Oman Desert campaign (top right), to overland-equipped Defenders, classic Series I, IIa and III, and even the ‘air-portable’ Land Rover Lightweight military vehicles (bottom right):
But that last Defender cheered off the production line was really the end of the genetic line of true Land Rovers. Even the brand new Defenders we saw being made at Solihull were barely changed from the classic era, apart from the modern engines and additions like air condition (not required in the old days, you just open up the canvas or vents!) This lineage continued unbroken from the early prototypes, via the Series I, II and III, then to the pre-cursor to the Defender, the “Ninety” and “One-Ten” of the early 1980’s, and then finally to the Defender itself.
Reflecting on the end of an era, we’ve been lucky over the years to own and drive both on and off road many of the older models including Series III truck cabs and military versions, a Defender Hi Capacity Pickup and a LWB Utility overland-equipped Defender, as well as a Range Rover Classic and even both a Discovery I & II.
Our superbly capable 200Tdi Defender High Capacity Pickup:
“Rangie” – our Range Rover Classic repainted and converted with Dakar insignia from a 1990’s wine-bar red Range Rover Vogue, but with the most awesome Italian “VM” Diesel engine:
“Mathilda”, a retired British Army Series III 109 ‘FFR’, found in a heap in a field and restored to life, olive oil gleaming on the matt olive drab paint:
“Martha”, a trusty 109 Series III Truck Cab bought in mechanically sound condition but needing repainting and returning to its classic condition fittings & details.
THE NEXT LAND ROVER?
There will be a new ‘Defender’ but it may be related by name only, as finally the genetic link has been cut – we’ll just have to wait and see what the future brings. Back when the DC100 prototype first came out the reactions to the design were almost universally terrible, so we did some mockups of what the new defender might look like based on the DC100. The DC100 just didn’t seem to have the true Land Rover characteristics of all the models that had gone before – we tried a few modifications to the design just to see if it could be rescued (these are rather too sporty but we were making the best of a bad job) with a more in keeping front end design, adding roof racks and off road lights, colour panels echoing the Series III and stretching it to show a double cab version capable of fitting a couple of bales of hay and a sheepdog in the back, as well as a 5 door station wagon version – just as in the original Land Rover models (although we didn’t have time to produce a fire engine, tow truck, air portable military or any of the other hundreds of versions the great mechano kit of Land Rover has been turned into through the years!):
But the good news is that most of the older models can still be found, and with a bit of care will still probably go on to outlast most of us! 75% of all Land Rovers ever made are reportedly still in use which is an amazing lesson in our throwaway age. Have a look at some more classic Land Rover imagery on our Land Rover Pinterest Board