Production of the iconic Land Rover Defender is to end today following 68 years as a workhorse for the Army, farmers and fans alike – including the British Queen Elizabeth II.
After more than two million vehicles were created, the last model will roll off the production line at Solihull in the West Midlands to mixed emotions for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) staff who are gathering for a party to mark the occasion.
The first design was sketched on the sands of a beach in Wales and made its debut in 1948.
It took its inspiration from wartime Jeeps – but with a hard top and permanent four-wheel-drive – proving so popular that Rover had to ramp up production after the first 8,000 sold out.
While designs evolved over the years, it never lost the identity established in its roots – to be rugged, shy of luxury and bold in spirit.
Its status and popularity has meant that models generally fail to depreciate in value at the same rate as most vehicles – with many sold on at a profit.
Independent enthusiasts have also made money out of a growing trend for restoration and conversion.
Author Andy McNab, himself a former SAS sergeant, bought his own Defender last year after he learned production was coming to an end – and described the 4×4 as a “basic workhorse”.
He said: “I love them. I learned to drive in one. They’ve always been there because it’s the main vehicle for the military since about the Fifties.”
However, the status and popularity of the ‘Landy’ has not been enough to stop JLR ending production.
The decision is believed to have been taken because of continuing crash safety and emissions concerns.
While the company is thought to be working on a replacement it has remained tight-lipped but still has the Freelander, Discovery and Range Rover models in its stable after the Defender’s demise.
Jim Holder, editorial director of Autocar and What Car? magazines, said: “It’s a classless vehicle. Anyone can drive it.
“You might be a farmer trying to get over the muddiest field or it might be the Queen driving around Windsor.
“Neither would surprise you if you saw it.”
The monarch was first seen behind the wheel of a Land Rover in 1952 and is understood to have owned several.
Mr Holder added: “It’s got that ubiquity where it can be at home in Chelsea but doesn’t look out of place painted white in the middle of a war zone.
“It claims to do everything and to a degree it can do everything (but) the world has overtaken it to a point where they can no longer keep on the right side of emissions and safety laws.”
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