In what can be termed as a sad moment for nostalgic off-roader fans, Land Rover has finally discontinued the production of its Defender model that has been around for the past 68 years. The last Defender was rolled-off from the production line of JLR’s Solihull plant in Western UK, which according to the company, will henceforth serve as a heritage clinic to restore older Land Rovers. It is definitely an extraordinary feat that the Defender, developed from the original Land Rover series, has survived this long. And the epic story doesn’t end here abruptly – the granddad to all Land Rovers will survive, although mostly in the nameplate, as the new Defender is on the cards.
The ‘Defender’ name tag is quite recent, added only from 1989. But the car we are talking about is a real classic that erased the hackneyed perception of utilitarian vehicles. As a quick recap, the British Rover company conceived a vehicle that could confront the dreary country-side terrains of the Britain soon after the World War II. Born was the Land Rover Series I, which entered production in 1948 at a make-shift “shadow factory” built just before the war in Solihull near Birmingham, as the company’s mainstream plant at Coventry was ravaged by war. Back then, the Land Rover was not even a brand on its own.
Ten years later, Series II, a successor to the already popular vehicle, was launched. The Series III was launched in 1971 that went on sale till 1985, when Land Rover, now a distinctly established brand on its own, came up with the significantly updated versions namely, 90, 110, and 130s. To avoid possible confusions with the other models, the ‘Defender’ nameplate was added to them along with radical changes to the engine lineup and tech specs. A total of 2,016,932 Defenders have been made so far.
The final Defenders that are on sale since 2007, as per the company, shared two common parts with the original Series I Land Rover – the hood cleats and the under body support strut. In due course, the Defender received phenomenal modernisation and technological upgrades to meet modern safety and emission norms. In its six-half decade of history, a variety of Defender variants were are created using the basic platform including models as diverse as pick-ups, fire engines, recovery lorries, flat-bed mini trucks, defence and patrol variants, and even an amphibious car capable of floating on water! The Defenders became identified as archetypal to the British motoring tradition and car culture.
However, reality has a way of spoiling nostalgia and that’s inevitable. The new Defender that the company has promised in the days to come is speculated to be quite different from the legend we are talking here, but those ethos and values that drove the legendary Land rover this long is likely to be retained. In fact, it was this wildly loud vehicle that went on to create a brand on its own and defined how future Land Rover models are going to be. It pioneered in what we now call as off-roading, and is an eternal pole-star for the Land Rover brand.
Photo Credits: Silodrome, MotoringResearch