It’s an automobile held as dear to many as its chicer, more expensive counterparts, like the original mini, the VW Beetle or the Jaguar S-type. But today the last ever Land Rover Defender will roll off the production line at the company’s factory in Solihull, England.
Although the many other models of Land Rover will continue, it is the Defender that has defined the brand since its inception. Created in 1948, the ‘Land Rover’, as it was simply known, went on sale in a bid to raise enough money to restart the company’s production after World War Two. Made from aluminium, the only metal available at the time, it became an instant hit for farmers and the military because of its price and functionality.
The Queen and Prince Philip in their Land Rover Defender during a jubilee celebration in 1976 © Wheels to Wheels
Famously ‘ugly’, all its features were designed to optimise functionality, aesthetics were never a concern. Its boxy shape also made it perfect for add-ons such as trailers, horse boxes and canopies. For the British, the Land Rover became a bastion of country life: classic, durable and notably eccentric with its typical battered, mud-splattered exterior.
The Defender went on to be the vehicle of choice of Her Majesty the Queen, James Bond in Skyfall and even female tomb raider Lara Croft, as well as serving with troops in war zones around the world, it is still used for off-roading as well as looking at home on city streets.
However, nearly 60 years after it first emerged, crash test legislation and emission regulations have proved too difficult for it to adapt to and the original design has been killed off. Although the company has promised that a replacement will be available, this won’t be until at least 2018. Seemingly reincarnating a company icon is a difficult task. www.landrover.co.uk