ITS UNIVERSAL appeal has seen it owned by everyone from cleaners to the Queen in a production run that has lasted an amazing 68 years but today the final Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line.
More than two million Series Land Rovers and Defenders have been built in Solihull, UK since 1948 — the final Defender was the 2,016,933rd, to be precise.
An icon of excellent design, the Land Rover’s minimal overhangs, large ground clearance, simple engineering and adaptability that saw it converted into everything from fire engines to cherry pickers, meant it could go to places and do things that few other vehicles could manage.
The first Land Rover sold for £450 at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show. In 1952 the 50,000th was produced (see above). In December last year, the two millionth Defender was bought at auction for a record £400,000.
Land Rover marked the end of production by hosting more than 700 current and former Solihull employees involved in the production of Series Land Rover and Defender vehicles at the factory.
— V Butler-Henderson (@vb_h) January 29, 2016
In an event hosted by TV personalities Vicki Butler-Henderson and Quentin Willson, guests have been able to see and drive some of the most important vehicles from its history, including the first pre-production ‘Huey’ Series I as well as the last vehicle off the production line, a Defender 90 Heritage Soft Top.
— Andrew Brady (@MR_AndrewBrady) January 29, 2016
The end of the Defender is attributed to toughening safety regulations that demand greater protection for passengers and other road users. The hand built vehicle took 56 man-hours to produce, compared with 48 hours for the new Land Rover Discovery Sport, on the automated production line.
You can take a virtual tour of the Land Rover Defender production line here: defendertour.landrover.com. It’s not quite the whitewashed, robot-controlled facility we’ve come to expect in car manufacturing.
Land Rover is now looking ahead to designing and engineering a new Defender, expected to launch in 2018, that both meets the latest safety and emissions regulations but also has the same, unstoppable off-road ability.
“There will always be a special place in our hearts for Defender, among all our employees, but this is not the end,” Dr Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, said. “We have a glorious past to champion, and a wonderful future to look forward to.”
Nick Rogers, Group Engineering Director at Jaguar Land Rover, added: “Creating the Defender of tomorrow, a dream for any engineer or designer, is the next exciting chapter.”