End of the road for the classic off-roader
On Friday, the last classic Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line – 68 years after the first model was built.
The Defender was designed by Maurice Wilks, Rover’s chief engineer, who famously sketched his original design in the sand on an Anglesey beach for his brother Spencer, who was managing director of the Rover Company.
Maurice was inspired by the US Army’s Willy’s Jeep, a mass-produced military vehicle.
The car, which has enjoyed 33 years of continuous production, was Queen Elizabeth’s top choice of vehicle, along with fans Paul McCartney, Bill Murray, Sean Connery and even the computer game character, Lara Croft.
Two million of the off-road cars have been made since 1948, when the Series 1 arrived. It remained popular due to being trusty and reliable; and also for its power and performance.
However, the Defender has been stopped in its tracks due to European Union standards on vehicle emissions which will come into force in 2020, with Jaguar Land Rover unable or unwilling to upgrade the vehicle.
The Defender is largely hand-built in the firm’s Solihull factory. It takes around 56 hours to assemble, and is more expensive and time-consuming than many other vehicles.
Originally designed for farming and agricultural use, the off roader quickly became iconic, thanks to its functional yet fashionable design featuring a surplus of aluminium that was in abundance in post-war Britain.
Indian-owned Tata bought two loss-making British brands Jaguar and Land Rover in 2008. The company has since been quickly updating and expanding its upmarket Range Rover line-up, but will now turn its attention to the Defender model.
“Any conventional vehicle would have been replaced many times over in the lifespan of Defender. We’ve now got the technology, pioneering engineering capability and design expertise to evolve Defender,” a spokeswoman at Jaguar Land Rover told Reuters.
For fans of the Defender, all is not lost. In Iran, clones of the car are being built to the same specification as the old Series IV under the name of Morattab Pahzan.