Wednesday 10 February 2016
The very last Defender models are set to roll off the production line at Land Rover's manufacturing site in Solihull. As a tribute to this iconic workhorse, we look back at an off-road legend that has served a huge range of owners, from Queen Elizabeth II to Bryan Adams.
With an original design inspired by the US-built Jeep, the Land Rover boasted a lightweight aluminium body, bench seats, a canvas roof and most importantly, four-wheel drive capability. It's renowned for its rugged build, unrivalled off-road capability and dependability. Proud owners have included the SAS, Sir Winston Churchill and Fidel Castro. The model even played a starring role in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.
The Land Rover is one of the world's most recognisable 4x4s and has been a motoring icon for more than 65 years. The idea to create an all-purpose vehicle for farmers, industry users and people living in the countryside was conceived in 1947 by Maurice Wilkes and his brother Spencer at Red Wharf Bay on the island of Anglesey in North Wales.
On April 30, 1948 the first Land Rover Series I was unveiled, boasting an innovative gearbox with two ranges, high and low. The following year saw the British Army place its first orders and the vehicle soon saw service in theatres across the world from Kosovo to Iraq.
A long-wheelbase version of the Land Rover was released in 1953, followed by the introduction of the first diesel engine four years later. In 1958 the Series II was launched, offering more refined styling, and by 1959 the 250,000th model had rolled off the production line. The popularity of the Land Rover continued into the 1970s with the arrival of the Series III model, and by 1976 one million had been sold.
It wasn't until 1990 that the Defender name came into use, a move designed to prevent customers confusing the vehicle with the Land Rover Discovery. The title was retrospectively applied to the 90 and 110 models.
In 2015, production of three limited edition Defender models began – Heritage, Adventure and Autobiography – and a 1km-long outline of a Land Rover was carved into the sand off Anglesey, where the idea for such a vehicle was kindled back in 1947.
While production of the Land Rover Defender will end, the model that has been taken to the hearts of drivers across the world will continue to be a common sight thanks to the vehicle's reliability and straightforward mechanics.