Land Rover Legacy: End of production of the classic Defender
It is the end of an era for Jaguar Land Rover, who ceased production of their iconic Defender model on Friday. The Defender, a pioneering innovation of its time, had been in production for the last 68 years and was popular with many high-profile figures including the Beatles’ Paul McCartney, late actor Steve McQueen and even Queen Elizabeth II. In 1947, Rover’s engineering director, Maurice Wilks, sketched an idea for a new vehicle in the sand at a beach in Wales. He wanted to make a simple, versatile 4x4 that would be robust enough to withstand agricultural conditions. Wilks’ idea came to life in the form of the Land Rover Series I in 1948 and was renamed the ‘Defender’ in 1990. Although originally designed to be a farming vehicle, the Defender became an icon representative of British design.
The production of the vehicle officially came to an end on 29th January 2016, in a special celebration hosted by former Top Gear presenters Vicki Butler-Henderson and Quentin Wilson. A crowd of over 700 Land Rover fans, employees and special guests gathered to watch the final Defender roll off the production line. They were also entertained by a parade of past Land Rover vehicles, including a Defender that was specially adapted for the Lara Croft Tomb Raider film.
Nick Rogers, Group Engineering Director at Jaguar Land Rover, said:
"This is a special day of fond celebration for Jaguar Land Rover. We all have personal memories of Defender. It's a true motoring icon and is much loved around the world. The world has changed dramatically in the last 68 years, but this vehicle has remained a constant - something no other vehicle can claim. The last of the current Defender models embraces the vehicle's simplicity, honesty and charm - it represents its Series Land Rover heritage. Creating the Defender of tomorrow, a dream for any engineer or designer is the next exciting chapter and we are looking forward to taking on that challenge."
The Defender as we know it may have ceased production for now, but Land Rover is planning to replace it in the future. Inspired by modern life, it is likely to be followed by a more consumer-friendly model, designed for carrying passengers rather than for agriculture.
But it’s not quite time to lay the original Land Rover to rest, as its legacy will live on in the form of a Heritage Restoration program in Solihull. A team of experts will be restoring and selling the Defender and older Series models, so enthusiasts will still be able to get their hands on the iconic vehicle in the future.
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