The last of the current Land Rover Defenders has rolled off the line at Solihull, marking the end of nearly 70 years of production. A replacement, and reportedly quite different, Defender is due to start production at the end of 2016.
For 68 years, the UK facility has produced Series Land Rovers (from inception in 1948 until 1985) and then Land Rover Defenders, and the company celebrated the end of the run (which it estimates at over 2 million, many of them still in service) with a line-off ceremony featuring 700 of the plant’s current and former employees.
The company took the opportunity to allow attendees to driver many of the models of classic vehicles they helped build and to announce it would undertake a new Heritage Restoration Programme that will restore classic Series vehicles from around the world, with the help and expertise of some long-serving employees, and get them ready for resale starting in July 2016.
Land Rover’s Heritage Restoration Programme will be lead by a team of 12 experts (with a combined 172 years of combined experience working on Land Rovers), 10 of whom will transfer over from the production line.
Among the vehicles taking part in the event were 25 unique historical models, including pre-production “Huey” Series I vehicles (which admittedly drew inspiration from the original Willys MB), as well as, of course, the last one off the line — a Defender 90 Heritage Soft Top, which will go to the Jaguar Land Rover Collection.
“Today we celebrate what generations of men and women have done since the outline for the Land Rover was originally drawn in the sand,” said Dr Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover. “The Series Land Rover, now Defender, is the origin of our legendary capability — a vehicle that makes the world a better place, often in some of the most extreme circumstances. There will always be a special place in our hearts for Defender, among all our employees, but this is not the end. We have a glorious past to champion, and a wonderful future to look forward to.”
Among the fun historical facts to come out of the event was a price comparison — the Defender 2,000,000 sold for a record £400,000 in 2015, a nearly 89,000% premium over the original £450 paid for first Land Rover at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show.
“The world has changed dramatically in the last 68 years, but this vehicle has remained a constant – something no other vehicle can claim,” said Nick Rogers, Group Engineering Director at Jaguar Land Rover. “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 Land Rover was the conceptual brainchild of the Wilks brothers, Spencer and Maurice, who wanted to create a vehicle primarily for agricultural applications, and found themselves taking advantage of Britain’s vast post-war manufacturing base to create aluminum-bodied vehicles (due to the post war shortage of steel). After three series, the name Defender was introduced in 1990 to better integrate it into the company stable that by that time included Range Rover and Discovery.
To commemorate the marque’s journey and its vehicles’ wide-reaching adventures (which have seen them at the hands of royalty and famous explorers, and taking some of the wildest terrain on the planet), the company revealed the creation of a “Defender Journeys” online hub, where visitors around the globe can share their memorable journeys in Series Land Rovers and Defenders.
Land Rover enthusiasts will also be able to undertake the full Defender production line tour via a new online virtual tool at defendertour.landrover.com