Home' Motoring Plus : February 10th 2016 Contents 8 —THE NELSON MAIL Wednesday, February 10, 2016
End of line for iconic Defender
A moment of silence – or perhaps
some diesel clatter would be more
appropriate – as we mark the end of
Defender production after 68 years.
Even its greatest fans have had to
admit that the Defender is well out of
step with the modern world.
Celebrations included a parade of 25
of the most unusual and/or special
Defenders ever made.
More than 700 invited guests
gathered to send off the Defender on
January 29. Below: One part, the hood
cleat, has been used on every
Defender since 1948.
t’s the end of an era – perhaps
several eras. The last-ever
Land Rover Defender rolled
off the production line at the
company’s Solihull plant on
January 29, a very traditional 90
Heritage soft-top. It was a full-stop
after 68 years of manufacture for
the world’s most famous off-
To mark the occasion Land
Rover invited more than 700
current and former Solihull
employees involved in the
production of Series Land Rover
and Defender vehicles 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.
At the same time, Land Rover
announced a new Heritage
Restoration Programme, which
will be based on the site of the
existing Solihull production line.
A team of experts, including some
long serving Defender employees,
will oversee the restoration of a
number of Series Land Rovers
sourced from across the globe.
The first vehicles from this new
project will go on sale in July 2016.
The Defender Celebration in
Solihull saw more than 25 unique
vehicles from Land Rover’s
history come together in a
procession around the Solihull
plant, featuring the final current
Defender vehicle off the line. Land
Rover associates were joined by a
number of previous employees
from the past 68 years.
The last of the current
Defender vehicles includes an
original part that has been used
on soft top specifications since
1948 – the hood cleat.
The vehicle will be housed in
the Jaguar Land Rover Collection.
Land Rover fans are invited to
upload their most memorable
journeys ever undertaken in
Series Land Rover or Defender
vehicles via an upcoming online
Defender Journeys platform.
Effectively a digital scrapbook,
Land Rover aims to collate as
many stories as possible into this
online map, which users can view
More than two million Series
Land Rovers and Defenders have
been built in Solihull since 1948.
What began as simply a line
drawing in the sand has gone on
to become one of the world’s most
In 1948, the Series I went into
full production at Solihull. Post-
war Britain was struggling with a
shortage of steel, though
aluminium was in plentiful
supply for the bodyshells and the
country had vast manufacturing
Inspiration came from Spencer
and Maurice Wilks, two brothers
who had helped return the Rover
Company back into profitability
during the 1930s.
They had devised the Land
Rover as a vehicle primarily for
farming and agricultural use.
In 1958 the Series II brought
about a new design and engine
updates, including a new diesel
which remained in service until
the mid-1980s. Sales had reached
half a million by 1966, while
annual production peaked in 1971
with 56,000 units.
The vehicle got a new name in
1990 – Defender. By this time, the
Land Rover portfolio included the
Range Rover and the newly-
A new name was thought
necessary for a vehicle previously
only referred to by its wheelbase
length and Series number.
Part of the Land Rover’s appeal
came from the endless variants
that were created off the basic
platform, including models as
diverse as fire engines, truck-like
forward control vehicles, cherry
pickers and even an amphibious
Land Rover’s Heritage
comprises a team of 12 experts, 10
of whom will transfer over from
the existing production line. The
team has 172 years of combined
experience working on Defender
or Land Rover production.
One employee who will
transfer onto the programme,
Tony Martin, has worked at
Solihull all of his life, following in
the footsteps of his father and
grandfather; in effect, he will be
restoring some of the vehicles his
grandfather helped to build.
Land Rover has also
announced the upcoming launch
of its online ‘‘Defender Journeys’’
platform, which will allow the
legendary model to live-on in a
The innovative online hub will
allow owners to upload details of
their most memorable journeys in
a Series Land Rover or Defender.
The aim is to crowd source
journeys from Land Rover drivers
and plot them on a single online
map, preserving the memories of
amazing adventures that have
taken place in the iconic 4x4 for
The closure of the Solihull
production line will also bring an
end to Land Rover’s Celebration
Line exhibit, although this too
will live on.
The replica 1948 production
line has attracted more than
10,000 visitors in the last 12
months and charts the life of the
Land Rover Defender from its
origins in 1948 to the present day.
Enthusiasts can undertake the
full Defender production line tour
via a new online 360 degree
There will be a new Defender
in 2018, but it won’t be a retro
Nor will it be a single vehicle;
instead, Land Rover has stated it
will be a family of vehicles, just
like its Discovery and Range
Rover model lines.
❚ The original Series I Land
Rover cost £450 (NZ$989) in
1948. It was powered by a four-
cylinder 1.6-litre engine.
❚ Since 1948, 2,016,933 Series
Land Rovers and Defenders
have been built on the
production line at Solihull.
❚ More than 10,000 Land Rover
owners and visitors from
all over the world have
visited the Defender
line, in the 12
months since it
❚ Famous owners
include the Queen, Sir Winston
Churchill and actor Steve
❚ The world Land Rover
Experience operation was
formed in 1990, taking over
from the Demonstration Team
that had been set up by Roger
Crathorne to show the
exceptional talents of the
vehicle around the world.
❚ The Defender featured
heavily in the film Born Free
(1966) about the story of Elsa
the Lion. Defenders are still
used today by the Born Free
❚ Two original parts have been
fitted to all Soft
since 1948 –
❚ With 7000 parts, it took
56 hours to hand-build
every Defender, compared with
48 hours to build a Land Rover
❚ Associates have their own
nicknames for parts of the
vehicle; the door hinges are
known as ‘pigs ears’ and the
dashboard is the ‘lamb’s chops’.
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