Farewell to an icon: The last Land Rover

Friday, January 29. A momentous day for Land Rover.

Friday, 29th January 2016, 10:32 am
Updated Friday, 29th January 2016, 10:39 am
Will you be sad to see the Defender go?

After 67 years of production and more than two million sales, the Land Rover Defender, which means so much to so many, is no more.

With the possible exception of the Volkswagen Beetle and the Mini, no other vehicle in history has captured the public’s imagination in the same way.

It has transported troops into battle, explorers to the far corners of the world and been the mainstay of the emergency services.

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Heads of state have been carried in Defenders - our own queen has often been seen behind the wheel and Winston Churchill was a fan. It has even had starring roles in a number of Hollywood blockbusters.

To the casual observer, there seems little to differentiate the very early leaf-sprung model, launched in 1948 at the Amsterdam Motor Show as a basic utility vehicle in the austere years following the Second World War, from the very last one that will roll off the production line today.

But in these intervening years there has been many changes. The most significant of which is that leaf springs were replaced by coils in 1983 - a decision that still divides Land Rover enthusiasts behind strict demarcation lines - and that selectable four-wheel-drive was replaced by permanent four-wheel-drive in 1984.

Editor of Classic Land Rover magazine John Carroll said: "For longer than most of us have been alive, the Land Rover has been a constant.

"Strangers have told me about driving Land Rovers on the farm they grew up on, a National Serviceman recalled driving one in Aden, Americans have said how they wanted one after seeing them in the pages of the National Geographic, a former squaddie told me about being in the back of one in Belfast, a bloke in a Barnsley pub remembered driving one while working on the construction of the M62.

"I’ve heard these and a 1,001 other stories in which the Land Rover is the common ground and illustrates it as one of the few constants in post-war motoring."

Land Rover said they had to pull the plug on Defender in part because it fell foul of legislation by the European Council and Parliament to bring in stricter measures for new car emissions which the vehicle just couldn’t meet.

Parts will continue to be manufactured for Defenders for 15 years, five years longer than legislation dictates, and a model to replace the Defender is planned. But details are being kept very firmly under wraps, for now.