Land Rover Defender

reaches end of the

road

Land Rover Defender, final model
Land Rover Defender, final model, crowd
Land Rover Defender, final model, front
Land Rover Defender, final model, side
Land Rover Defender, final model, back
Land Rover Defender, final model, rear
Land Rover Defender 2,000,000, side
Land Rover Defender, centre steer prototype
Defender drawing at Red Wharf Bay
Land Rover Defender 2,000,000 sale, original Land Rover, HUE 166

MORE than two million have been built and over the past 68 years it has become a landmark of British motoring.

Now the last Land Rover Defender has come off the production line bringing to a close a legend which began with a drawing in the sand on a Welsh beach.

Its go-anywhere credentials have been admired around the world and famous owners have included the Queen, Sir Winston Churchill and actor Steve McQueen.

To mark the occasion Land Rover invited more than 700 current and former employees to watch the last model come off the line at the Solihull factory where 2,016,933 Series Land Rovers and Defenders have been built since 1948.

The event also included a parade of historic models including the first pre-production ‘Huey' Series l which drove in a cavalcade around the Lode Lane works in Solihull.

And to mark the historic moment the final vehicle - a Defender 90 Heritage Soft Top - bore the registration plate H166 HUE in tribute to the HUE 166 number of the original.

Dr Ralf Speth, chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, said: "Today we celebrate what generations of men and women have done since the outline for the Land Rover was originally drawn in the sand.

"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."

Nick Rogers, group engineering director at Jaguar Land Rover, added: "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."

Land Rover also announced that it was setting a new Heritage Restoration Programme, which will be based on the site of the existing Solihull production line where 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 will go on sale in July 2016.

In the years since its creators Maurice and Spencer Wilks first sketched out their ideas in the sands of Red Wharf Bay on Anglesey just after the Second World War, Land Rover has become the world's leader of 4x4 models and its vehicles are sold in almost 200 countries.

The Series l Land Rover earned the accolade of being the most versatile vehicle on the planet, capable of taking owners to the places other vehicles couldn't reach.

In 2015, a unique milestone Defender - the ‘Defender 2,000,000' sold for a record £400,000 - a far cry from the original £450 the first Land Rover sold for at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show.

In 1948, the Series I went into full production at Solihull. Post-war Britain was struggling with a shortage of steel, thoughaluminium was in plentiful supply for the bodyshells andthe country had vast manufacturing capacity.

The Wilks brothers, who had helped return the Rover Company back into profitability during the 1930s, devised the Land Rover as a vehicle primarily for farming and agricultural use. They could not have predicted the global impact their vehicle would have.

Changes followed and in 1958 the Series II brought about a new design and engine updates, including an advanced diesel engine 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. During the 1970s, the Series III continued to sell as well as its predecessor, a testament to its enduring appeal.

The vehicle earned a new name in 1990 - Defender. By this time, the Land Rover portfolio included the Range Rover and the newly-launched Discovery. A new name was fitting 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, lorry-like Forward Control vehicles, cherry pickers and even an amphibious car capable of floating on water.

Over its 68 year history, it has been a vehicle driven by everyone from farmers and famous explorers, to royalty.

The original Series I Land Rover was powered by a four cylinder 1.6-litre engine with just 50 horsepower and the Defender became a movie star when it featured heavily in the film Born Free in 1966 about the story of Elsa the Lion.

Defenders are still used today by the Born Free Foundation and its founder, Virginia McKenna and her son, Will Travers who were among a team of VIPs who fitted parts to the Defender 2,000,000.

With 7,000 parts it takes 56 hours to hand build every Defender, compared to the 48 hours to build Land Rover's latest model, the Discovery Sport and over the years Land Rover workers have come up with their own nick names for parts of the vehicle such as ‘pigs ears' for the door hinges and the dashboard is the ‘lamb's chops'.

Even now two original parts remain and have been fitted to all Soft Top Series Land Rovers and Defenders since 1948 - the hood cleats and the underbody support strut.

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