By on January 29, 2016

LR_DEF_Celebration_Event_290116_04

The last Land Rover Defender rolled off the line Friday at the Solihull, UK facility, according to the automaker.

The wildly uncomfortable, loud and grandfather to all Land Rovers will live on, albeit in name only — the next-generation Defender is already in the works.

The final Land Rover Defenders shared two common parts with the first Series Land Rover, according to the automaker: the hood cleats and underbody support strut. Which is two parts more than I expected would have survived from the originals.

Like the Willys Jeep, the Series I Land Rover was borne out of military surplus and barn-door aerodynamics. And like Jeep, Land Rover spins the thin thread back to the original. The Defender changed significantly in 1990, and the original Series I, II and III models were updated significantly in the 1980s to become the 90, 110 and 130s. Not much on a Jeep is the same from 1941.

But reality has a way of spoiling nostalgia, so let’s forget all that — and the fact that the new Defender will probably look a helluva lot like the old one — and celebrate the last Defender off the line at Solihull.

It’s unclear where the new Defender will be made — either in Slovakia or Austria. The last production line at Solihull will become a heritage line for a handful of workers to restore older Land Rovers.

The end of Solihull is almost certainly the beginning for the new Defender’s almost-certain future in North America and other big SUV markets going forward. The timing probably couldn’t be any better for JLR.

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29 Comments on “2,016,932 Land Rover Defenders Have Been Built So Far, And Then This Last One...”


  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    It’s a pity these vehicles are destined for the dump and will no longer be manufactured.

    LR is more iconic than Jeep outside of the US and particularly in many countries within the British Commonwealth.

    I wonder if a replacement will one day be made? I hope so.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The new one will supposedly be built for sale in first world markets. Ensuring it will be at minimum a few orders of magnitude further removed from the needs of “Africa.”

      Engineering for comfortable, quiet, safe, fuel efficient, “stylish” and clean at 85 down the interstate on 93+ octane gas or “super low ultra clean polished vetted and kosher” diesel; with mom, pop, two kids in obligatory child seats and a “rescued” dog visiting daddy’s City office, overlaps virtually not at all with African guerrilla warfare on bombed out roads.

      As such third world family car classics as the HiLux has demonstrated, you can fit many more kids, animals, belt guns and other tools of a well lived life on an open bed than in child seats. And even a Baja racer can’t get to 85 in many places without completely disintegrating upon reaching the first bomb crater. Nor can they be easily fixed with mud based glue and caulk, when they happen to find themselves too close to the process of building said craters.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        stuki,
        Like the Wrangler, the Defender was quite an agricultural beast.

        To maintain it’s simple and great off road creed will be impossible with a new civilised version. To achieve this will cost, similar to a G Wagen.

        As for you attempt at a slur regarding the Hilux as a third world vehicle is entertaining to say the least.

        The Hilux is very refined in comparison to a Defender or Wrangler, even a 70 Series Landcruiser is a little more refined. Toyota is able to sell the Hilux in those markets along with Patrols, Landcruisers, Pajeros, etc because they are reliable and stronger than most US equivalents and the access to diesel is easier.

        Diesel can keep for longer periods than gasoline and is less of a risk when stored.

        What made the Defender attractive is the same qualities that make the Wrangler attractive in the US market. Simplicity and the “look at me” factor for the wannabe suburban hairdresser urbanites.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          No attempt at slurring the HiLux at all. It’s fantastic. But the reason it can straddle the third and first worlds, is because first world truck buyers are, to a much greater extent than Luxury SUV buyers, OK with roughness around the edges. Except for in the US, where light duty trucks are just another SUV. Which is why Toyota doesn’t even bother with the HiLux here, instead marketing less “Africa worthy” models.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Question: Do LR’s other products which are already sold in world markets meet the needs of “Africa”? The reason I ask is if this product were crude but effective, and the other products are not “tough enough” for African terrain, you cede whatever market you had in Africa and wherever else the cruder but effective product found a home. If this market weren’t large enough to justify a real replacement then I understand the business move.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Now the question is: will this particular Defender appreciate in value?

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    *Tear*

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    I’ve always loved Land Rovers. Literally. One of my earliest memories is of a Series II that my Dad borrowed when I was 2 or 3 years old.

    Never drive your dream cars.

    I test drove an ex-British Army LHD Defender (probably from Germany), and hated it. I couldn’t get the seat back far enough because army Rovers have a bulkhead behind the front seats, so I had to stand to use the clutch. The thing drove like a pig, was as loud as a jackhammer, and it was slow enough to be unsafe on paved roads. It was also built like a tin can. The doors are just a thin sheet of aluminum stretched over 4 crudely joined tubes.

    Too bad, I had the money, and I’d always wanted one.

    I gather that the civilian versions were more sophisticated, but not by much. They were still relics from the 1940s that never benefited from modern engineering.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The tin can, or tent, top is obligatory. You need ground clearance, mandating your canopy be up high. And you need a narrow track, to share “roads” with narrow tracked carts. With any more mass up there than minimally required to protect you from torrential rain, you’ll roll on off camber sections, or when hitting a one-side-only bump at above walking speed.

      Just one more reason why the idea that a car well suited for “Africa,” will ever be even remotely suited for looking romantic while carting a collector’s Leica to and from the City of London, will forever remain completely ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      heavy handle,
      The 110s and 130s in comparison to the old orignal LR’s are almost chalk and cheese.

      It’s like comparing an orignal Willy’s Jeep to a modern day Wrangler.

      The 130 is quite large by anyone’s standard. They are the size of a Tacoma when in a long wheel base version as a ute.

      The ride is questionable by today’s standards as well, but so it a Wrangler.

      I would rather own a 130 any day of the week over a Wrangler. I would be tempted to travel to more remote areas in a LR than a Wrangler as well.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Big Al,

        The one I drove was a 110, with an early 1990s production date, and a full Army refurb in the late 90s. Quite a few have shown-up in Canada, as they are surplus in the UK and too young to be imported into the US.

        I guess they make sense if your “remote area” is in Australia or South Africa. For anything within driving distance of my home, I would prefer a Wrangler or a 4wd pickup. No need for ear plugs, seats made for reasonably tall people, comfortable and smooth ride, modern safety features!

  • avatar
    -Nate

    A sad thing but I imagine they’re were not selling enough of them to make a profit .

    Uncle Bill had an early (*very* early) SWB one , I remember it was rather loud inside but we didn’t mind back then , Jeeps didn’t even have doors back then .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Nate,
      I think your are correct to a degree, but also vehicle safety and FE come into play as well.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        I know but LAND ROVER ya know ? =8-) .

        I spent much more time in a Korean War vintage Willys M38A1 , I loved it and always thought some day I’d buy an old Jeep or land Rover (I miss you Uncle bill !) but in reality I’d almost certainly enjoy a Lad Niva more and I’d still only use it occasionally on hard pack dirt / sand roads where 4X4 isn’t necessary .

        For a while there you could buy really clean ex British Army Defenders , mostly the two door panel (radio rig ?) versions for $,1000 ~ $2,000 and i still didn’t bite .

        I guess I’ll never own another 4X4 vehicle =8-( .

        I’m still sad these Defenders are quitting production .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          jim brewer

          Good post Nate, thanks.

          Aren’t you glad that the last one is in that no-nonsense shade of green?

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Yes because green is right and proper for it .

            Left to me , it’d also have a four cylinder Diesel engine because it’s a tool , designed to work not look pretty at the shopping mall .

            =8-) .

            -Nate

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I had a rotted out wreck of a Series III, but I learned to drive on a RHD Series II. Love them all.

    My current P38 Range Rover is closer in evolution to one of these than it is to the current Range Rovers, and I like it that way.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    My favorite vehicle ever.

  • avatar
    craiger

    I had no idea they still made these. Mind blown.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    By God, those are proper wheels and tires!

  • avatar
    ect

    According to a BBC report, 70% of all Land Rovers ever made are still in use. That alone is remarkable.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-35436741

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      ect,
      70% seems high, maybe in the UK, but I do believe there are many examples of LR’s still in use that are decades old.

      I actually don’t see many LR’s of any description off roading. You do see them in the Outback touring.

      Like the Wrangler I think most were sold to the “look at me” types nowadays.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      When people say that they are still in use, I think they mean that they haven’t been crushed. You see a lot of old Rovers that need complete renovations, including new frames. Their aluminum bodies aren’t rusted (they do suffer from galvanic corrosion where AL and FE meet), but everything else is barely salvageable.

  • avatar
    Garak

    These are useless compared to an UAZ or even a Lada Niva. Too big and fat for swampy terrain, and as bad ergonomically as those Russian lumps.

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    What a great run, sad to see the end of the line for these. I owned a ’68 IIa for a few years. Driving it was…agricultural, to be kind. But, with the canvas top rolled up and the dog in the back, it was a lot of fun to hit the beach in the summer.

  • avatar
    malikknows

    I got issued a brand new one to drive in Bosnia in 1999. I was dismayed by how crappy it was. I had always lusted after them and was heartbroken to find it such an awfully made POS. Handling and ergonomics aside, mine had an air conditioner that leaked water all over the feet of the front seat passenger, and when you shut the vehicle down, it whined for minutes as it decompressed. Amazing. In 1999!

    The lack of competition to Jeep by either LR or Toyota is interesting to me. I’d snap up a modern FJ40 with Toyota truck quality in a heartbeat. Sorry to see the Defenders go, though, but I’m not at all surprised. For the money they were a terrible vehicle, imho.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Best Land Rover (and best Queen?) story, from former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sherard Cowper-Coles:

    “You are not supposed to repeat what the Queen says in private conversation. But the story she told me on that occasion was one that I was also to hear later from its subject – Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia – and it is too funny not to repeat.

    Five years earlier, in September 1998, Abdullah had been invited up to Balmoral, for lunch with the Queen. Following his brother King Fahd’s stroke in 1995, Abdullah was already the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. After lunch, the Queen had asked her royal guest whether he would like a tour of the estate. Prompted by his Foreign Minister, the urbane Prince Saud, an initially hesitant Abdullah agreed. The royal Land Rovers were drawn up in front of the castle. As instructed, the Crown Prince climbed into the front seat of the front Land Rover, with his interpreter in the seat behind.

    To his surprise, the Queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off. Women are not – yet – allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen. His nervousness only increased as the Queen, an Army driver in wartime, accelerated the Land Rover along the narrow Scottish estate roads, talking all the time. Through his interpreter, the Crown Prince implored the Queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead.


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