It is the end of an era for a British automotive icon favored by the Queen of England herself.
This week, the last Land Rover Defender, number 2,016,933, rolled off the assembly line in Britain after seven decades of production.
More than 700 current and former Land Rover employees were on hand for the big event in Solihull. Land Rover also announced a new Heritage Restoration Programme, which will be based on the site of the existing Solihull production line.
The Defender is going away because it simply isn’t economical to build them anymore with today’s new safety and emissions standards. In the end, the Defender couldn’t evolve in its present form.
The original prototype was built in 1947 post-war Britain and dubbed simply the Land Rover. The design was inspired by the Willys Jeep, hence the boxy shape. After it debuted, the model took on a life of its own and became popular faster than you can blink an eye. At first, it was only supposed to have a shelf-life of a few years. The whole idea was to sell a few of them to bring in some cash to support building Rover’s mainstream models. But the Defender had other ideas when demand skyrocketed.
It finally became known officially as the Defender in 1990, when Land Rover started expanding its line-up with mainstream products like the Discovery and Freelander. More than two million were built by the time the last one rolled off the line this week.
As you might imagine, replacing an icon isn’t easy. So we’re not likely to see one for a few years, but Land Rover says its team is working on it.
In the meantime, Land Rover’s Heritage Restoration programme will see the Series Land Rover and Defender’s name continue at Solihull. A team of twelve experts, ten from the existing production line, will lead the project. It will initially begin with the restoration and sale of early Series Land Rovers.