The morning started early. It has long been arranged that the Land Rover faithful would pass through the famous gates of 'The Home of the Legend' by 7.15am, to be marshalled into place beside the longest-surviving production line on JLR's mighty Solihull estate to witness the final build of the last dozen Defenders that would ever be made.

Organisers swirled about and bacon rolls were plentiful, but no one really knew how it would go, or who would turn up. But it swiftly became clear that far more people would be on hand than were initially expected - and that the ruling mood, at least until the last car's last moment, would be celebratory.

Sixty-eight years of production was, after all, a supreme achievement. People swirled about, the line began to roll at about half-speed and the last few assembly operations began on the most famous dozen Defenders of modern times.

The cars crawled along, and as they did, technicians at the head of the process were gradually freed from jobs. First they carefully replaced their tools in racks for the last time, then they joined the throng watching the last car - a green Heritage 90 - proceed slowly on its way.

The crowd kept growing. Every time someone completed an important task, such as the fitting of a bonnet, the crowd would cheer. At the end of the line, every so often there'd be the toot of a horn, the blip of an engine, and a completed car would drive off to begin the process of being united with its owner.

When it came to the last car, the crowd was huge and so were the cheers. Lumps came suddenly to throats.

A few eyes looked distinctly watery. Luckily that last car didn't just disappear from view, though, for it was to be the star of a last hurrah in front of 1000 onlookers, all treated to a brief history of Land Rover, some film of the icon's greatest days and copious assurances by CEO Dr Ralf Speth that this was merely a pause in the Defender's life. It would reappear as a family, not just a car, although on detail he was characteristically vague. However the gist seems to be that we won't be seeing production cars before 2019.

The whole thing concluded with a parade through the factory of old and new Landies, headed as you'd expect by the first-ever Land Rover, the famous HUE166, and comprising show cars and fire engines, forestry trucks and all manner of other weird machinery recognisable as Land Rovers or (since 1990) Defenders.

I travelled in Car Two - behind Ralf Speth and Roger Crathorne in HUE - and I was driven by the owner, a nice 58-year-old bloke called Tim Dines. This was the third-ever Landie, which he had owned since he was 16. He paid £200 for it, because of its provenance, when the going rate for an early Landie was £30.

The parade ended too soon, as these things tend to, at Solihull's Land Rover experience centre, with owners and enthusiasts swapping all the stories they've told one another before, but mainly enjoying the ambience. Everyone agreed that Land Rover - and especially the Defender - carries a special aura, and that come what may it must not be lost.