The last Land Rover Defender has been built at Land Rover's Solihull factory, bringing to an end the car's astonishing 68-year history. As we remember the Defender, here's the time we took one used example further than it was ever designed to go...
Crossing the Atlantic ocean (sort of) in a Defender
Our Land Rover Defender is skipping along a single-track A-road at 30mph.
I flick the left-hand indicator and turn 90deg onto a rough track that leads down a shallow slope. Within moments, the engine’s persistent chuntering no longer dominates the cabin. It has been joined by the sound of splashing.
The road dissolves into saltwater and, in a heartbeat, we’ve reached the car’s stated wading limit of 500mm. But this Landie’s not for turning. There are two miles of North Atlantic ahead, and it’s about to get much, much deeper…
We first get acquainted at Edinburgh Airport. The car’s blue paint – which has softened from gloss to matt over the years – is slowly fraying into rust at the margins, and there are daft spotlights up top, but the ABCs of Defender are there: square-set, upright and effortlessly rugged-looking.
Land Rover shies away from the amphibious implications of the word ‘snorkel’, because the exposed plastic pipe is only really intended to keep dust out of the engine, but the ‘raised air intake’ – as it’s properly known – is sure to prove useful.
And probably not for the first time. Club stickers plastered around the Defender tell us that previous owners were enthusiasts, and that the car has spent at least some of its life clambering around the Isle of Skye.
Which, with photographer Stan Papior’s kit piled in the back, is exactly where we head first. It’s a long, long drive; 250 miles pass slowly when you’re limited to five forward gears and 60mph (a cruising speed at which the booming engine drowns out even road and wind noise). But the Defender doesn’t wander about as much as I’d expected, the ride is tenable and the brilliant Scottish summer sun illuminates the verdant, craggy and just plain massive landscapes we pass through en route to the northernmost tip of Skye.
It’s after 10pm when we weave through the Quiraing – eerie, ragged rock formations where locals used to hide their cattle from Vikings – and the sun sets a fluorescent pink as we reach our overnight stop.
Day two begins with a ferry crossing to the Outer Hebrides – the fragmented arc of wild islands that shield Scotland’s west coast from the North Atlantic tumult.