Production of the Land Rover Defender has ceased, but as a tribute to the no-nonsense, go-anywhere trailblazer we share some of our fondest memories.
A Defender is for… bringing the house down - James Ruppert
Some time in the 1980s there was a site to clear and a house to be demolished. The quotes for the work we were given were outrageous, so we went there in the family Series 3 (a pre, pre-Defender) all tooled up with sledgehammers and things. A large outhouse needed felling, too.
It seemed like a waste of energy to do it by hand when a four-wheel-drive vehicle was nearby. It didn’t have a winch or even a towbar, but it had a chassis and we’d packed chains.
If this had happened today, we’d have Periscoped, Instagrammed and YouTubed the hell out of the occasion. Instead we just got on with the business of felling a small house in about an hour or so without the botherisation of hard hats or much in the way of health and safety. Attach chain to RSJ. Accelerate. Job done.
A Defender is for… anything you can throw at it - Matt Prior
It’s 2007 and Land Rover is launching the 2.2-litre Puma-engined Defender, with the biggest raft of changes in years. We’re putting it through a full Autocar Road Test.
It’s not doing well. I like Defenders but under hard emergency braking the 90’s stability is particularly concerning.
Then our photographer arrives at Millbrook Proving Ground and starts shooting, and makes increasingly extreme demands to put the car into increasingly dramatic poses. Except that whatever we try to do, it doesn’t look dramatic at all.
“Can you wade that pond?” Sure. “Can you make the tyres scrabble up that hill with a wheel off the ground?” No, but I can just drive up it.
Whatever we chuck the Defender’s way, it simply shrugs its shoulders and gets on with it. Another gentle reminder that, whatever the compromises, if you get this car into its right habitat, it’s unbeatable.
A Defender is for… learning to drive - Steve Cropley
My ’81 Series III pick-up had the distinction of teaching a dozen kids to drive. We bought it as an MoT failure from a farming friend. Our village abuts a farm on which we were allowed to drive so when our two boys could reach the clutch at 11 or 12, the Landie taught them to drive.
It taught their friends, too. I became blasé about heading for the woods on Sunday afternoons, sitting on a rock, opening the paper, and letting them get on with it. Until, that is, one little lad hit a tree while struggling with the steering. It hardly marked the Landie, but it might have hurt the kids. After that, I took more care.
A Defender is for… scaling hills - Richard Bremner
The Defender wasn’t called a Defender when I first drove one back in 1977. It was a brand new 88in example, a short wheelbase hardtop working as a demonstrator at the Stoneleigh Agricultural Show near Warwick. The main element of the demonstration was a chance to experience a Land Rover’s prodigious hill-climbing abilities, by ascending a surprisingly steep and tall grass bank.
My chance came because I was a BL Cars trainee working in the exhibitions department, one of their number generously deciding that I should sample one of the company’s key attractions.
The instructor went first, to illustrate. You needed low-range and a bit of a run-up before you were suddenly seeing sky and little else through the Land-Rover’s windscreen. Once close to the top we stopped, he carefully engaged reverse and allowed the Land Rover to descend, very slowly, to the bottom.