To mark this ‘retirement’, Land Rover is sending its icon out on a high, staging a series of commemorative events, launching three limited-production heritage models and auctioning the two millionth Defender, built a couple of months ago, off for charity.
Building the two millionth Defender was a more strung-out affair than usual, because the company invited several dozen Landie-driving luminaries to participate, everyone from company chief Ralf Speth and veteran Land Rover engineer Roger Crathorne to actress Virginia McKenna, who, after portraying animal conservationist Joy Adamson in the film Born Free, set up an Africa-based wild animal charity.
Others less prominent but equally keen were also invited, and one of them was your humble servant, given the job of helping to make and fit the two millionth bonnet.
Production line work is no picnic, especially when you must perform an operation 106 times a day with perfect attention to detail. Putting cars together takes strength, concentration, dexterity and brain strain, and there’s never any time to spare.
My job was to assist two operators, Jake Ainsworth and Adrian Lowe, to load a bonnet inner and outer into a welding rig, where they would be combined for ever by a series of blue flashes, then to fit the united structure with its distinctive hinges.
After that, we’d unite the finished assembly with its correct Defender body, which just happened to be crawling past on a moving base called a skid.