The last Land Rover Defender has rolled off the firm’s production line in Solihull today, 68 years after the iconic off-roader first went on sale.
Over its incredible lifespan, the Defender has been sold across the world, earning a reputation for reliability and ruggedness, as well as a go-anywhere spirit.
Few other cars have managed to attract drivers from such a wide variety of backgrounds. Owners have ranged from members of the Royal Family to farmers and the military. It’s a testament to the Defender’s broad appeal and diverse range of talents.
In the 21st century, the car’s old-school character has become a big part of its charm, and there’s little doubt the Defender is comfortably ranked among the most iconic vehicles of all time.
Land Rover plans to build a replacement for the Defender as early as 2018. Details are slim, but the firm has suggested the new car will be significantly more cost effective to produce and far more efficient to run than the original.
To mark the end of the original Defender’s production life, we followed the very last cars as they were built in Solihull. Autocar editor in chief Steve Cropley and head of video Matt Prior were both on location to follow the last cars along the line.
Arriving in Solihull, Cropley said many of Land Rover's faithful fans had gathered to see the last Defenders being built. "There's a strangely festive air," says Cropley, "rather than any sadness. 'Old faithful' has plenty of friends."
Once inside, Prior had this to say: "Such is the way Defenders are built they've been on the line for a couple of days already, line workers left with nothing to build slowly trailing down the line behind them.
"It's worth remembering what has brought us here. Age has finally caught up with the Land Rover. Were it not for a loyal following that has kept the line bubbling along at around 18,000 cars a year it would have happened years ago.
"This morning the final 15 cars, a mix of short and long wheelbase cars, the final one a 90 in Heritage spec - a soft top like the very first Land Rover [pictured below]. And then it'll be done, until its replacement. But more on that another time."
The final 10 cars to come off the line are listed below, demonstrating the continued diversity of the Defender line-up:
110 station wagon, 110 pick up, 90 station wagon, 110 SW, 90 SW, 110 double-cab pick up, 90 station wagon (Heritage spec), 110 SW, 90 SW, 90 pick up.
The very last model to be built was in fact the 2,016,933rd Defender. Some 9000 parts go into each model, and a 110 Station Wagon takes 15 hours to assemble in a poduction process which involves 550 people.