You've read all about the three run-out special edition models of the Defender for 2015. But unless you've been following Facebook assiduously over the last couple of days, you won't have read about the Defender Celebration Line.
So, what's the Celebration Line? It's a new feature that forms part of the Solihull factory tours, and it's a cracking idea. Built between the product lines in Block 1 and so surrounded by the noise and bustle of Defender assembly, it's a self-contained exhibition and re-creation of the way the 80-inch assembly line would have looked in 1949. You clock in, an old-style factory punch clock printing the arrival time on your ticket, walk through the doors and... it's 1949 again.
OK, it's a clever illusion, but it works. The first thing you'll see is a line of three 80-inch chassis, each one slightly more complete than the last, on a recreated assembly line. You move on past a genuine Rover Company designer's drawing-board to a special area where you'll find out all about the men who designed the original Land Rover. A bit further round there's a near-complete 80-inch, and then you can sit in another one that performs the famous 30-degree tilt test without falling over (it's chained to the floor for safety, though, just in case!).
All round this exhibition, there are photographs, memorabilia, and even a huge display cabinet with models of the Defender and its predecessors right back to the beginning. It's a stunning visual feast, and we thoroughly recommend it. It's so obviously been put together by enthusiasts, most drawn from within the company itself, that we can only applaud what Land Rover have done.
It sounds like we're not alone in our enthusiasm, too. Land Rover put a teaser about it on Facebook on the evening of Thursday 8th January. By Monday 12th, they had recorded 60,000 hits – and the booking site for factory tours had been so overloaded that it crashed over the weekend.
What more can we tell you? Well, we know that the usual suspects got involved in its creation – people like Roger Crathorne, Phil Bashall, Michael Bishop and our own James Taylor. We know, too, that the original inspiration came from Roger Crathorne, who dreamed up the idea 17 years ago for the 50th Anniversary but had to sit on it until the end of Defender production presented a glorious opportunity.
The Celebration Line will form part of the factory tours throughout 2015. We understand that there are plans for it after that, but Land Rover's not saying what they are.