It’s got no spoilers, it’s as aerodynamic as a bungalow, it’s as slow as a week in the jail and leaks more than Julian Assange - but we still love it. LRO has felt the world change over the last 24 hours with the passing of our Land Rover Defender, sounding the death knell for global motoring icons as the final throwback to our British motoring heritage ceases production. The original Mini fell by the wayside back in 2000, the VW Beetle wrapped up in 2003 and the Citroën 2CV was laid to rest back in 1990. Now, the final icon standing, the Land Rover Defender is dead.
It may not go fast and it may not be all-that comfortable - but what did we love about the world’s favourite box on wheels? Besides being classless enough to mask any of your lifestyle choices, the Land Rover was cheeky, versatile and tireless. Winston Churchill was rather fond of his, as was the Queen of her impressive collection. No matter your position in life, you can always slide out of a Defender or Series and look proper.
From the Series I of 1948 straight through to the final 2016 Defender, the humble Land Rover captured the spirit of adventure and provided rugged dependability to millions of people.
But why is it so great? Well, in a nutshell, Defenders and Series Land Rovers have only ever done important things. It’s become woven into our DNA, always there when you need it and always getting you home - even if a few parts fell off en route. No matter where you are, chances are that for almost every day of your life, there has been one within close proximity doing something imperative for someone.
From taking pregnant mothers through snowstorms to hospital, carting mountain rescue teams up impossible gradients, helping to preserve the rarest of animals from extinction to providing our military with transport and helping to explore and map the world, if the Land Rover was a person, it would be the love child of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft.
And yet, it asks for nothing in return - bar a service and some fuel. So, as we grieve for our lost comrade, each member of Land Rover Owner shares their thoughts on the passing of the greatest vehicle ever to grace our presence:
'It's not the end of the Defender in its current form that upsets me the most, it's the near-certain death of the Land Rover as a small truck. I really hope the replacement fills its indestructible steel-toe-capped boots...'
- Mike Goodbun, Editor, Land Rover Owner International
‘For many months of the year it carries my kit and provisions; I live out of it, sleep on top of it and make cups of tea on its wingtops. It takes me to, and gets me out of places, I wouldn’t attempt to drive in any other vehicle. There are times when it truly surprises me as to just how good and uncomplaining it is. I know I can truly rely upon it.
The Defender is a tough act for Land Rover to follow, to improve on an icon and take it into another era. I’m sure that they can build a replacement that’s strong, reliable and capable – but better in the areas where even us diehard Defender fans have to admit the old stager has fallen behind. There will be a ready market for high-value premium-spec versions, but I hope they deliver on the promise to build rugged, go-anywhere examples as well. To build a replacement that’s worthy of the Defender name.’
- John Pearson, Editor in Chief
‘When Series I production ended, Series II came right in behind it, likewise with the Series III, it followed on from the IIA. I'm still really puzzled about JLR's apparent decision to leave a large gap between the last Defender and whatever, if anything replaces it. Goodbye Land Rover. You will be missed.’
- Mark Saville, Assistant Editor
‘The Defender is an analogue vehicle in a digital age; it was inevitable the day would come when UK production would stop. Is it the end of an era? Definitely. Should we be sad? Possibly. But with the enthusiastic following the Defender has, it's not going to disappear from the byways of the UK, or tracks and trails around the world any time soon.’
- Neil Watterson, Deputy Editor
‘What a shame to see Defender ceasing production after 67 years. I much prefer round numbers. All joking aside, although I have never actually owned one, I have fallen in love with the fleet of muddy pups standing proud in the LRO car park. Farwell you oil-stained hero.’
- Pam Webster, LRO’s Editorial Assistant
‘The best I can do is to compare it to the passing of a great celebrity who’s been in the background of your life for as long as you can remember. Think of David Bowie, John Lennon, or (if you’re old enough) Winston Churchill. Although the icon has gone, the memories and the greatness remain undimmed.’
- James Taylor, Contributor
‘Above all, I’ll miss the Defender’s innate ability to attract urban city dwellers who want a modified one for road specification and festoon it with all sorts of bling. That means it’s easy to spot fools easily separated from their money, and as such I can find a ready supply of customers for my bespoke confectionery shop with a similar ethos to completely ruining such versatile vehicles. I call it Chocolate Teapot.’
- Nathan Chadwick, Senior Sub Editor
‘There will never be another vehicle like it; I personally don’t see the replacement being able to fill the original’s well-worn but ever dependable boots. I hope it does, but part of the charm of the Defender was its agricultural nature and simplicity, both things that the new one won’t be able to fulfill. Although that’s down to legislation forcing Land Rover’s hand.
A sad day indeed, but all good things must come to an end.’
- Martin Domoney, Workshop Writer
‘Apart from the sudden comprehension that I will never again be able to get my hands on a brand new specimen, we will never lose the Defender as we currently know it, really. People love them, organizations love them, film crews love them. So long as we remain passionate about these sturdy beasts, they won’t be disappearing from our roads anytime soon. Long live the king!’
- Calum Brown, Web Content Producer
‘For me, this is the day the Defender ceases being a living legend and becomes a relic, an emblem for a fading era. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but like most of us, I won't forgive Land Rover if the next Defender strays too far from its roots. Hopefully they'll beat the odds by finding a way to breathe life into the Defender in the way that Jeep is doing with the Wrangler for 2017, sticking with a body-on-steel-chassis design, beam axles etc. Isn't the Wrangler proof that the next Defender doesn't need to abandon these principles in order to sell in high volumes?’
- Theo Ford-Sagers, Senior Writer
‘I've only been immersed in the world of Defenders for a short time, but it’s clear to see the joy and happiness that owning a Defender brings to people all over the world. The most reassuring thing for me is that as long as these people exist, then the Defender will never die.’
- Josh Kelsall, LRO’s Graduate Writer
'Bizarrely – given that the passing of the Series/Defender era has been dominating the Land Rover agenda for months now – I don't think the significance of it all has sunk in with me yet, even though D-Day is now upon us. I think my primary feeling is sadness that a proper, chunky, obvious replacement isn't ready and waiting to provide a seamless transition (The King Is Dead. Long Live The… oh, hang on).
You even hear the phrase 'Land Rover' being bandied about in the rarefied world of BBC documentaries, where any hint of product placement or endorsement would normally result in questions in The House and calls for the licence fee to be abolished. That's because it's a phrase that has become regarded as part of everyday language.
And that, I would suggest, is the Defender's defining legacy.'
- Rob McCabe, LRO Production Editor
'Waving goodbye to the Defender does feel like loosing an exceptional friend: we shared so many trips and superb family trips "with him" - I mean ‘with it.
Yet, with more independent specialists rebuilding Defenders to as-new conditions than ever, the actual ‘end’ of the Defender is not coming anytime soon.'
- Jérôme André, Europe Editor.
‘Many Land Rover enthusiasts are uncomfortable with change, but in the automotive industry it is as inevitable as the shifting of the seasons. I remember the negativity to Ninetys and One-Tens from die-hards when they were first released. 'That's not a real Land Rover', 'Those silly plastic wheel arches will melt if you park too close to the campfire', etc. But now they are globally adored and referred to as iconic. It was inevitable that production would end one day. I'm sad to see it go, but it has continued for about five years longer than I expected.’
- Russ Brown, Clubs Editor
'Exciting to see what the new Defender will be like and how the market will take to it. End of en era. Sad times but the future ultimately looks bright.'
-Karen Elliot, Art Director
‘As I write these words, I feel genuinely emotional while chiding myself that a simple hunk of metal shouldn’t mean so much. But it does and when the last one rolls off the line. I suspect there will not a dry eye to be seen. It will be a real moment of history, the last of a direct line back to 1948 and the first Land-Rover. It saved the Rover Company then from almost certain collapse and now gives its name to Britain’s most successful motor manufacturer.
Further afield, the Defender has brought us massive export income and has brought succour to millions working with aid agencies.’
- Mike Gould, Contributor