Jaguar Land Rover has built the last Land Rover Defender at its Solihull plant, ending production of a vehicle that can trace its history back 68 years. The company affirmed that it was looking ahead to designing and engineering a successor, New Defender.
To mark the occasion Land Rover invited more than 700 current and former Solihull employees to see and drive some of the most important vehicles from the Defender’s history, including the first pre-production ‘Huey’ Series I, and the last vehicle off the production line, a Defender 90 Heritage Soft Top.
Dr Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Today we celebrate what generations of men and women have done since the outline for the Land Rover was originally drawn in the sand. The Series Land Rover, now Defender, is the origin of our legendary capability, a vehicle that makes the world a better place, often in some of the most extreme circumstances. There will always be a special place in our hearts for Defender, among all our employees, but this is not the end. We have a glorious past to champion, and a wonderful future to look forward to.”
Nick Rogers, Group Engineering Director at Jaguar Land Rover, added: “This is a special day of fond celebration for Jaguar Land Rover. We all have personal memories of Defender. It’s a true motoring icon and is much loved around the world. The world has changed dramatically in the last 68 years, but this vehicle has remained a constant – something no other vehicle can claim. The last of the current Defender models embraces the vehicle’s simplicity, honesty and charm – it represents its Series Land Rover heritage. Creating the Defender of tomorrow, a dream for any engineer or designer, is the next exciting chapter and we are looking forward to taking on that challenge.”
The Defender Celebration in Solihull saw more than 25 vehicles from Land Rover’s history come together in a procession around the Solihull plant, featuring the final current Defender vehicle off the line, which includes an original part that has been used on Soft Top specifications since 1948 – the hood cleat. The vehicle will be housed in the Jaguar Land Rover Collection.
More than two million Series I, II and III Land Rovers and Defenders have been built in Solihull, UK since the car was first launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948. After the Series II and III models incorporated a number of refinements to the original design, the vehicle earned a new name in 1990 – Defender – in a range rounded out at that time with the range Rover and then-new Discovery.
Over the years, endless variants were created off the basic platform, including models as diverse as fire engines, lorry-like Forward Control vehicles, cherry pickers and even an amphibious car capable of floating on water. Over its 68 year history, it has been a vehicle driven by everyone from farmers and explorers, to royalty. Famous owners include the Queen, Sir Winston Churchill and the actor Steve McQueen.
As Defender production ends, Land Rover has also announced a new Heritage Restoration Programme, which will be based on the site of the existing Solihull production line. A team of experts, including some long-serving Defender employees, will oversee the restoration of a number of Series Land Rovers sourced from across the globe. The first vehicles will go on sale in July 2016.
Tim Hannig Jaguar Land Rover Heritage Director said: “Land Rover Heritage will be offering cars, services, parts and experiences for all owners and fans around the world. Our new restoration service and the sale of expertly restored Series I vehicles is just the start of making sure that classic Land Rovers are not only part of our past but part of our future.”
Land Rover has also announced the planned launch of its ‘Defender Journeys’ platform, an online hub that will allow owners to upload details of their most memorable journeys in a Series Land Rover or Defender.