Ave atque Vale: Land Rover Defender

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A 1960s or 70s Land Rover Series II

From deep in the heart of EU-occupied England comes the grim news that one of the few unalloyed successes of British postwar automotive engineering is about to end this year: production of the Land Rover Defender ends in December, 2015, in anticipation of coming EU regulations. British tech-news site The Register:

[P]roduction of the Defender is coming to en end, because it cannot meet (or be made to meet) new car emission rules from the European Council that kick in in 2020.

Production will therefore end in December. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the manufacturer, has hinted that the production line may be moved overseas, with the vehicle remaining in limited production elsewhere.

But, even if this is the case, the Defender will no longer be available brand new in EU markets, meaning the familiar sight of a Land Rover toiling across the British landscape – a presence that helped make it a stalwart of British automotive culture – will gradually recede from view.

The Register’s reporter took a tour of the plant, with some interesting commentary as he went:

Inside the reception area (which doubles as a gift shop full of Land Rover memorabilia) you are met, identified and provided with biscuits and coffee. You also meet your guide, clearly chosen with extreme care to be amiable, charming and above all, knowledgeable: this tour, after all, is likely to be taken by Land Rover geeks, so the guides have to be able to out-geek the attendees.

….

Remarkably, the vehicles are still put together largely by hand: a real live green-clad person lifts up a door and fits it to the vehicle. It’s a human workshop on a grand scale, not a clinical, robotic nightmare.

It is obvious that the Land Rover has been steadily updated over its production life and, while the shape remains clearly identifiable, virtually every component has changed during that time.

However, our guide delighted in showing us the two parts that the current Defender still has in common with the original pre-series Land Rover from 67 years ago. One is a small reinforcing bar for the body floor and the other is a tie-down cleat for attaching a canvas hood.

As JLR senior designer Peter Crowley-Palmer told us, you can think of it as “a classic car you can buy new”. But sadly, not for much longer.

Those are just snippets, of course; do Read The Whole Thing™, if only for the Land Rover pictures.

Land Rover history is quite quirky, in an eccentric, English way. There is a Lightweight Land Rover that weighs more than the standard model, and the fact that what many see as a military vehicle was built first as a farm machine — an approximate reversal of what happened with the American Jeep. The vehicle’s history is so complex, The Reg notes, that even the company’s souvenir t-shirt gets it wrong.

We have a lot of history with Land Rovers — real, general, authentic, pukka Land Rovers. The current, soulless SUVs and crossovers produced by the company are no substitute. It’s sad to see them going out of production, squeezed at one end by the practical Toyota HiLux and at the other by rapacious Eurocrats.

3 thoughts on “Ave atque Vale: Land Rover Defender

  1. AlanH

    I’ve watched Land Rover lose its market slowly over thirty years. For decades a ranch/farm/hunting allotment might have nothing but a land rover with a winch, and perhaps some pathetic old truck sourced locally. As Land Rover upped its prices the African market went to the Toyota Land Cruiser at the high end, and pickups at the low end.

    Being often in Spain I liked the models and prices of the Santana product, pre Suzuki.

    Now? Landowners simply shop separately for a 4×4 truck and comfort oriented SUV. You could buy a good version of each for the price of one Land Rover. I tried to buy a Defender 90 in the US fifteen years ago, but they would bother to make the 4 cyl importable, and I had no use for a V8 Defender. That was that.

  2. Sommerbiwak

    Testament to the stubbornness of the Land Rover that it kept being produced for so long. similar to so many other British cars. Yes it is durable, I remember an advertisement that claimed that 40% of all Land Rovers built ever were still driving. And I barely doubt this claim. But they failed to modernize the design and adjust for the change of time. And price is way too high for what you get for the money. That is what kills it. Emissions could be met with new engines I guess, but leaving the market to other cheaper alternatives is what kills it. For the price one could buy a bloody Porsche Cayenne!

    The British design one genius car it seems to me, and stick with it for all time. See also the Mini, which was modified even less than the land Rover over its production time. But it set the standard for all small compact cars to come. Same with the Land Rover. The world moved on, the Land Rover did not adjust. And I doubt that the new owners of Jaguar and Rover take the money in hand to design a new easier to produce rugged 4×4 car as successor. :(

  3. james nimmons

    With Land Rover ceasing production, this also means UKSF now have to shop for new vehicles, after nearly five decades of using “pinkies”. SAS, SBS, SRR and the Pathfinders all used them, and it’s hard to imagine the replacement being anywhere near as good, never mind being as damn cool.
    I know landies are dear for what you get, but it does seem a shame that they can’t make it anymore because of emissions, what some faceless EU eurocrat comes up with an arbitrary limit to save the polar bears and the defender gets it? Can’t be that difficult to come up with a suitable engine surely….

    Sorry, I just have a bit of a soft spot for land rovers, and it bugs me that the defender gets scrubbed while I see a million Range Rover Evoques driving about that will probably never go off road. Ever. What a waste.

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