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Final Land Rover Defender rolls out
Land Rover Defender line falls silent, nameplate will return
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30 Jan 2016
LAND Rover has turned out the lights on its Defender production line for the final time, bringing to a close a 68-year production run of its most recognisable model, but while a replacement is yet to be spoken of in any detail, the name will live on.
While the model has enjoyed a consistent loyal following around the world from fans that appreciate its form-follows-function looks and almost unrivalled all-terrain ability, the axe of ever-tightening crash safety standards has finally fallen on the iconic model.
But if you were hoping to snap up one of the final Landies Down Under then you are months too late, with all of the last Australian allocation cars spoken for weeks ago.
“There wouldn't be one that you could put your name on any more,” said Land Rover Australia senior public relations executive James Scrimshaw. “We stopped ordering them mid-last year so the last ones will be coming through. People had to order their cars many, many months ago.” Those Australian customers who were quick enough on the draw are in with a chance to take delivery of a piece of Land Rover history, with the company confirming that the last day of operation produced two Defenders that are destined to come Down Under, although which state they are heading to is not known.
Mr Scrimshaw explained that there had been a spike in sales after the company announced the end of the Defender line, with fans trying to secure the last examples.
“Sales have been in the 80s and 90s for the last three months with people getting in and getting the last cars, but the story is over now it’s all finished.” Quite what will replace the Defender remains to be seen, with the British car-maker staying tight-lipped on a successor, but Mr Scrimshaw confirmed that its name would not be killed off.
“The Defender name will come back but there's nothing to show or talk about,” he said. “We are focusing on the other models in the range at the moment.” While many die-hard Defender fans are calling for a replacement that retains the boxy styling and off-road prowess, Mr Scrimshaw said that the collective of aficionados was too small to dramatically influence the new Defender, and the company would be targeting a different audience.
“Don't listen to those people who all have an opinion because they are buying 18,000 cars around the world so that's not enough people to listen to. We need a different market.
“Modern plants need to build much more than that and that's why it was hand-built in a little cottage part of the factory.” Seven hundred Solihull employees past and present assembled to welcome the final Defender, which was a short-wheelbase 90 Heritage soft top, but the ultimate Landie will not be heading off to a private garage, and will instead be housed in the Jaguar Land Rover Collection.
As a clear nod to the model’s long family history, the final vehicle was dressed up in the same paint tone and soft top colour combination as the very first Series I Land Rover.
Speaking at the event, Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth celebrated one of the world’s most longstanding automotive icons, but also voiced his optimism for the future.
“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,” he said.
“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.” The Defender was introduced in 1983 in multiple different bodystyles and two wheelbase lengths 90 and 110, but it can trace its bloodline back through three series of the Land Rover, to the original Series I that changed the direction of all-terrain vehicles in 1948.
Since the first vehicle was born, more than two million Series Land Rovers and Defenders have rolled off the same production line in Solilull in the UK’s West Midlands, but the company used the final Defender celebration to announce that the factory would live on in a new capacity.
The facility will accommodate a smaller team of Land Rover experts as part of a new Heritage Restoration Programme, which will take significant models of all Series Land Rovers and Defenders and breathe new life into them, calling on a collective experience of 172 years.
The first restored vehicles will be offered for sale this year or, alternately, existing owners are invited to have their current vehicle renovated at the highly specialised facility.
Rather than highlight the Defender’s largely stagnant evolution as a reason for its demise, Jaguar Land Rover Group engineering director Nick Rogers highlighted its ability to remain unchanged for so long as a positive.
“The world has changed dramatically in the last 68 years, but this vehicle has remained a constant - something no other vehicle can claim,” he said. “The last of the current Defender models embraces the vehicle's simplicity, honesty and charm - it represents its Series Land Rover heritage.” With the closure of Defender production, Land Rover is inviting all Series Land Rover and Defender owners to help create a “digital scrapbook” by up loading their most memorable Landie experiences to a new Defender Journeys online hub.
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