If you’re one of those people that likes the security of knowing your chosen mode of transport can handle almost anything our British climate can chuck at it, then you would no doubt have looked at Land Rover at some point.
I’m not talking about the endless black Range Rovers blocking your roads at 3.45pm every weekday, but the workhorse that Land Rover does so well – the Defender.
I first developed a fascination with this type of Land Rover travelling around Cornwall and seeing such automobiles used confidently as coast guard vehicles. They seemed to have no fear of sand and salt water, or getting stuck. Though I do wonder what their life span would have been before being sold off.
The Defender can trace its heritage all the way back to 1948 when the Land Rover series was originally launched and it remains pretty much the same – at least visually – to this day.
Last October Jaguar Land Rover announced the shock news that production of the Defender would cease in December 2015. The company were basically saying that the Defender could not continue to meet ever more stringent laws on emissions and thus could not continue to be produced.
As decisions go, this is on a par with the demise of the Beetle and the Camper Van; all three are iconic vehicles with enough history behind them that should make them worth fighting for. The predicament of the Camper has similarities to the current situation that the Defender is in. Both having been in production continuously for over 60 years, it is modern legislation that has proved to be the final death knell for them both.
The Defender first showed hints of what it would become as the Land Rover Ninety and One Ten in 1983. The largest of the three vehicles available, the 127 (Ninety, 127 and One Ten refer to the respective chassis sizes) has proved to be a highly customisable vehicle with conversions ranging from ambulances to specialist use for fire departments.
But the Defender as we know it today first appeared in 1990 when Land Rover shed the chassis tag nomenclature and streamlined the naming in line with stable-mates the Range Rover and Discovery. 2007 was a turning point for the Defender, with Land Rover attempting the tricky manoeuvre of modernising the 4×4 while still keeping faith with it’s reason for being.
They seemed to pull it off, with an updated (finally) dashboard and the replacement of inward facing seats – another issue with ever-changing legislation – with forward facing ones.
But it was only a few years later in 2012 that the Defender was forced into another upheaval as emission laws required Land Rover to change the 2.4 litre engine from 2007 to a 2.2 litre replacement with a diesel particulate filter to keep it on the road.
It was becoming clear that such regular changes were not going to be viable for Land Rover and the company confirmed rumours that they were indeed working on a replacement for the Defender.
Though it doesn’t take a genius to work out what many die-hard Defender fans thought of the Defender Concept 100 (DC100) when they first clapped eyes on it at the Frankfurt Motor Show way back in 2011.
The Defender has been the go-to choice for the military, farmers, coast guard and many an expedition where the terrain requires a vehicle that won’t let you down for many a year. The indestructible 4×4 has been described as a giant Meccano vehicle and one that that can be mended in the middle of nowhere with a piece of string. This is still probably its biggest attribute. I suspect that any would-be successor will not offer such rudimentary plus points.
It’s also this attribute that will hopefully see Defenders in use for quite a few years after production ceases in 2015.