Stuff: Land Rover Defender heads off road

Last of the current Land Rover Defender

The last of the current model of Land Rover’s iconic Defender has rolled off the production line in Solihull, bringing to an end a hugely successful chapter in automotive history.

More than two million Series Land Rovers and Defenders have been built in Solihull, UK, since 1948, when the Series I went into full production.

A product of ingenuity and necessity, the rugged vehicle owes its design to the fact that post-war Britain was struggling with a shortage of steel, though aluminium was in plentiful supply for the bodyshells and the country had vast manufacturing capacity.

Watch the Land Rover Defender celebration video

Inspiration came from Spencer and Maurice Wilks, two brothers who had helped return the Rover Company back into profitability during the 1930s.

They had devised the Land Rover as a vehicle primarily for farming and agricultural use. They could not have predicted the global impact their vehicle would have.

Changes followed and in 1958 the Series II brought about a new design and engine updates, including an advanced diesel engine which remained in service until the mid-1980s. Sales had reached half a million by 1966, while annual production peaked in 1971 with 56,000 units. During the 1970s, the Series III continued to sell as well as its predecessor, a testament to its enduring appeal.

The vehicle earned a new name in 1990 – Defender. By this time, the Land Rover portfolio included the Range Rover and the newly-launched Discovery. A new name was fitting for a vehicle previously only referred to by its wheelbase length and Series number.

The new Land Rover Defender is expected to arrive in 2018.