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.
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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.