After more than sixty years in production the current Land Rover Defender has finally come to an end in the form we know it. The Defender; a firm favourite in the industry and an undoubted motoring icon has been one of the most successful models produced by Land Rover and boasts a cult following that few vehicles can claim to rival. With its rugged design, blistering engines and some of the most durable and exciting off-road driving capabilities the Defender has boasted famous owners all the way from Ralph Lauren to Sean Connery and even The Queen.
The Defender in its current guise has been quoted as "unsustainable" due to modern emissions and technology. After a short break Land Rover will present a fresh new off-road vehicle that is probably slightly overdue. The Defender's classic appearance will be completely altered with many expecting a more environmentally conscious Defender - we will be extremely interested to see what exact form the new design will take on.
THE DEFENDER THROUGH THE YEARS
1948 - SERIES I
The Defender was revealed at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show and proved an immedeate hit, though it wouldn't taken on its official name for another fifty years. Entering post-war Britain the Defender can be credited with completely changing the off-road market with its tough exterior. Almost bought exclusively by farmers, the Defender had not become the timeless classic that it would eventually go on to be. The Defender was also initially adopted as a military vehicle due to its no frills design and strong gearing towards harsher and unstable terrain. The Series 1 Defender probably had one of the longest lifespans of all the Defenders and lasted all the way until 1958 with the Defender's rugged engine capabilities also showcased with a new 2.0-litre diesel engine in 1957.
1958 - SERIES II/IIA
The Series II is a more common sight than the now antique Series I and was still in mass use until well up into the early 2000s. The first Long Wheelbase version of the vehicle was introduced with the Series II and proved very popular among the Defender's target market. The Series I interior was fairly basic and the Series 2 gave this tired design a much-needed revamp. After just three years the Series II was replaced by the Series IIA which introduced a pickup version and extended all the way to 1971.
1971 - SERIES III
At this point Land Rover didn't change the Defender too drastically, but did introduce a V8 engine for what was fast-becoming the manufacturers most popular models. As the Defender became more prominent not just in the countryside, more interior options were provided but many customers chose to keep the Defenders interior in its most basic form. The Series III stood firm until 1985 and was helped by the mounting of headlights into those distinctive front wings.
1983 - 90, 110 & 127
Defender modifications became slightly more noticeable and the numbers reperesent the growth in wheelbases. For the first time the Diesel capacity reached 2.5-litres and the Defender was given wind-up windows. Most noticeably was the borrowing of Range Rovers coil-over suspension which improved ride quality massively during these years, not least due to the fact the brakes were also given an upgrade meaning stopping when you used the pedal was more of a regularity rather than a luxury.
In 1990 the Defender was christened with its famous name but it didn't receive any noticeable updates for another 17 years. Modern luxuries such as climate control and some swish new interior options were introduced to enhance comfort as well as a new exterior trim but the Defender still kept many of the features that made it successful in its early years.
There is no better demonstration of how much of a hit the Defender was than how little it changed from 1948 to 2015. To only have five major variations in its lifespan is a testament to how popular and cherished the Defender is all over the world. Despite changing perceptives of what was required from a modern vehicle and the growing size of many civilian cars, the Defender stood firm over the years and is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.