The Land Rover Series first hit the market in 1948. The Defender, as it is now known, was originally labeled the Land Rover 90 and 110 over 3 decades ago. This British off-road vehicle has etched a place in the hearts of many drivers around the world. For over 67 years this 4-wheel drive vehicle has been one of the most popular cars for the rugged outdoors. A few years ago, Land Rover solemnly declared that the production of the Defender would cease by the end of December 2015. There is a plan to replace the Defender with a new and innovative model, but don’t expect too many familiar features from its predecessor.
The Land Rover Series I was unveiled at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948. The price for the vehicle at the time was $650. It would be over 4 decades before the model would get a proper name. In 1990, it was dubbed the Defender. No one could know that a brief 26 years later the last model would roll off the line. The final Defender Series vehicle to be produced was a Defender 90 Heritage Soft Top.
Over the last 7 decades, the world has altered tremendously. The automotive industry has experienced numerous changes, but the Defender has remained intact. Many drivers were drawn to the Defender because of its simplicity. The vehicle was charming, honest, and steadfast. The Land Rover 110 was launched in 1983, which was followed by the Land Rover 90 in 1984. Many people may not realize that these numbers reflected the size of the wheelbases. All the different model numbers were causing confusion, so they were renamed Defender Ninety and Defender One Ten in 1990.
There are very few vehicles that can be considered an “icon” in the automotive industry. The Land Rover Defender should certainly be placed in that prestigious category. This 4x4 is an all-purpose vehicle to be appreciated. It has become a trusted reflection of British ingenuity. The engineering and craftsmanship are both respected and admired. It is one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road, and the only vehicle model to be continuously produced for nearly 7 decades.
Over the years, there were small but significant feature alterations to the Land Rover Defender. The 90 and 110 showed major improvements over the original I, II, and III series. The coil-over suspension was a major addition, and of course, the disc brakes were much better than the drum. The 5-speed gearbox was dramatically better than the old powertrain and the 2.5- litre engine was smooth and easy to handle. In 2007, the cabin was modernized for the first time. The same year the 2.4- litre diesel was introduced.
The Defender replacement concept has been in the planning stages for quite some time. Interestingly, what made the Defender so popular- it’s simplicity, originality and its desire to remain the same, may have been the reason why production ceased. New safety regulations and technologies suggested this iconic vehicle was in need of an overhaul. If you were to peel back the skin of the Heritage, the last Defender model to be produced, it would basically look the same as it did in 1948. However, a major overhaul of the Defender would have tarnished its reputation, legacy, and its iconic status as a car that remained unchanged.
Experts predict the new model will barely resemble the original series and is due out in 2018-2019. Early predictions are that Land Rover will produce up to 80,000 new units every year. Land Rover’s marketing director has made it clear that the new Defender will display more capabilities than any in the series history. The new model will be offered in five different body styles with a completely redesigned body. However Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s Design Director has publicly stated that “people will recognize it’s a Defender”. Many car enthusiasts are holding their breath, hoping Land Rover stays true to the Defender’s history. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.