January 29th, 2016, 9:15 AM GMT, marked the end of production for the iconic Land Rover Defender. Made obsolete by ever more stringent environmental and safety legislation, the world’s most versatile vehicle has passed into the history books.
For a few days prior, Land Rover released press photos showing the last Defender moving down the assembly line with nothing else behind it. The final vehicle rolled off the assembly line at 9:15 am - the 2,016,933rd Defender built at Solihull. The Heritage-spec 90 soft-top emerged in Light Green with a special number plate paying homage to the famous “Huey,” the very first Series 1 Land Rover built back in 1948.
As the new “Huey” rolled off the line, over 700 factory workers congregated to witness what is surely one of the most historic events in automotive history and also one of the most unfortunate. The last Defender, and the one before it as well, were both purchased by Jaguar Land Rover CEO Raif Speth for an undisclosed sum.
After leaving the factory, the last Defender made a victory lap around the Solihull grounds, led by its earliest surviving ancestor, the original "Huey," HUE 166, the first pre-production Land Rover, and accompanied by many other Land Rovers that occupy a special place in the history of the marque, including a Land Rover Series One Fire Tender, a ceremonial Land Rover designed for the Queen herself, and even one of the original, limited-edition North American Spec soft-top Defenders.
As for Land Rover’s replacement for the Defender, our inside sources tell us that JLR is having a crisis of confidence in deciding what the new Defender wants to be. Half of the company thinks it should follow the current Land Rover styling trends and cater the upscale market. The other half would like it very much to bear a close resemblance to the now-retried Defender design and be directed more toward the utilitarian and recreational 4x4 market alongside its more accessibly priced counterparts such as Toyota and Jeep.
Whatever the outcome of that decision and whatever Land Rover comes out with, it’s a pretty safe bet that like every Land Rover from Solihull, they will all be sold before they roll off the assembly line. That new vehicle will have quite a big pair of shoes to fill. No matter what, the original Defender, and its Series Land Rover ancestors before it, will for many years to come, be capturing the imaginations of kids and adults alike, bringing to mind dreams of exotic travel and a simpler time and place, where, like the iconic Land Rover itself, time just doesn’t move that quickly.
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