April 11, 2016
Just a few short months ago, the last ever Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line after an impressive 68-year run. Don’t worry; Jaguar Land Rover aren’t throwing in the towel quite yet, having also announced that a “new Defender” model will take its place in the near future. But here, to commemorate the long story of this iconic vehicle, we take a look back at the history of the Land Rover Defender.
Vintage vehicle, modern name
The Land Rover Defender wasn’t always known as such. Back at the beginning, when the Rover company first produced their exciting new 4×4, a Land Rover was just a Land Rover. The first vehicle was launched in 1948, making its debut at the Amsterdam Motor Show to instant acclaim. Soon the Land Rover was in production for sale all over the world, numbering the Queen among its famous fans. Over the years, different models were introduced, including the One Ten in 1983 and the Ninety in 1984 – forerunners of what would later become the Defender. In 1990, following the introduction of a new Discovery model, the Ninety and One Ten vehicles were rebranded Land Rover Defender, to distinguish the new vehicles from the classic models.
The early years: Pre-1983
With its practical four-wheel drive and sturdy chassis, the history of the Land Rover is an illustrious one. Following its launch, the Land Rover quickly became the go-to farm vehicle and the signature SUV for anyone needing robust, off-road capability. The British Army used Land Rovers in great numbers at home and abroad, utilising them in both the Korean War and the Suez Crisis. In 1951, Land Rover’s success was such that Rover was selling twice as many Land Rovers as all its other vehicles put together.
One Ten and Ninety
The launch in the early eighties of the One Ten and Ninety models marks the beginning of the true history of the Land Rover Defender. These vehicles, whose names reflected the dimensions of their respective wheelbases, were a step on from the Series III Land Rover. With a modernised interior and coil springs making for a more comfortable journey, the Land Rover was entering a new phase, becoming popular as a family car, rather than just a simple utility vehicle.
Following the introduction of the Land Rover Discovery, the Defender was officially born in 1990. It remained a popular choice for off-road fans, driven by farmers, armed forces, rescue workers and royalty. A modern classic, the Defender’s time-honoured design endured throughout the 1990s and 2000s, despite newer innovations from the Land Rover stable.
Two million models later
The history of the Land Rover Defender continued to evolve, with several limited edition variants launched in the 1990s, capturing media and market attention. In 1998, an engine update brought the Land Rover Defender in line with European emissions regulations, while 2007 and 2012 saw further significant improvements that kept the Defender up to date. By the time production ceased in January 2016, the history of the Land Rover Defender had seen the production of two million cars over the course of nearly 70 years.
Here at Broadfields we’re excited to see what’s coming next – but we’ll always have a place in our hearts for the original Land Rover Defender.