The Land Rover Defender has emerged from the company's Solihull factory for 68 years, which means that in car years, it roughly predates the invention of the wheel. But like the wheel, the Defender has aged remarkably well (better than, say, singer Steven Tyler, also born in 1948). The proto-Landie has aged so well, in fact, that many people with passionate opinions on the subject and a willingness to share those opinions in public (car writers, that is) have wondered aloud, and often, why the Defender couldn't slog on for another 68 years in its present form — maybe with a better radio. Well, it couldn't, for a variety of legitimate reasons — safety standards, emissions standards, the usual. That's the bad news. The good news (we hope) is that Land Rover has promised to deliver a new, kinder, gentler Defender. With a better radio. Eventually.
For now, however, let's bask in the minty glory of the Defender number 2,016,933 — a 90 Heritage Soft Top — surrounded by some 700 current and former Solihull employees, proud parents all. To the certain dismay of a legion of well-heeled hunters, horticulturalists and hipsters, this last Defender is not for sale; it's bound for the Jaguar Land Rover Collection.
Introduced at the Amsterdam motor show in 1948, Land Rover's original Series I cost £450. In 2015, Defender number 2,000,000 sold at auction for £400,000.
Fittingly, Land Rover took the opportunity to announce a new Heritage Restoration programme, offering factory restoration and maintenance services for the marque's classics models. The programme, smartly, steps right into the line at Solihull, and of its 12 team members, 10 are former members of the Defender production crew, who will be restoring the very vehicles they helped build.
Said Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth: "There will always be a special place in our hearts for Defender, among all our employees, but this is not the end. We have a glorious past to champion, and a wonderful future to look forward to."
And we do.
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