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Celebrating The Legend – Last of the Current Land Rover Defenders is Built in Solihull

This post is a little behind but better late than never…

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  • Celebratory event for 700 current and former employees as they commemorate the last build of the current Defender
  • Legendary Series Land Rover and Defender has been built continuously in Solihull, UK, for 68 years
  • Land Rover announces new Heritage Restoration programme to breathe new life into classic Series vehicles and Defenders
  • Defender Journeys’ online hub also revealed to chart memorable journeys made by owners across the globe
  • Land Rover is now looking ahead to designing and engineering New Defender

 

Land Rover celebrated 68 years of history today as the last of the current Defenders was produced at its famous Solihull production facility.

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To mark the occasion Land Rover invited more than 700 current and former Solihull employees involved in the production of Series Land Rover and Defender vehicles to see and drive some of the most important vehicles from its history, including the first pre-production ‘Huey’ Series I as well as the last vehicle off the production line, a Defender 90 Heritage Soft Top.

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At the same time, Land Rover announced a new Heritage Restoration Programme, which will be based on the site of the existing Solihull production line. A team of experts, including some long serving Defender employees, will oversee the restoration of a number of Series Land Rovers sourced from across the globe. The first vehicles will go on sale in July 2016.

Dr Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, said: "Today we celebrate what generations of men and women have done since the outline for the Land Rover was originally drawn in the sand. The Series Land Rover, now Defender, is the origin of our legendary capability, a vehicle that makes the world a better place, often in some of the most extreme circumstances. 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."

Nick Rogers, Group Engineering Director at Jaguar Land Rover, added: "This is a special day of fond celebration for Jaguar Land Rover. We all have personal memories of Defender. It’s a true motoring icon and is much loved around the world. The world has changed dramatically in the last 68 years, but this vehicle has remained a constant – something no other vehicle can claim. The last of the current Defender models embraces the vehicle’s simplicity, honesty and charm – it represents its Series Land Rover heritage. Creating the Defender of tomorrow, a dream for any engineer or designer, is the next exciting chapter and we are looking forward to taking on that challenge."

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The Defender Celebration in Solihull saw more than 25 unique vehicles from Land Rover’s history come together in a procession around the Solihull plant, featuring the final current Defender vehicle off the line. Land Rover associates were joined by a number of previous employees from the past 68 years to help celebrate this historic day. The last of the current Defender vehicles includes an original part that has been used on Soft Top specifications since 1948 – the hood cleat. The vehicle will be housed in the Jaguar Land Rover Collection.

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Land Rover fans are invited to upload their most memorable journeys ever undertaken in Series Land Rover or Defender vehicles via an upcoming online ‘Defender Journeys’ platform, announced today. Effectively a digital scrapbook, Land Rover aims to collate as many exciting adventures as possible into this online map, which users can view and share.

From 1948 to 2016 – Celebrating the Solihull Story

More than two million Series Land Rovers and Defenders have been built in Solihull, UK since 1948. What began as simply a line drawing in the sand has gone on to become one of the world’s most iconic 4x4s, earning the accolade of being the most versatile vehicle on the planet, capable of taking owners to the places other vehicles couldn’t reach. In 2015, a unique milestone Defender – the ‘Defender 2,000,000’ sold for a record £400,000 – a far cry from the original £450 the first Land Rover sold for at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show.

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In 1948, the Series I went into full production at Solihull. Post-war Britain was struggling with a shortage of steel, though aluminium was in plentiful supply for the bodyshells and the country had vast manufacturing capacity. Inspiration came from Spencer and Maurice Wilks, two brothers who had helped return the Rover Company back into profitability during the 1930s. They had devised the Land Rover as a vehicle primarily for farming and agricultural use. They could not have predicted the global impact their vehicle would have.

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Changes followed and in 1958 the Series II brought about a new design and engine updates, including an advanced diesel engine which remained in service until the mid-1980s. Sales had reached half a million by 1966, while annual production peaked in 1971 with 56,000 units. During the 1970s, the Series III continued to sell as well as its predecessor, a testament to its enduring appeal.

The vehicle earned a new name in 1990 – Defender. By this time, the Land Rover portfolio included the Range Rover and the newly-launched Discovery. A new name was fitting for a vehicle previously only referred to by its wheelbase length and Series number.

Part of the Land Rover’s appeal came from the endless variants that were created off the basic platform, including models as diverse as fire engines, lorry-like Forward Control vehicles, cherry pickers and even an amphibious car capable of floating on water. Over its 68 year history, it has been a vehicle driven by everyone from farmers and famous explorers, to royalty.

For many Defender owners the vehicle has become part of the family, just as on the Solihull production lines where that same family bond has been forged over the years by the workforce.

Tim Bickerton, aged 55, has 40 years’ service with Land Rover having started as an apprentice, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Charlie and father Peter, who clocked up 35 and 30 years respectively working on the same line, both progressing to foreman. Tim was followed by his daughter Jade, aged 25 who worked on logistics and materials for the Defender, before recently moving to another area within JLR. Then last year his 23 year old son Scott became the fifth member of the family to work on the Defender.

Tim, who worked on producing special limited edition Defender models, said: "I am hugely proud of our special family tradition working on this remarkable vehicle. The Defender has become part of our family. We’re like a stick of rock with Defender running through us. The Defender is the vehicle that everyone relates back to Land Rover; it may be seen as a workhorse but we think it has become a real thoroughbred."

David Smith, aged 56, is another 37 year veteran of the current Defender production line who will be moving across to the Jaguar XE production area. A former butcher he joined Land Rover as a 20 year old because it doubled his wages to £80 a week and gave him a job with long term prospects. "The Defender is a special vehicle and very much hand built. You need to get a feel for it; we call it ‘the knack’ and it takes months to learn the knack. It’s about doing the job at speed, it’s an intense combination of skills. Working on the Defender is like being part of a big family," he said.

Jaguar Land Rover Heritage Restoration

Land Rover’s Heritage Restoration programme will see the Series Land Rover and Defender’s name continue at Solihull. A team of twelve experts, ten of whom will transfer over from the existing production line, will lead the project, which will initially begin with the restoration and sale of early Series Land Rovers. The team has 172 years of combined experience working on Defender or Land Rover production. One employee who will transfer onto the programme, Tony Martin, has worked at Solihull all of his life, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather; in effect, he will be restoring some of the vehicles his grandfather helped to build.

Tim Hannig Jaguar Land Rover Heritage Director said: "Land Rover Heritage will be offering cars, services, parts and experiences for all owners and fans around the world. Our new restoration service and the sale of expertly restored Series I vehicles is just the start of making sure that classic Land Rovers are not only part of our past but part of our future."

Defender Journeys – Digital Scrapbook

Land Rover has also announced the upcoming launch of its online ‘Defender Journeys’ platform, which will allow the legendary model to live-on in a digital environment. The innovative online hub will allow owners to upload details of their most memorable journeys in a Series Land Rover or Defender. The aim is to crowd source journeys from Land Rover drivers and plot them on a single online map, preserving the memories of amazing adventures that have taken place in the iconic 4×4 for future generations.

The closure of the Solihull production line will also bring an end to Land Rover’s Celebration Line exhibit, although this too will live on. The replica 1948 production line has attracted more than 10,000 visitors in the last 12 months and charts the life of the Land Rover Defender from its origins in 1948 to the present day.

Enthusiasts will now be able to undertake the full Defender production line tour via a new online 360 degree virtual tool, here: http://defendertour.landrover.com

SOLIHULL AND THE SERIES LAND ROVER/DEFENDER FACTS

  • The original Series I Land Rover cost £450 in 1948. It was powered by a four cylinder 1.6 litre engine with just 50 hp.
  • Since 1948, 2,016,933 Series Land Rovers and Defenders have been built on the production line at Solihull.
  • It takes 56 man hours to build each Defender.
  • A new Defender rolls off the production line every four minutes.
  • Over 10,000 Land Rover owners and visitors from all over the world have visited the Defender Celebration Line, which recreates the original 1948 production line, in just 12 months since it opened.
  • Famous owners include the Queen, Sir Winston Churchill and actor Steve McQueen.
  • The world famous Land Rover Experience operation brought a new dimension and adventure to 4×4 ownership when it was formed in 1990, taking over from the Demonstration Team that had been set up by Roger Crathorne to show the exceptional talents of the vehicle around the world.
  • The Defender became a movie star when it featured heavily in the film Born Free (1966) about the story of Elsa the Lion. Defenders are still used today by the Born Free Foundation and its founder, Virginia McKenna OBE and her son, Will Travers OBE who both fitted parts to Defender 2,000,000.
  • Two original parts have been fitted to all Soft Top Series Land Rovers and Defenders since 1948 – the hood cleats and the underbody support strut. Galv_003
  • With 7,000 parts – it takes 56 hours to hand build every Defender, compared to 48 hours to build a Land Rover Discovery Sport.
  • Associates have their own nick names for parts of the vehicle; the door hinges are known as ‘pigs ears’ and the dashboard is the ‘lamb’s chops’.
  • Jaguar Land Rover Solihull currently produces Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Discovery, Jaguar XE and Jaguar F-PACE models.

Land Rover Defender Heritage Edition, best for last

One of the three Land Rover Defenders for the Year of Defender Celebration Series:

The Defender Heritage Edition is just too much fun for this Land Rover fanatic for what might be obvious reasons!

Heritage Edition

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The Heritage Edition evokes the history of the Defender as a modern interpretation of the famous HUE 166 Land Rover – the first pre-production Series I vehicle, nicknamed ‘Huey’, which dates back to 1947. Traditionalists will appreciate the Grasmere Green metallic paintwork, Alaska White roof, heritage style grille, headlamp surrounds and heavy-duty steel wheels. Other nostalgic additions include the silver front bumper with black end caps while clear indicator lenses and Indus Silver door hinges also set the Heritage Edition apart. Body-coloured wheel arches and mudflaps bearing the Heritage logo also feature.

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Externally, the finishing touch comes in the shape of aluminium heritage style badging to the front grille and rear bodywork, which is inspired by the designs fitted to the Series I and II models. Evocative HUE 166 graphics also adorn the front wing panels.

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While the exterior pays homage to the earliest Land Rovers, the Heritage Edition features a host of modern creature comforts and luxurious finishes inside. They include perforated leather outer steering wheel rim and gear lever, Bright Aluminium trim for the air vents, door handles and door locks, and Almond Resolve Cloth seat facings bearing the heritage logo and detailed with HUE 166 tags.

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Durable rubber floor mats and a padded cubby box between the front seats ensure the Heritage Edition is as functional as it is distinctive.

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Heritage Edition models will be available in both 90 and 110 bodystyles.

Summary

Indicative pricing: from £30,900 (€39,900)

On sale: from August 2015

Bodystyles: 90 Hard Top, 90 Station Wagon, 110 Utility Wagon, 110 Station Wagon

Key features:

  • Unique Grasmere Green metallic paintwork with body colour wheel arches
  • Unique Alaska White roof
  • Silver front bumper with black end caps
  • Heritage style front grille and headlamp surrounds
  • Body coloured heavy duty steel wheels
  • Clear indicator lenses
  • Indus Silver door hinges
  • Heritage style badges
  • Heritage logo mudflaps
  • HUE 166 graphics
  • Bright aluminium finish clock and air vent bezels
  • Aluminium interior door handles and door locks
  • Perforated leather outer steering wheel rim, gear knob and handbrake lever
  • Almond Resolve Cloth upholstery with Ebony Vinyl sides and backs, with HUE tags
  • Padded cubby box with Almond Cloth lid
  • Heritage logo rubber floor mats

I need this badge – need it.

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Land Rover Defender Autobiography Edition, yes a Defender Autobiography

One of the three Land Rover Defenders for the Year of Defender Celebration Series, a legitimate official Defender Autobiography – covered in leather!

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Autobiography Edition

The exclusive Autobiography Edition provides more comfort, equipment and performance than any previous model. Its unique combination of interior and exterior features and special paint palette guarantee to make the Autobiography the most desirable Defender ever produced. The Autobiography will be available exclusively in the iconic 90 Station Wagon bodystyle.

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A power upgrade from 122PS to 150PS guarantees performance will live up to the promise of its eye-catching looks and exclusive appearance. Striking duo-tone paintwork is the most obvious of the Autobiography’s unique features, but the most desirable Defender ever built includes a host of tasteful additions.

Summary

Indicative pricing: from £61,500 (€64,000)

On sale: from April 2015

Bodystyles: 90 Station Wagon

Key features:

  • Increased power output (122PS to 150PS)
  • Increased torque output (360Nm to 400Nm)
  • Choice of seven lower body colours
  • Santorini Black upper body, rear door, grille, headlamp surrounds and wheel arches
  • Seven-inch LED projector headlamps
  • Clear indicator lenses
  • ‘Defender’ bonnet script in machined bright finish
  • Metal/Aluminium exterior door handles
  • Metal fuel filler cap
  • Side steps
  • Underbody protection for engine sump
  • Bright Pack (white tail and indicator LED lamps)
  • 16-inch Gloss Black Sawtooth alloy wheels
  • Goodyear MT/R tyres
  • Autobiography badge (rear)
  • Santorini Black central information panel
  • Full Windsor Leather interior (including Ebony or Ivory rooflining)
  • Semi Aniline premium leather seats with twin needle contrast stitching and embossed Autobiography logo
  • Aluminium door lock button, handle and air vent bezels
  • Bright machined/enamel diff lock instruction plate
  • Unique carpet mats
  • Spun metal discs in cup holder slots

Land Rover Defender Adventure Edition

One of the three Land Rover Defenders for the Year of Defender Celebration Series:

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Adventure Edition

The Defender has helped to establish Land Rover’s credentials as the expedition vehicle of choice and the Adventure Edition is designed for customers who want to explore.

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To enhance the Defender’s already impressive off-road credentials, the Adventure Edition features distinctive new underbody protection for the side sills and engine sump, while Goodyear MT/R tyres promise to make the most of whatever grip is on offer.

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The Adventure Edition comes in choice of three striking metallic colour options, which include Corris Grey, Yulong White and Phoenix Orange. All feature contrasting Santorini Black paint for the Adventure grille and its surround, the bonnet, roof and rear door, plus the headlamp surrounds and wheel arches.

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Seven-inch LED projector headlamps, clear front indicators and Gloss Black split-spoke diamond-turned alloy wheels also distinguish the expedition-inspired model. The front wings feature 90 and 110 decals.

The focus is firmly on comfort inside, where the Adventure Edition promises to provide high quality shelter from the elements. Premium seats with Windsor Leather upholstery available in four different colourways, perforated leather inserts and contrast stitching all add a touch of luxury. They are complemented by the leather-trimmed steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake lever and Bright Aluminium interior trim.

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High quality Windsor Leather also features on the passenger facia and instrument panel while leather trim on the doors and grab handles, Ebony headlining and bespoke carpet mats complete the look.

Summary

Indicative pricing: From £38,400 (€45,900)

On sale: from August 2015

Bodystyles: 90 Hard Top, 90 Station Wagon, 100 Utility Wagon, 110 Station Wagon

Key features:

  • Corris Grey, Yulong White or Phoenix Orange paintwork
  • Santorini Black ‘Adventure’ grille, wheel arches, bonnet, roof, and rear door
  • Seven-inch LED projector headlamps
  • Clear indicator lenses
  • Underbody sill and sump protectors
  • Atlas ‘Defender’ bonnet script
  • Gloss Black split-spoke diamond-turned alloy wheels
  • Goodyear MT/R tyres with white lettering
  • Bright Pack
  • Decals on front wings
  • Windsor Leather upholstery
  • Windsor Leather front passenger facia
  • Leather trimmed door panels
  • Bright Aluminium finish clock and air vent bezels
  • Aluminium interior door handles and door locks
  • Bright finish and rubber pedals
  • Santorini Black centre console
  • Fully wrapped leather steering wheel
  • Perforated leather gear knobs, handbrake lever and grab handles
  • Ebony Alston headlining
  • Heritage logo carpet floor mats

Land Rover kicks off Year of Defender, the retiring of a legend

I never got around to posting this when it was announced back in January, I’ll break it up over a few posts.  It’s sad to see it go but they really put some great thought for its drive into the sunset, if only they could have gotten some surprise US import exemption…

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LAND ROVER LAUNCHES A YEAR OF DEFENDER CELEBRATIONS WITH GIANT 1KM SAND DRAWING AND TRIO OF LIMITED EDITIONS

· World’s most iconic vehicle drawn on huge 1km scale on the same beach used to sketch the original design 68 years ago

· Heritage, Adventure and Autobiography Limited Edition Defenders announced

· Solihull production of current Defender due to end in December 2015

Whitley, UK, January 7 2015 – Land Rover has gone back to the place where it all began to start a year-long celebration of the iconic Defender. A unique 1km sand drawing at Red Wharf Bay in Anglesey, UK, marks the launch of three exclusive limited edition models and the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the Defender story.

As UK production of the current Defender enters its final phase, Land Rover will use 2015 to celebrate its global automotive icon.

Land Rover Vehicle Line Director Nick Rogers explains the significance of recreating one of the world’s most iconic vehicles: “Passion and enthusiasm surround everything we do with Defender, and that will never change. With a history stretching back 68 years, this is a Land Rover that has thrived for decades on its unquestionable capability and iconic shape. I now have the honour of being one of the many enthusiasts at Land Rover committed to creating a fitting successor to the legendary Defender.”

To mark the announcement Land Rover has created the largest sand drawing ever produced in the UK. A Defender outline measuring a staggering 1km across was drawn on the beach at Red Wharf Bay in Anglesey using a fleet of six Land Rovers. The unique image is a tribute to the moment in 1947 when the engineering director of Rover, Maurice Wilks, first sketched the shape for the original Land Rover in the sand of Red Wharf Bay and proposed the idea to his brother Spencer, Rover’s managing director.

“My father met his brother on the beach at Red Wharf Bay and made a drawing in the sand of how he thought the Land Rover could be made,” said Stephen Wilks, son of Maurice. “That was the start of it all, the conception of Land Rover.”

The Wilks family owned land on the Welsh island and Maurice wanted a versatile vehicle that could double as a light tractor and off-roader. His forward-thinking design was christened the ‘Land Rover’, the outline of which we now recognise as the Defender.

Creating the giant piece of temporary artwork at Red Wharf Bay required a fleet of six Land Rovers, each towing an agricultural 12-foot harrow to draw the unmistakable outline of the Defender in the sand. The vehicles chosen for the race against the Anglesey tides chart the evolution of the Defender from its introduction in 1948 to the present day.

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A Land Rover Series I, II and III were joined on the beach by a Ninety from the Eighties, a Defender 90 Hard Top and a Defender 110 Station Wagon. The immaculate Series II once belonged to the Wilks family and in memory of the moment originally enacted by their fathers, cousins Stephen and Nick Wilks, the sons of Maurice and Spencer Wilks respectively, were on hand to take part. They helped to draw the continuous 4.52km line – the length of 1,118 Defender 90 Station Wagons – into the sand with just minutes to spare before it was erased by the incoming tide.

The event witnessed the debut of the Defender Celebration Series; three exciting new limited edition models which each celebrate a different element of Defender’s unique history. The Heritage, Adventure and Autobiography Editions are all powered by Land Rover’s proven 2.2-litre diesel engine and are available to order now.

Land Rover is also investigating the possibility of maintaining production of the current Defender at an overseas production facility, after the close of UK manufacturing. Any continuation would see low volume production maintained for selected fleets and special vehicle applications for sale outside the EU.

Limited Edition Defenders

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The three hotly anticipated limited edition Defender models celebrate a different element of the vehicle’s versatile character.

“We wanted to mark the end of Defender production at Solihull with a special edition but coming up with a single identity was impossible, so we developed three very different interpretations of the Defender to reflect its strength and breadth of character,” said Nick Rogers. “Whether our customers want to celebrate Land Rover’s unrivalled off-road heritage, demand the ultimate in terms of design and performance or have a genuine thirst for adventure, there will be a limited edition Defender that will be fit for purpose.”

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The exclusive Autobiography Edition promises more performance, luxury and comfort than ever before thanks to its comprehensive equipment list, unique duo-tone paintwork, full Windsor leather upholstery and a power upgrade from 122PS to 150PS. Available in the UK and Europe from April, the Autobiography Edition will be produced exclusively as a 90 Station Wagon and priced from £61,500 (€64,000)*.

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The Heritage Edition is inspired by early Land Rover models and mixes nostalgic design cues with modern creature comforts. It will be available in global markets and is identified by distinctive Grasmere Green paintwork and a contrasting white roof. A heritage grille and HUE 166 graphics, recalling the registration plate of the first ever pre-production Land Rover nicknamed ‘Huey’, also identify the Heritage model. It hits showrooms from August priced from £30,900 (€39,900)*.

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The exciting new Adventure Edition also arrives in dealerships from August. The Adventure Edition will be available in global markets and is aimed at Land Rover customers who relish the great outdoors and embrace the Defender’s ‘go anywhere, do anything’ attitude. It comes fitted with additional underbody protection and Goodyear MT/R tyres to boost the Defender’s already class-leading all-terrain capability. Unique decals and a leather-trimmed cabin ensure the Adventure Edition stands out from the Defender crowd. The Adventure Edition is priced from £38,400 (€45,900)*.