So, it is worth noting this event. After nearly 68 years, the last PROPER Land Rover has been assembled and rolled off the assembly line on Friday 29th January. It is interesting to note that it is a SWB soft top in Pastel Green, just like the first production Land Rover Series 1, Reg # 166HUE. I’m sure this was well thought out by JLR PR! At the very end, the Land Rover went back to it’s agricultural roots. Of course, the last vehicle is very different from the original ones, but there is a direct evolutionary line from the Series 1 vehicles to today’s Defenders, passing through the Series II, IIa, III, Stage One and Land Rover 90/110 (as they were known before 1990). The media of course is referring to all Land Rovers of this line as Defenders, which is completely inaccurate and says much about the fact checking and understanding of reporters today. Still, the Land Rover, in the guise of both the Series and Defender variants, did manage a respectable 68 years, which is a heck of a long time for any vehicle to be in production. Particularly today, where cars are designed to be replaced by newer (and improved!) models every few years. Through out its production, the Land Rover essentially stayed true to its roots a a working vehicle for the most part. OK, there were attempts to dress up station wagons as luxury vehicles, they started to sport new things like comfortable seats, radios, etc. But essentially, underneath all the frippary, it was still what it was originally designed to be – a utilitarian work vehicle.
It has been argued that the vehicle had become outdated. It can be cramped, noisy, draft and tends to leak in the rain. The build quality was variable at times. But I disagree. There is still room for simple rugged vehicles that can be fixed by mechanically minded people and don’t look worse for wear if they have a few dings. I think this is why they are still popular – they are a throw back to the days of old where vehicles were kept running for years by their owners who applied a little TIC.
So if Land Rover no longer makes PROPER Land Rovers, what next? I suspect that JLR will continue their trend away from real working vehicles towards producing up-market expensive luxury cars aimed at the yuppy set. Personally, I think their modern products have no charm or character and look like any other vehicle on the road. Certainly, I don’t feel that many of todays modern Land Rover Vehicles will attract the following that the original Landy’s do. Or the longevity for that matter! There is talk of a “new” Defender. Frankly, I believe the name should be retired. The “Defender” name will always be associated with the last of the “proper” Land Rovers. The new vehicle may be more capable than the originals, but I doubt it will have the character or functionality. It needs its own identity.
As for me, I will keep going on with my pair of Landy’s. Grover may be stored at the moment, but he will return and Libby keeps chugging along. I hope that with some care and attention, they will outlive me and introduce a new generation to REAL Land Rovers.