The vehicle you are looking at in the picture above is the very first production Land Rover Defender. It was made in 1948. It is absolutely impossible for me to talk about the changes in designs, engines, and model variations that the Defender has undergone over the years as it would take me most of the day to write. This will instead be a short but (hopefully) informative piece for you all to read. Unlike the Defender, I like to keep things light!
The Defender is still made today, and it truly is an amazing vehicle. Strong doesn't seem to do it justice. Perhaps the most startling thing that I can tell you about them is that it is estimated that 70% of all 2 million Defenders ever produced are still on the road today. Sadly, production of the Defender will cease in December 2015 and this legendary British car will never be made again. Time has caught up with it, and despite consistent sales and the engineers best efforts to keep up with regulations, it simply can't go on.
As a British man living in a rural area of south-west England, seeing a Defender is an almost daily occurrence for me. They are immensely popular with farmers and it is not uncommon to see some running around that are thirty, maybe forty years old, sometimes even more. When you live in the UK and you grow up around these tough machines, some of which have been there your entire life, that 70% statistic is very much believable.
What is it like to drive? Well... it simply drives how it looks. Rough, sturdy, uncompromising, and unmoved. It's not comfortable, but it's not meant to be. Neither is it quick in any way. It can drive over any surface though and it will never let you down, given the right care and attention by mechanics, it will last longer than you will given the right care and attention by your Doctors. Isn't that an interesting thought! You feel like a tough guy when you drive this car, you feel like you can take on anything and everything but you don't feel like a road hog or some kind of intimidating monster like you do in some other 'trucks'. It's not huge, it's just absolutely rock solid and tough. I am absolutely certain that on British roads other drivers also give you a lot of respect when driving this brute.
So what comes next then? Well presumably the Defender name will live on in a modern platform and body with modern, safe shells and better engines. A Defender for the future might appear. Maybe a new legend will be born and this car might last just as long as this one did. Whatever happens, it won't just fade away. It will go on and on and on, and the Defenders could probably still be running long after we're dead. As long as we still have a decent supply of oil of course, but that's a debate for another time. All that matters for now is that we know they have the reliability to pull it off.
The Defender then is one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest of my Best of Europe series so far. It has outlived the Beetle and the 2CV, and has proven itself to have superior reliability. An army great, farmers workhorse, offroad racer, and a true British icon.