Land Rover recently celebrated 68 years of production history after the last batch of the Defenders was produced at its famous Solihull production facility in the UK.
The company invited more than 700 current and former Solihull employees involved in the production 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 to come off the production line, a Defender 90 Heritage Soft Top.
Announced at the event was Land Rover’s new Heritage Restoration Programme, which will be rolled-out on the site of the existing Solihull production line. A team of long serving Defender experts and employees, will oversee the restoration of a number of Series Land Rovers sourced from around the globe. The first vehicles will go on sale in July 2016.
“Today we celebrate what generations of men and women have done since the outline for the Land Rover was originally drawn in the sand,” said Dr Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover. “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.”
From 1948 to 2016 – Celebrating the Solihull Story
Well over two million Series of Land Rovers and Defenders have been produced in Solihull since the plant opened in 1948, becoming one of the world’s most iconic 4x4s. In 2015, a unique milestone Defender – the ‘Defender 2,000,000’ – sold for a record £400,000 ($800,000), a far cry from the original £450 ($900) the first Land Rover sold for at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948.
Jaguar Land Rover Heritage Restoration
Land Rover’s new Heritage Restoration program 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.
SOLIHULL AND THE SERIES LAND ROVER/DEFENDER FACTS
The original Series I Land Rover cost £450 ($900) in 1948. It was powered by a four-cylinder, 1.6-litre engine with just 50hp.
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 the 12 months since it opened.
Famous owners include the Queen, Sir Winston Churchill and actor Steve McQueen.
The 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), 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, 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.
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 nicknames for parts of the vehicle; the door hinges are known as ‘pig’s ears’ and the dashboard is the ‘lamb’s chops’.