Well, it’s official. After a continuous run of 68 years, production of one of the greatest motor vehicles to ever be conceived and built on This Sceptred Isle has come to an end.
Production of the beloved Land Rover Defender – as this iconic 4×4 was rebranded in 1990 – has now finally drawn to a close, largely due to vehicle safety legislation changes making it economically unviable to update this much-loved mud plugger.
Whether it’s hauling livestock, exploring dense forests or dropping the kids off at their private school in the Shires, the Land Rover has been an intrinsic part of British life for longer than most of us have been around.
Because of this, us Brits tend to take the best 4×4 by far for granted, as it’s always been there, just as we did when other British motoring legends such as the Mini, the Moke and E-type were still in production.
However, now the Landie has gone, I suspect we will finally begin to appreciate what an exceptional vehicle it was and is, and demand will quickly outstrip supply for nice, clean examples, just as it did once production of the ‘real’ Mini ended 16 years ago.
The values for tidy early Land Rover Series I and II models are already rocketing to once unthinkable levels, with prices likely to grow for other later Series III and 110 examples too. The recent rash of Defender tuners and ‘improvers’ such as Kahn, Alive, Twisted and Urban, also illustrates the growing interest and desirability in this versatile utility machine.
The Defender’s demise also brings to a sorry end a long tradition of British-built basic, functional utility vehicles, with farmers now having to turn to Japanese pick-up trucks for a useful off-road work tool.
From the 1907 A.C. Sociable, via the 1920s Trojan Utility Car and Austin Seven, through to the post-war Morris Minor, the Mini and Moke, Britain has a long, rich heritage of building truly basic, functional, no-frills vehicles, designed to provide simple transportation, but with a wry smile.
This is no longer the case today, with no really basic, austere new cars now available for us to buy in the British market. Beyond the Jeep Wrangler and a few purposeful stripped-out sportscars, such as the Caterham SuperSeven and Aerial Atom, I struggle to now think of a car in which you still have to wind a handle to open the window, or do without air conditioning if you get too warm. Even the most basic of city cars are now equipped with AC, a decent sound system, remote adjustable door mirrors, traction control and air bags galore as standard.
And as for today’s 4x4s, they now tend to be poncy SUVs that place the emphasis far too much on luxury, image and ‘toys’ at the expense of functionality and off-road abilities. Hose-down rubber mats have now given way to plush carpets, which may help make life on the road more comfortable, but play havoc trying to get rid of clingy dog hairs and muddy boot stains.
Citroën has just offered a glimmer of hope for fans of the functional by announcing that production of its funky e-Mehari will commence shortly. Sadly only to be offered in certain continental markets in all-electric form only; the new e-Mehari is Citroën’s modern dune buggy-esque take on its cult plastic-bodied 1968 Mehari model, a car strongly inspired itself by the 1964 Mini Moke.
Although the new e-Mehari will have cosseting cloth seats, the rest of the car will be refreshingly functional, with hose-down floors and removable doors, to make the perfect antidote to the new fad for needless luxury. If only we could buy one in the UK, especially now with our beloved Defender gone…