The Defender is dead: Long live the Defender!

Posted: January 31, 2016 by The Car Spy in General, Land Rover
Tags: , , ,

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January 2016. A memorable month perhaps for not many good reasons. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Lemmy and even Terry Wogan all gone from our world in a couple of weeks. Gone but of course never forgotten since each has left a legacy that will remain with their respective fans forever, including yours truly.

In the world of cars another British icon said farewell this month too. The Land Rover Defender is no more. Exactly 2,016,933 have been produced since 1948 and the car is probably one of the most recognised vehicles anywhere in the world and quite likely one of the most loved too.

Famous owners have included the Queen (of course), Winston Churchill, Steve McQueen, James Bond, Richard ‘The Hamster’ Hammond and The Car Spy (haha). There are many more ‘famous’ owners, of course, worth mentioning but that’s enough name-dropping for now.

Because you like music does not mean you would be be obliged to appreciate the many albums of David Bowie and because you like cars you might not appreciate a Land Rover (Series I, II, III, 90, 110 , Defender etc) and that is ok.

Notwithstanding individual opinion in cars and musical taste both the names of ‘Bowie’ and ‘Land Rover’ have been engraved into the stone tablet milestones of British history. You just know that in 100 years from now they will be a part of our ‘historical culture’. Just like Shakespeare.

Today this blog article was to be about a highly collectable Italian exotic that is the subject for a photo-shoot next week but instead it has turned out to be a eulogy for the Defender. But ‘eulogy’ means praising somebody or something that has just died so it’s really more of a ‘lifetime achievement award’ speech.

To appreciate a Defender (we’ll just stick to that moniker for simplicity’s sake) you have to consider a car that did not pretend to do anything else that what it was originally designed for. It was meant to be basic but very fit for for purpose.

Stick it on the edge of a muddy field on the side of a steep hill and tell it get to the top of the hill. Whichever variant you picked it would get the job done. No computer-assisted driving aids but pure mechanical engineering genius to carry out the task in hand. That is why farmers the world over relied on them. You could do the same thing thing in a tractor but you couldn’t park it in Waitrose for the weekly shop on the way home. Well you could but you just wouldn’t.

A Defender didn’t need aerodynamics, satnav, electric windows, aircon or airbags. It was the antithesis of today’s ‘modern car’. Our workshop mechanic said you only needed a Philips screwdriver and a pair of pliers in your toolbox to look after one. A slightly optimistic view but nonetheless not that far from the truth.

And therein really lies the problem with the Defender and why it had to be terminated- it does not make any commercial sense for a car manufacturer in 2016.

Cars have to be complex these days. Profits are made not from just building the thing in the first place but from the spare parts and workshop bills accumulated thereafter. We live in a world of consumerism and therefore everything has to be disposable. We have suddenly got used to upgrading to a new iPhone very year even though deep down we know don’t really need too.

But hey ho this is how the world turns now.

However, just like the music of David Bowie the Defender hasn’t died at all. You can buy a 70’s variant and have access to the same after-market support offered to the latest (and last) model. You can do almost anything yourself to keep the car on the road. It is the last of the Meccano-cars and if you have even the basic of interests in car mechanics and engineering then buy yourself a Defender. It is a deeply satisfying experience and it should be a mandatory part of any engineering course at university.

So why all of the fretting of the so-called replacement for the Defender?

One of the reasons that Land Rover have not rushed in with a new ‘evolutionary replacement’ is that they don’t know what to replace the Defender with. They haven’t got a clue. Defender purists want a car they can strip down and rebuild themselves but the market wants designer handbags or at the very least a ‘lifestyle’ accessory. Good luck with that one JLR!

On the other hand if you are not a fashion victim and fancy getting your fingernails dirty over the weekend then you have a big pond to fish in and for some time yet. Over 2 million ‘Land Rovers’ have been made and most are likely to be on the road still so get stuck into the classifieds!

Until the EU bureaucrats and Whitehall mandarins ban these types of cars forever then there is still life in the Defender yet.

Dead maybe but not gone for a while yet. Long live H166 HUE!

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