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Car and Driver: The Long, Long Goodbye: Final Land Rover Defender Rolls Off the Line


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You’d be forgiven for thinking that production of the Land Rover Defender ended some time ago. After all, the old-school 4×4 disappeared from the U.S. market in 1997, at which point it was already a relic. And we’ve seen multiple auto-show concepts of its replacement, as the company and its designers wring their hands over how, exactly, to follow up the iconic Landie. There were the obligatory Final Editions, and we did our own ode to the Defender, wherein we drove every generation in one day.

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And yet, during all this time, Land Rover’s Solihull factory still was churning out fresh Defenders. Until today, that is. The last Land Rover Defender—in a fittingly age-amorphous pale-green hue—has rolled off the line, accompanied by the kind of pomp and circumstance the British do so well.

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We expect this cataclysmic event has thrown the country into a fit of national mourning, given that the Defender is arguably even more British than either Big Ben or that soldier guy you see on gin bottles.

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The vehicle has been in continuous production since 1948, with more than 2 million built. Originally known simply as the Land Rover Series I, and then the Series II—it didn’t acquire the Defender name until 1990—the off-roader has been built in numerous iterations: two-door softtop and hardtop, four-door station wagon, pickup truck, fire truck, snow plow, etc. The Land Rover’s reach expanded to the far corners of the world—even as Britain’s worldwide influence receded.

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In a sense, then, the sun it setting on yet another aspect of the British Empire. But chin up, old boys. After all, how long can it be before some independent automaker—or even Jaguar Land Rover’s own SVO outfit—starts building “continuation” Defenders? Not long at all, we’d guess. Not long at all.

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