Production of Land Rover’s legendary Defender is set to continue beyond the December 2015 cut-off originally planned by the Midland car-maker due to increased demand for the long-serving 4x4 vehicle.
In January Land Rover announced a year of celebration to mark the final year of Defender production at its Solihull plant but high demand during the model’s final year has now seen production extended into 2016.
Land Rover has remained tight-lipped on when Defender production will draw to a close, other than to say it has not yet announced a precise date, but a Land Rover insider revealed it will be at least until February 2016, with the possibility it could be longer than that.
“It is going to be extended until at least the end of February,” said the Land Rover employee who works at the Lode Lane factory.
“We have had a glut of orders and are going on until then.
“Although I’ve been told that February is the definite cut-off date someone else has said it could possibly go on until April.”
The worker added that although there was increased demand the car-maker had not added an additional Defender shift.
While other areas of the Solihull factory have 24-hour manufacturing to cope with demand for Land Rover and now Jaguar vehicles built there, Defender production is still carried out by around 450 workers on a single day shift.
“The shift is still running normally and as always it is only days as well,” they said
In March the Post revealed Defender production was being ramped up by almost 50 per cent to cope with increased demand during the model’s farewell year.
Ordinarily, each shift might produce 84 Defenders but output had been increased to 125 to cope with a spike in demand as people avail of the last chance to own the latest version of the vehicle which first set the Land Rover ball rolling.
Last year 17,781 Defenders were produced at the car-maker’s Solihull plant but that figure is likely to be dwarfed by this year’s output.
Time has been called on the Defender due to tough European Union emissions regulations and in addition the car’s ‘old-fashioned’ design means it cannot conform to increasingly rigorous modern safety standards.
Land Rover has indicated it could still produce the vehicle elsewhere in the world for markets where the rules are less stringent but it will no longer be built at the firm’s home in Lode Lane.
In January the firm said it was investigating the possibility of maintaining production at an overseas production facility, after UK manufacturing draws to a close.
The current Defender is a direct descendent of the original Land Rover, which was launched in 1948 at the Amsterdam Motor Show. More than two million Land Rovers and Defenders have been sold since and there are currently 308 model derivatives.
Later named the Series I – when its replacement the Series II was brought out in the late 50s – it was dreamed up by the Rover Company as part of a drive to get British car manufacturing moving again in the wake of the Second World War.
It was the brainchild of Maurice Wilks, Rover’s chief engineer, who famously sketched his original design in the sand on an Anglesey beach for his brother Spencer, who was managing director of the Rover Company.
The idea was based on the US Army’s Willys Jeep, a multi-purpose vehicle used by the Allies during the war.
Over the years the Defender and its predecessors have had many famous fans.
They include the Queen, Winston Churchill, Argentinean president Juan Peron, the Shah of Persia, Marilyn Monroe and Steve McQueen.
Land Rover launched three special edition Defender models in January to mark the vehicle’s final year.
The Heritage, Adventure and Autobiography Editions are all powered by Land Rover’s 2.2-litre diesel engine.
The Autobiography Edition promises more performance, luxury and comfort, thanks to an extensive equipment list and a power upgrade.
The Heritage Edition is inspired by early Land Rover models and has distinctive Grasmere Green paintwork and a contrasting white roof. It features a heritage grille and HUE 166 graphics, recalling the registration plate of the first ever pre-production Land Rover nicknamed ‘Huey’.
The Adventure Edition is aimed at Land Rover customers who embrace the Defender’s ‘go anywhere’ attitude. It comes with additional underbody protection and special Goodyear MT/R tyres to boost all-terrain capability.
Prices range from £27,800 to £61,845.
Land Rover has yet to unveil a replacement for the Defender though the firm has confirmed it is working on one.