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End of the road for Land Rover Defender

The final edition of the famous 4x4 will roll off the production line in Solihull tomorrow after 68 years of production

Land Rover launched three special editions of the Defender to mark its final year of production

One of Britain's most-loved - and longest-lived - vehicles is to cease production this week after 68 years.

The last Defender will roll off the line at Jaguar Land Rover's Solihull plant in Lode Lane tomorrow.

The ever-popular 4x4 represented the continuation of the very first Land Rover launched in April 1948, modelled on the war-time Jeep.

Time has been called on the Defender thanks to tough European Union emissions regulations.

The car's 'old-fashioned' design also meant it could not conform to increasingly rigorous modern safety standards.

But production of the Defender was extended into 2016 because of a late surge of interest in the classic vehicle. It had previously been set to end in December.

Jim Holder, editorial director of magazines Autocar magazine, said Defenders "appealed to every level of society".

He said: "It's a classless vehicle. Anyone can drive it. You might be a farmer trying to get over the muddiest field or it might be the Queen driving around Windsor.

"Neither would surprise you if you saw it. It's got that ubiquity where it can be at home in Chelsea but doesn't look out of place painted white in the middle of a war zone. It claims to do everything and to a degree it can do everything."

Mr Holder said JLR made the decision to cease production of Defenders because "regulations have finally caught up with it".

He said: "They haven't been able to update crash safety or the engine emissions quick enough.

"The world has overtaken it to a point where they can no longer keep on the right side of emissions and safety laws."

Video: Land Rover Defender at Red Wharf Bay

Video: Land Rover Defender in the sand at Red Wharf Bay

 

In 2014, a total of 17,781 Defenders were produced at the car-maker's Solihull plant - and that figure is set to be even bigger when the 2015 tally is revealed.

JLR is now working on a replacement for the Defender but Mr Holder claimed it would be a "massive challenge" to match the status of the original.

"It's a charming vehicle. It's a go-anywhere, rugged symbol of solid construction," he said.

"But the truth is, the Defender today doesn't sell in high enough numbers. The challenge is how to broaden its appeal without ruining the key aspects that make it so appealing."

Land Rover holds a royal warrant, as supplier to the royal household, a relationship that dates back to 1948 when King George VI viewed the original vehicle.

The Queen, who has been pictured at the wheel of many over the years, took delivery of her first shortly after coming to the throne in 1952 and has used Land Rovers ever since.

A JLR spokesman said the company would hold a small event for workers at the Solihull plant tomorrow to mark the end of Defender production.

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.

The car 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.

A reinforced open top Land Rover in Camp Bastion

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