It's one of the most famous vehicles in the world – but the original Land Rover is finally coming to the end of the road in its current format, after nearly 70 years.
The Solihull-made Defender has been driven by the likes of the Queen, Winston Churchill and Angeline Jolie as Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider movies.
But the iconic 4x4 is to finally finish production at Lode Lane in December 2015.
As recently as last October, the Defender enjoyed a starring role in the James Bond epic Skyfall, when it was driven in the opening scene by field agent Eve, played by Naomie Harris.
But the trusty old workhorse, a staple part of the 4x4 production line for nearly seven decades, is about to go on its final lap of honour.
The Defender has been overtaken in the glamour stakes in recent years by the likes of the Range Rover and the Discovery and will cease production in little over two years’ time.
Jaguar Land Rover spokesman Nick O’Donnell confirmed that the Defender would halt in its current format at the end of 2015 – but stressed a new replacement vehicle would join the Land Rover model range.
“There will be a replacement for that vehicle, but we have not yet announced the name nor any details of the new product. The Defender in its current format is coming to an end and we are looking at what the options are going forward.”
But the vehicle will leave a host of memories, with a roll call of famous owners from the Royals to film stars, and export orders down the decades to more than 100 countries worldwide.
The vehicle was the original Land Rover, and gave birth to a world-famous motoring tradition which lives on to this day, following its world debut at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show.
A special publication, released by the Birmingham Mail, called 100 Years of the Motor Car, by Mail journalist Peter Keenan and Jim Andrew from the Birmingham Museum of Science, was published in October 1995. It told the story of the origins of the oldest Land Rover of them all.
“Land Rover was a post-war development introduced at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show,’’ the publication told.
“Conceived as a stop-gap solution to post-war steel shortages, the vehicle was modelled on the four-wheel drive War Department Jeeps.
“Necessity being the mother of invention in developing the product, extensive use was made of easily obtainable aluminium alloy, while mechanical components were kept as simple as possible, a philosophy that has stood the test of time.
“After its introduction Rover quickly realised the tremendous potential of the Land Rover and new developments rapidly followed. Diesel engines, a choice of wheelbases and a wide variety of body styles helped to boost production.
“Exports by then had become the backbone of the business and today there are few countries where the familiar shape of the Land Rover – sometimes in distinctly weird and wonderful guises – is not seen.
“In 1990 the range was relaunched under the Defender name. During the sixties it became clear to Rover that there was an opportunity for an upmarket Land Rover.
“Design work culminated in the launch of the Range Rover in 1970 with the vehicle incorporating many innovative designs. It immediately won the Don Safety Trophy with many other accolades to follow.
“The Range Rover was completely revised and updated in 1994, and the Discovery was launched in 1989 following a £100 million investment programme.”
Original designer Maurice Wilkes never intended the original Land Rover to be driven exclusively by men in uniform and in nearly 70 years it has become synonymous with farming, adventure, life-guarding, life-saving and exploring.
The Citroën 2CV, born in the same year, ceased production in 1990. The Volkswagen Beetle predated them both, but didn’t hit its stride until 1945 and ended its production – on an entirely different continent from where it started – in 2003.
But Land Rovers have always been built in the heart of the West Midlands, in the same Solihull factory. Sales have run at a consistent 18,000 a year for some time, despite Land Rover engineers frequently having to adapt the vehicle to meet 21st-century safety or emissions legislation.
The Defender has a well-earned reputation for sterling service while it is thought that around two-thirds of the two million 4x4s built so far are still proudly on the road.
Speculation had been rife in some circles that the replacement vehicle for the Defender could be earmarked for assembly in India by owners Tata.
Sources hinted earlier this year that a new vehicle could be produced in India, purely for the Indian home market, under fresh plans in the pipeline at Jaguar Land Rover’s new assembly facility in Pune.
In January 2012, parent company boss Ratan Tata, who has since retired, said: “We are looking at producing the platform for the new Defender in India.”
But insiders now say the speculation is untrue.
Meanwhile, a concept vehicle, the Land Rover DC100, a modern interpretation of the original, was unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.