More than 700 current and former Solihull employees involved in the production of Series Land Rovers and Defenders were there to see the last Land Rover – a Defender 90 Heritage Soft Top – roll off the line. It’s the end of an impressive run of 68 years continuous production of cars with a direct DNA link to the original 1948 Land Rover.
The ever-enterprising Land Rover used the emotional occasion to unveil its new Heritage Restoration Programme, which will be based on the site of the existing Solihull production line. A team of experts, including some long-serving Defender employees, will oversee the restoration of a number of Series Land Rovers sourced from across the globe. The first vehicles will go on sale in July 2016.
The Defender Celebration in Solihull saw more than 25 unique vehicles from Land Rover’s history come together in a procession around the Solihull plant (below), featuring the final current Defender vehicle off the line. Land Rover associates were joined by a number of previous employees from the past 68 years to help celebrate this historic day.
The last of the current Defender vehicles includes an original part that has been used on Soft Top specifications since 1948 – the hood cleat. The vehicle will be housed in the Jaguar Land Rover Collection.
Land Rover’s Heritage Restoration programme will see the Series Land Rover and Defender’s name continue at Solihull. A team of twelve experts, ten of whom will transfer over from the existing production line, will lead the project, which will initially begin with the restoration and sale of early Series Land Rovers.
The team has 172 years of combined experience working on Defender or Land Rover production. One employee who will transfer onto the programme, Tony Martin, has worked at Solihull all of his life, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather; in effect, he will be restoring some of the vehicles his grandfather helped to build.
SOLIHULL AND THE SERIES LAND ROVER/DEFENDER FACTS
- The original Series I Land Rover cost £450 in 1948. It was powered by a four cylinder 1.6-litre engine with just 50bhp.
- Since 1948, 2,016,933 Series Land Rovers and Defenders have been built on the production line at Solihull.
- It takes 56 man hours to build each Defender.
- A new Defender rolled off the production line every four minutes.
- More than 10,000 Land Rover owners and visitors from all over the world have visited the Defender Celebration Line, which recreates the original 1948 production line, in just 12 months since it opened.
- Famous owners include the Queen, Sir Winston Churchill and actor Steve McQueen.
- The world-famous Land Rover Experience operation brought a new dimension and adventure to 4×4 ownership when it was formed in 1990, taking over from the Demonstration Team that had been set up by Roger Crathorne to show the exceptional talents of the vehicle around the world.
- The Defender became a movie star when it featured heavily in the film Born Free (1966) about the story of Elsa the Lion. Defenders are still used today by the Born Free Foundation and its founder, Virginia McKenna OBE, and her son, Will Travers OBE, both fitted parts to Defender 2,000,000.
- Two original parts have been fitted to all Soft Top Series Land Rovers and Defenders since 1948 – the hood cleats and the underbody support strut.
- With 7000 parts – it takes 56 hours to hand build every Defender, compared with 48 hours to build a Land Rover Discovery Sport.
- Associates have their own nick names for parts of the vehicle; the door hinges are known as ‘pigs ears’ and the dashboard is the ‘lamb’s chops’.
- Jaguar Land Rover Solihull currently produces Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Discovery, Jaguar XE and Jaguar F-PACE models.