Cars and Coffee, Austin TX, January 2017
Some of the most enduring automobiles were born out of necessity, not necessarily out of intent to create something beautiful. The Land Rover Defender is a perfect example. Its roots can be traced back to the Series I which was conceived in post-war Britain. At the time rebuilding industry and the economy were very much the priority, and the Rover Company rightly deemed that proceeding with a simple utility vehicle was more important than passenger cars, indeed over the luxury cars it was building before the war. The mechanical design and appearance was a nature of this austerity. With limited materials on hand and designing for manufacturability an overriding concern, engineers had a very narrow canvas available. As a result this humble agrarian tool launched in 1948 was boxy and devoid of frills, but it was rugged and got the (often dirty) job done.
Top: The HUE 166 registration plate logo pays homage to the first Land Rover prototype, chassis LR1.
The Utility Vehicle from 1948 to 2015.
Not only did the Series Land Rovers remain largely unchanged all the way to the end of the line in 1985, the subsequent 90/110/Defenders continued the philosophy well. While they gained some comfort and modern underpinnings, they never compromised on the utility that made a Land Rover, well, a Land Rover.
An adventurer, this example sports a fold-away awning, pop-up top, and many bins for equipment and provisions.
Evidence of this utility is easily found in both civilian and military guise – many special variants were created from the core vehicle: different wheelbases or passenger capacity; ambulances and fire engines; motor homes, even tracked versions as in the rare Cuthbertson conversions. They can be found in all corners of the globe today.
The Union Jack and a tow hitch – to explore with resolve.
As the Defender line finally finished its run in 2015, three commemorative editions were made available. Of the three, the aptly named Heritage Edition is the one most faithful to the pioneering spirit of the original and this example fully embraces that heritage. Not one to be preserved for future appreciation, it is purpose-built to take on the adventures that its forebearers had envisioned.
Carpe diem, Land Rover.