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Land Rover Defender: A 4x4 legend

2014-03-14 09:39

PRODUCTION TO END:: Due to government and safety regulations, the venerable Defender line will be chopped. Land Rover announced it will cease production of its iconic 4x4 in 2015. Image: LAND ROVER


I'm one of the thousands of Land Rover Defender owners and I’m passionate about the vehicles and what they represent. I own a Defender 110 Td5 hard-top.
I 've often wondered why it remains such a well-loved and desired vehicle, despite the fact that it lacks most of the luxuries and styling that modern 4X4'sprovide. For me, the following attributes make a Defender irresistibe – design, construction, the drive, functionality.

First and foremost there’s their design and construction. Both are unapologetically utilitarian and virtually unchanged since the first model rolled off the production line in 1948.  It’s still constructed of flat aluminum sheets which are pop-riveted together, with an almost vertical windscreen. It has a body to which you can bolt thingswithout feeling guilty.

It also drives like a truck. It feels like you’re operating a 100-ton crane in a coal mine in the Ukraine when pulling away from a robot.  When you go over a bump in the road the whole vehicle jolts and you realise it was not designed for comfort at all.  

Why it has seats for passengers is a bit of a mystery because at best it’s the driver that enjoys travelling in it. Even the driving position leaves much to be desired. You sit fairly upright, with no elbow room to the right of your shoulder and a steering column that is slightly off-centre to the driving position.

I’m not even going to say anything about the handbrake position…    


Despite its flaws, the Defender satisfies many owners’ deep sense of functionality, sensibility and preservation in a world where a greedy consumer-culture has cheapened many items' use and design.  
There’s a deep sense of pleasure and satisfaction that comes with the rugged off-road capability of a Land Rover; it’s strong; tough and hard.  Most owners are unlikely to even use 20% of its capability. That, however, is inconsequential as long as they know that it’s available.  

Defender drivers love that feeling of power and ability and they too end up feeling strong and tough. Add to that the hint of a lifestyle consisting of regular African safaris and adventure.
As a Defender lover I fully accept that changes and advances in vehicle design, manufacturing techniques, safety standards and market make it inevitable that production of the current design has to end. It's a reality that must be accepted.

The question to be answered is whether a “modern version” of the Defender should be designed and produced. I think it’s virtually impossible to produce an “instantly recognisable” replacement.


The main attributes of the current design are its tall, straight lines, with specific reference to the steep windshield and vertical rear end.  It would be unreasonable to expect those lines to be replicated in a modern vehicle, even if created with a “retro-theme”, as seen by the designers of the Toyota FJ Cruiser.
I thinkthe designers did a fantastic job of “getting it right” with the DC100 concept. It took me a while to get used to its lines and the “overall picture” of the DC100 but the more I looked at it the more I liked it.

It retains in my opinion, as far as practically possible, the main elements of the Defender, while adding a new and modern design DNA that will live on for many years, if not decades.
I say “well done, chaps!” and hope the new Defender will look materially similar to the DC100. I will gladly start saving now to buy my own “new Defender” if it looks anything like the DC100.

Read more on:    land rover  |  south africa  |  defender  |  4x4  |  off-road

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