BY CODY FACTEAU
The Land Rover, a British-made all-terrain vehicle that would one day earn a legendary reputation for its use in exotic locations, debuted at an auto show in Amsterdam on April 30, 1948. For more than 65 years the Land Rover has gotten people through some of the worst terrain this world has to offer, and along the way it has set the mark for all other off-road vehicles to follow.
The first Land Rover, known as the Series 1, was the invention of Maurice Wilks, the head designer for the British car company Rover. Maurice Wilks used an old American-made Willys-Overland Jeep to do work at his farm in England. However, the Jeep was plagued by mechanical troubles and Wilks decided he could design a more reliable vehicle. Mimicking the best attributes of the Jeep, especially the strong chassis, the first Land Rovers had aluminum skin taken from WWII aircraft. At first, the vehicle was intended to be used for farm work and to be more versatile than a tractor. The resulting Land Rover, known as the Series 1, had a boxy, utilitarian design, four-wheel drive and a canvas roof. Things like passenger seat cushions, doors, a heater and spare tires were initially considered extras and cost more. The rugged Land Rover was well-received by the public and ended up being used not just for farm work, but by police forces, military organizations, aid workers in remote places and travelers on expeditions where road conditions were poor or non-existent. In 1976, the one millionth Land Rover rolled off the assembly line in Solihull, Birmingham, England.
The Land Rover Defender has been around for a long, long time. It is what it is ... a land rover defender that has been moving over the land and defending countries for decades now. Sure, it has evolved considerably from its Series 1 predecessor, but its iconic shape is still instantly recognizable anywhere in the world. Six series of Land Rover have been produced since 1948. After the Series ended, what came to be known as the Defender started out as the Ninety, the One Ten and the 127. But the Defender, by any other name, is still a Defender and has been in production from 1983 to the present. Now for some facts about the Land Rover. The name, like Ninety or One Ten, reflects the wheelbase of the Land Rover and according to a 1992 Land Rover report, more than 70 percent of all Land Rovers produced are still in use. Land Rover Defenders ARE expensive, supply and demand, and all that. But that could be about to change. The Defender will now be built by SML Frontier Automotive Ltd., which is jointly owned by Sathosa Motors and Sheran Fernando. "The proposed project would make Land Rover vehicles available and affordable to a wider spectrum of the market," said SML Frontier Automotive Ltd Chairman Sumal Perera.
A replacement is in the works for the Defender, due by 2015 when new European regulations regarding crash safety for pedestrians will render the current design obsolete. In fact, the Land Rover Defender has not met U.S. safety requirements since 1998. Since then, Land Rover has been offering U.S. buyers the more luxurious LR2 and LR4's instead. What's more, the new Defender will have another home as well, on the peaceful island of Sri Lanka, just off the southern tip of India.
According to my research, the Defender has been made in: Solihull, United Kingdom; Shah Alam, Malaysia; Istanbul, Turkey; Aqaba, Jordan; Thika, Kenya and soon to be Sri Lanka. The Land Rover Defender ... A vehicle for the world, made by the world.
Cody Facteau is a 17-year old homeschooler from East Burke. He enjoys anything to do with cars, particularly the Classics. He loves Le Mans racing, his favorite TV shows are Gearz with Stacey David and Top Gear (BBC), and hobbies are Lego's and Xbox 360. Cody is also a cadet with the Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force Auxiliary. Check out Cody's Car Talk on Facebook. Career goals? What else, cars!