The Land Rover was created in the shadow of World War II. Inspired by the American Jeeps that had flooded Europe during the war, it was made from aluminium, which was abundant thanks to the British public answering the Ministry of Information’s call to hand over their pots and pans. The Series I, launched in April 1948, came in various shades of military green.
But designer Maurice Wilkes never intended it to be driven exclusively by men in uniform. And so it proved to be. In 65 years it has become as synonymous with farming, adventure, life-guarding, life-saving, rescuing, exploring and endeavour as it has with combat. As British icons go, it predates the NHS.
No vehicle has enjoyed a life as long or as full as the Land Rover. The Citroën 2CV, born out of a similar imperative in the same year, ceased production in 1990. The Volkswagen Beetle predated them both, but didn’t really hit its stride until 1945 and ended its production – on an entirely different continent from where it started – in 2003. Land Rover Defenders have always been built in the same Solihull factory.
It has evolved of course. It now, for example, is a fashion icon thanks to A. Kahn Design.
It is, to many eyes at least, quite perfect: a symbiosis of style, proportion and stance thanks to the addition of front and rear wide wings with integrated vents and bolt apertures, Kahn automatic gearbox, extended wheel arches, Chelsea Truck Company spare wheel cover, side vents and bonnet vents and Kahn 20” Mondial wheels; the very definition of form following function.
Furthermore, a sumptuous cabin is a delight to observe and experience: hand crafted body hugging seats in quilted and perforated leather, billet and leather steering wheel, Harris tweed inserts and sharp instrumentation complete just one of many a customisable packages that everyone just craves for.
Defenders have a habit of going on forever. It’s said that 75 per cent of the two million built so far are still on the road. So chances are there will still be Kahn Land Rover Defenders in 2070 when the rest of us are driving hovercars.
The Defender’s magic however, is Land Rover the company, now at the forefront of a resurgent UK manufacturing sector and selling over 300,000 cars a year. Yes, you will rarely find anything in common between a Defender and a Range Rover, but the latter would not have come about without the former and its endearing legacy is that your car can be something just that little bit more magical than merely a form of transport.