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Why Was The Land Rover Defender so Popular? – Revhead Ramblings

The Defender was to the countryside what the black cab is to London. The Queen has one, Sir Winston Churchill had one and Sir David Attenborough uses one for his adventures. It’s the ultimate British vehicle, but why was it so popular?

After 68 years of faithful service, the Defender is no more, once voted by Top Gear viewers as the greatest car ever, it has now finished production. The longevity of production helped its appeal, a car that can survive through so many generations is sure to create an emotional bond amongst families and businesses. The most recent edition even shared a component with the original, it was the hood cleat for the soft top version but it’s still impressive!


The original car built in 1948 was inspired by the World War Two Jeep with the addition of Rover mechanicals. The body was even made of aluminium, this makes it sound far more advanced than it actually was, the only reason the lightweight metal was used was because there was a surplus supply after fighter plane production had stopped and the UK was suffering from a chronic steel shortage.


Land Rover Defender

The Series 1 was a pioneer, it began a new breed of car for Europe; the 4X4. It was the first commercially successful civilian off-roader and it could be argued that this was the starting point of today’s SUV. The Land Rover had a gleaming reputation for going ‘above and beyond’, it tackled everywhere from the Sahara to the Serengeti, the Darien Gap to Dakar.

It seems that when we actually talk about the Defender’s off-road prowess however, we’ve got a particularly thick set of rose tinted glasses on. There’s a reason the Toyota Land Cruiser outsold it in Africa and Australia comfortably. The Defender lacked the electronic controls and ride height adjustment to make it the perfect off roader and the engine just wasn’t powerful enough.

Why Was The Defender So Popular?

The Defender was popular for one main reason, it was supremely functional. Form follows function, and that’s ever present in the beloved Landie. Modern manufacturers have realised in today’s market, emotional appeal is key to successful sales, designers are given free rein to appeal to the fashion-conscious buyers, this has resulted in some questionable designs to say the least.

The best vehicles were made in a simpler time, the list includes the original Mini, the 1957 Fiat 500, Citroën H Van, Mk1 Fiat Panda (Giugiaro’s masterpiece) and first Range Rover. It includes fast cars too, like the C-, D- and E-type Jaguars (designed by an aircraft engineer), as well as most Ferraris, the ’90s McLaren F1 and the Miura, Lamborghini’s greatest car.

Coco Chanel said: ‘fashion goes out of fashion’. The Defender was never intended to conform to design cues, it was there to serve a purpose and it has done that ever since, which is why the Defender is so sorely missed already and people are chomping at the bit to learn more about the replacement due soon.

To ensure you don’t miss out on any of Alex’s ‘Revhead Ramblings‘ be sure to follow him on Twitter at @AlexClickDealer!

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