back to article Land Rover's return: Last orders and leather seats for Defender nerds

We all know there’s only on one true Land Rover: the Defender. A cheerful, competent, boxy-shaped device that’s been in production since 1948, inspired by the Jeep, the Allies' WWII workhorse. It looks as good pulling logs from a forest as it does pulling up outside a house in Mayfair and it was voted Greatest Car of All Time …


  1. Timmay

    I must be misunderstanding something - if these bad boys are so easily customisable, why is it so hard to put in a nice clean Euro VI or VII (or whatever it will be in 2020) compliant engine?

    Or if it's the average of a company's range of vehicles which have to be below an amount of something, do what Aston Martin did and have one small model to balance it out?

    1. AndyS

      I've been wondering that too, since there is no shortage of certified engines which could pull a defender just fine.

      I suspect it's because they would be looking at a full ground-up redesign, and the bean-counters have probably discounted it. Maybe it's not really making money as it is anyway? I'd also be very surprised if the tooling isn't moved elsewhere (Brazil, China, Eastern Europe) for a tidy profit. The original Beetle was still produced in Brazil this way until a couple of years ago.

      Finally Land Rover is a much bigger manufacturer than the niche sports brands. I suspect that what will work for a tiny company won't work for a mass-market manufacturer. I think the "average" emissions only really kicks in once you're over a certain size, and I suspect the aggressive launch of the Evoque has a lot to do with this. For its size, it's surprisingly economical.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      As I understand it the critical factor isn't emissions but crash safety for pedestrians. That's not going to be fixed by an engine swap.

      It looks as if they're going to build a replacement in eastern Europe with a monocoque body on a steel chassis. I can't quite see how that's going to lend itself to all the military versions.

      1. david bates

        Also its very, very expensive to build. You watch a Range Rover being glued and riveted together by huge robots, and watch Defenders being built by hand - they even have to align the headlamps still. They're mainly toys now, sold to rich city boys.

        I suspect the line will find its way to India, when manual labour is cheaper, and then some will find themselves imported. Dunno where the legislation thats killing the Defender leaves Santana though (assuming they still make Defender-esque vehicles)

        1. fruitoftheloon

          @david bates - rich boys toys wh


          You may believe that many Landies are rich boys toys.

          Methinks that the many farmers hereabouts (Devon) would fervently disagree with you...




          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: @david bates - rich boys toys wh

            After the Defender, does anyone know of another machine with its virtues?

            I mean one that you can stand on the roof, or a farmer in a barn with a spanner can fix up with a mail order panel if one gets battered etc?

            There are any number of supposedly "superior" 4WD vehicles but they are all great as long life stays within certain parameters. For true in the field robustness and repair, the '48 design is quite special.

            1. Phuq Witt
              Thumb Up

              Re: @david bates - rich boys toys wh

              "...After the Defender, does anyone know of another machine with its virtues?..."

              The Toyota Landcruiser 'Troopy' –it's what the Defender could have been, if they'd built them with Japanese technology.

              Sigh! –if only:

              A: I had the money

              B: The Aussies didn't nab most of them as they roll iff the production lines.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @david bates - rich boys toys wh

              For a long time, the 2CV was the farm vehicle of choice in France for precisely this reason. Any farmer could fix one up with a wrench and a hammer in the back barn. I always wondered how on earth they got anywhere in the typical farm muck with only 2WD. On the other hand the French don't mind if things take time, c'est la vie and all that.

            3. cream wobbly

              Re: @david bates - rich boys toys wh

              The clue is in the article... a Fiat made by yanks.

              The Land Rover was inspired by the old Willys GP, which after changing hands many times, became the Jeep, then changed hands some more. Considering it's still being made, I reckon the changes of ownership did it some good, and got the whole thing revised.

              Maybe someone will make a Landie body kit for a Wrangler?

            4. jelabarre59 Silver badge

              Re: @david bates - rich boys toys wh

              > I mean one that you can stand on the roof, or a farmer in a barn with a spanner can fix up with a mail order panel if one gets battered etc?

              Don't kid yourself; that's *exactly* why they want to get rid of it. Can't have folks fixing it by themselves when the dealership could be charging 10X the price to do it for you. I've said something similar about the VW BogusBeetle; if you can't fix it yourself in your garage with minimal tools, it's not a *real* Beetle.

          2. zapper

            Re: @david bates - rich boys toys wh

            And in in sunny Watford, where my 1986 '90/Defender mix (its a long story) gets used to tow a RiB down to the south coast for diving. Sadly I cannot run it into London due to the current Low Emission Zone (It was classed as a van for some reason)

        2. Dr_N Silver badge

          Santana died a death years ago.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge


        "As I understand it the critical factor isn't emissions but crash safety for pedestrians. "

        It's all round safety. Range Rovers and Land Rovers are mostly exempt from EU crash safety requirements as the chassis are virtually unchanged from initial production, long before those regulations came into effect all those years ago.

        Pedestrian safety is affected by the externals, so that's what's driving the runout of the range - changes necessary to comply with that mean chassis changes and that in turn means the grandfathering goes away.

        On top of that, Defenders/90/110/Serieswhatever haven't been road legal in North America since 1993, so that's a large chunk of the market they're locked out of (even before then, North American units had to have a roll cage integrated to be able to be sold.)

        In the real world such grandfathering should have only been allowed to continue for 3-4 years at most.

        The last LR I had to put up with was a series 2 back in the early 80s. Compared to Nissan's Patrol and Toyota's Landcruiser it was atrocious (Shocking on-road handling, unreliable electrics, gutless, thirsty, high maintenance and couldn't handle conditions in NZ mountains in winter that the other two didn't have trouble with) so I was glad to see the back of it as a work wagon.

        I gather they improved a lot after that but the damage had already been done ("Made in Britain" was already regarded as a warning label in the 1970s, but government directives mean that many organisations ended up buying british machinery long after the vast superiority of japanese-sourced stuff was apparent to everyone).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Down

          Re: safety

          The last LR I had to put up with was a series 2 back in the early 80s

          A car that went out of production in 1961. Good comparison.

        2. Mayhem

          Re: safety @Alan Brown

          We had an ex-NZFS Series 2a for most of the 80s, still had all the speed limits for Kaingaroa, Kinleith etc printed on the firewall. Was still going well but struggled to pull our new trailer yacht so we got a SWB Series 3 instead with the bigger petrol engine and an LPG mod for cheaper running.

          The Series 3 would never win any speed records thanks to the gearbox - it topped out somewhere around 110 but the needle would swing from 100-120 so you kinda had to guess. Sounded like a banshee on heat and was about as economical as a brick. But as a work vehicle for a marine environment it was brilliant - you could leave it parked for a week or three and not worry about rust. It pulled a 2.5 ton load without complaint and had the low range to get it in and out of the drink. The narrow wheels also sliced nicely through the slime on the boat ramps, so we pulled our share of weekend warriors out as well.

          Aye, the electrics were notoriously bad, but trivial to rewire, and I never forgot someone slamming into the back at some traffic lights and all he did was clean the surface rust off my towball with his radiator. You also never had to worry about cold feet, that was what the firewall was for.

          I do remember there being some kind of black market trade in halfshafts - we had both sides pinched out of the wheels at different times, and I always had a couple of spares rolled up under a seat along with a crown or two. Very odd, they weren't terribly expensive parts as they were basically a mechanical fuse.

          Fond memories.

      3. John Sturdy

        But it could be fixed by a redesign of the front end of the bodywork, like the Belgian "Minerva" variant with a sloped front.

    3. Lars Silver badge

      "because it cannot meet (or be made to meet) new car emission rules from the European Council that kick in in 2020." (Five years from now!!!). What about emission rules in the USA in 2020.

      Blame the EU, just kidding but then again "Remarkably, the vehicles are still put together largely by hand".

      How remarkable you lost that industry.

      As I remember Britain was the last country in Western Europe to stop using arsenic in paint because some lad had a mountain of it. Is something similar going on here.

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Fuel economy requirements

      The new fuel economy rules cannot be met by something which has the aerodynamics of a shed on wheels. Let's face, cute as it may be the Defender has outlived its time. If you want an agricultural utility 4x4 these days you are better off with an Isuzu or L200.

      Not sure if they are compliant to the new rules either, but they at least stand a chance to be (the Isuzu can do 45 mpg+, the L200 is not far behind).

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: Fuel economy requirements

        Not sure if they are compliant to the new rules either, but they at least stand a chance to be (the Isuzu can do 45 mpg+, the L200 is not far behind).


        I have a 2015 L200 Barbarian. Ok. it's the auto variant, but on a run from Gatwick to t' Northshire starting at 2am (so no traffic to speak of), keeping at a steady cruise-controlled 80mph (72mph on the sat nav) it returned just under 21mpg.

        And before you say there's something wrong with it - there was something wrong with the one prior to it that Mitsubishi eventually swapped. That one, the many loan vehicles and this one (varying between auto and manual boxes, too) never returned much better even if driven like a granny on downers.

        1. Rob

          Re: Fuel economy requirements

          I usually find cruise control kills any good mpg you may be able to achieve. It's designed to maintain your speed not give you good mpg.

          1. TonyJ Silver badge

            Re: Fuel economy requirements

            On a straight, uncluttered road it doesn't - it maintains constant speed and therefore pretty constant RPM.

            Where it tends to kill it is when people brake, slowing down and turning it off, but then flick it back on resume when they go over 30 or so and the vehicle then tries to rev itself to get back to that speed.

            And I get the same unflattering results whether used or not - that was just one example.

            And yet my 3 litre, V6 A5 Quattro with permant 4 wheel drive could comfortably come in at over 40mpg. Cruise or not.

            And yes, I realise it's apples and oranges to a large extent but permanent 4wd is usually an mpg killer.

          2. fruitoftheloon
            Thumb Up

            @Rob cruise control Re: Fuel economy requirements


            Conversely I have always found cc to improve my mpg, I assume because I then don't get too lead-footed...



          3. cream wobbly

            Re: Fuel economy requirements

            Absolutely correct. Which is why you were voted down by Reg readers...

            To return good MPG at an approximate speed, a cruise control system would need to know about terrain, and weather conditions; and while we're at it, filling station locations, traffic conditions, and road works; and while we're at it, speed limits and speed trap locations. If it's doing all that, it might as well do the steering and gear changes for you, and start and stop. And why bother with roads then? May as well put it on metal rails and hook it up to all the rest of the travelers. And then in a fit of cost-reduction, axe the computer control (except for the automatic stopping and speed limit monitoring) and put a little man at the front with a nifty cap. And a whistle.

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Fuel economy requirements

          My Discovery 2 auto is more economical than that!

          1. TonyJ Silver badge

            Re: Fuel economy requirements

            My Discovery 2 auto is more economical than that!

            I think most things are more economical than that. It's shocking, really. I haven't had a chance to test how badly it returns doing any serious 4 wheel drive stuff yet.

            I bought it primarily to carry dive kit to mountainous regions for cave diving as a) two sets of kit for several days didn't fit well into the Audi, b) neither did two growing kids and c) I am sure the wet kit in the boot was the reason the boot-mounted amplifier blew up (apparently - I didn't tend to use either the nav or radio that often so I have no idea when it went - I only found out after the dealer told me it was kaput).

        3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Fuel economy requirements


          1. Did you inflate your tires to motorway pressure? The "book" pressure is for offroad / mixed driving. F.e. my Isuzu Denver 2007 manual does ~ 32 mpg at its preferred UK speed of 65 (reported by satnav), inflating the tires 20% above that gets this to 38.5. Similarly, 90 mph on the Autobahn 27 mpg with "book" pressure and 32 mpg with 20% above that. This is with Nexen tractor-like tires which have the most atrocious and fuel economy-unfriendly 4x4 thread you can think of. General Grabbers happily get you to 40mpg+ driving like a granny at 65 (the bloody Isuzu dashboard computer decides that its a fault and reports 40 from there onwards).

          The new model adds 5mpg to that (6th gear is quite useful)

          2. Is your load area covered? If you do not have a solid lid your aerodynamics go to hell. That is 5mpg at motorway speeds right there.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Fuel economy requirements

        "The new fuel economy rules cannot be met by something which has the aerodynamics of a shed on wheels. "

        Aerodynamics are irrelevant below ~45mph and any 4x4 which is doing what it's designed for spends almost all its operating life below those speeds.

        You wouldn't really want to drive a series2 past 45 anyway. It got "interesting" in a lot of uncomfortable ways.

  2. AndyS

    "Body in White"

    This is a standard term for any vehicle, built to standard specification and before customer-ordered specifics such as custom interiors or (and hence the name) paintwork is added.

    Wikipedia makes it sound a bit more archaic, talking about white-primed wooden structure, but where I used to work we would build two types of vehicle. The majority were for a customer, fully prepped and ready to go. The second were the body-in-whites, for re-sellers, leasers etc, who would want a pool of stock vehicles that they could sell/lease on. Guess what colour the second group were painted?

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: "Body in White"

      Your company's usage is at odds with the rest of the motor industry's, though. It sounds like someone al long time ago conflated the terms "Body in White" and "White-label".

      The "body in white" is the structural frame and attached body panels, including doors, but with no engine, seats, trim or other accessories: basically it's the bits of the car that go through the paint shop.

      Whenever manufacturers talk about weight reduction measures, they're careful to mention that it's "body in white weight", because with the increasing amount of accessories fitted to cars these days, you can shave 50 kg off the body-in-white, and still end up with a car that's 10 kg heavier than its predecessor.

      1. killban1971

        Re: "Body in White"

        "Shave" 50kg off a BIW structure? BIW for a mid sized steel saloon is around 400kg, then the chassis boys bolt on their "lightweight" cast iron parts, the electircal boys shove in every toy they can think of, and it's capped off with a layer of rag and fluff from the interior trim chaps.

        The carefully honed and weight optimised BIW has been turned into a 1500kg lump, and BIW get the blame for making yet another heavy car.

        Steel BIW - 400kg approx

        Aluminium BIW - 300kg approx

        CFRP BIW - 200kg approx


        Mines the one with the 27 years of BIW experience in the pocket...

    2. Peter Depledge

      Re: "Body in White"

      "Body in White" is simply that. the body is assembled and primed.

      All LR bodies (not sure about the monocoques) are primed in white primer.

      That's why LR Experience used to use white vehicles for their off road training courses. Other colours show the scratches more. eg green topcoat is scratched to reveal white primer.

  3. nilfs2

    Programed obsolescence

    The Land Rover Defender is one of the last cars challenging Programed Obsolescence, nobody wants to build a car that lasts forever anymore, the good thing though, is that parts for older models will be available again by the heritage division of JLR

    Hopefully they will have stick sets and canvas tops available at sensible prices for my 1961 88" Series 2.

    1. Otto is a bear.

      Re: Programed obsolescence

      I seem to remember that the Land Rover defender has a ridiculously long life, with a surprisingly high percentage of those made in any year still running.

      Also, Land Rover have designed a replacement, not sure when it's due.

  4. fruitoftheloon

    The downsides of Landy ownership...

    Whilst I have always yearned for classic Defender, they are regretably out of ones' price range at the mo...

    Plus even if I could afford a new one, I wouldn't spend my £ on one due to the truly shocking build quality.

    My neighbour has a lovely looking new (as in 3 weeks old) silver 110, many of the visible bolts are already rusty, there is bubbling around the windscreen brackets amongst other places.



    1. Will 30

      Re: The downsides of Landy ownership...

      They tend to be like this even on the forecourt. Absolute crap.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The downsides of Landy ownership...

        The showroom LRs always had a tray underneath them to catch the oil drips.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: The downsides of Landy ownership...

          But without the tray it would just soak back into the ground where it could be pumped out by future generations - recycling at its best

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: The downsides of Landy ownership...

          You do know how the oil refill indication works on a LR right? If it stops leaking it needs more oil.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: The downsides of Landy ownership...

            My 2003 Discovery doesn't normally leak oil.

            It did once, just nipped up the canister oil filter a littl emore

        3. RainForestGuppy

          Re: The downsides of Landy ownership...

          Would that be the BMW or Ford engines???

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: The downsides of Landy ownership...

            If me, neither, mine has a Land Rover engine, definately not Ford (Transit) nor BMW (the 6s)

        4. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: The downsides of Landy ownership...

          > The showroom LRs always had a tray underneath them to catch the oil drips.

          A friend told me a tale about our local LR dealer, those in the know will recognise it in a moment ...

          Some bods from LR were round, saw the nice Coniston slate (from the local quarry) floor, and mentioned that it didn't meet LRs specifications for a showroom - specifically that it be carpeted. Apparently a reply was long the lines of "when you make them without drips, we'll carpet the floor". That was some years ago - the floor is still nice Coniston slate AFAIK :)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aluminium body on an steel frame just ripe for electrolytic corrosion which has always plagued the classic land rover.

  6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "versions that run on rails"

    I think my first memory of an "unusual" Land Rover was from a magazine printed in the early 70's called Speed & Power which my brother used to buy. I remember a photo in there showing a Land Rover with railway wheel hooked up to a couple of flatbeds rail wagons loaded up with Land Rovers. There might also have been a photo of the tracked one in the article as that looked familiar when I saw it.

    That magazine was also one of the primary reasons I got into SF. There was a short story near the back of each issue, the most memorable ones being the short Arthur C. Clarke series starting with huge futuristic airship (it crashed) and the now cyborged main character in the follow-up piloting a hot air balloon in the heights of Jupiter's atmosphere. Oh yes, and the Clark story about a sun sail powered race in space. 60-70 years later we are seeing prototype cargo carrying airships and more prototyping with solar sails.

    1. David Given

      Re: "versions that run on rails"

      ...huh, I didn't know _A Meeting With Medusa_ was the second in a series --- can you remember what the original was called?

      Also, run away, don't walk:

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "versions that run on rails"

        A quick search led me to wikipedia which tells me it was all one story, but longer than the magazine published so they must have split it into two episode at the natural break between the airship crash and the trip to Jupiter. It made an impression on me in that form so although I've certainly read it since then (but not for a long time) it's still lodged in my brain as two stories. Thinking about it now, it was only a page or two with a couple of pics so even that was probably abridged.

    2. Ed 13

      Re: "versions that run on rails"

      The Statfold Barn Railway have one that runs on 2ft gauge rails:

      Hunslet Rail Land Rover

  7. Maty

    the kudu

    Mention must also be made of the Kudu armored personnel carrier built on a Landrover base by the Rhodesian security forces. A model of this weird-looking beast can be seen here ...

  8. spegru

    I'm quite sure thr reasons for demise are nothing to do with emissions as those are easily fixed with a different engine as it has received many time over the years anyway. Nope I'm pretty sure the reason is profitability in manufacture - it's all that hand mad stuff that's seen it' demise. Still using 1940s manufacturing techniques does not make business sense in the 20 teens.

    Leaves a gap in the range tho - after all this is where LR gets its pedigree from. There have been enough renditions of a replacement after all but there is no reason it needs to have a separate chassis...

  9. regadpellagru

    LR 90 to be purchased, here

    Funny to see an article on LRs, here at El Reg, as I'm on track to buy a 90 from 15 years ago.

    It's superb, but will cost me 14 kE (only 60 000 km).

    That's gonna replace a Toyota Prado, as it's called in Australia, where it's common.


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