A Visual History of the Land Rover Defender

After 68 years and two million trucks, it's time to bid farewell to the amazing Land Rover Defender.
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After 68 years and two million trucks, it's time to bid farewell to the amazing Land Rover Defender.

A post-World War II hero, helping people conquer some of the world's most rugged and remote terrains over the decades, the legendary Land Rover Defender will cease production in January 2016.

This won't matter much to U.S. car collectors, because the Defender is no longer sold here, leaving the Range Rover as the company's flagship model. But it should leave auto enthusiasts misty-eyed when considering the Defender's storied legacy. 

If some products start as a sketch on the figurative back of an envelope, the Land Rover Defender's beginning was far more telling for the vehicle's intent. 

"My father met his brother on the beach at Red Wharf Bay [Wales] and made a drawing in the sand of how he thought the Land Rover could be made," said Stephen Wilks, son of company founder Maurice Wilks. "That was the start of it all, the conception of Land Rover."

Since then, the Defender has traversed the wilds of Africa and Australia, served as a tractor and fire truck and become a popular prestige vehicle. It spawned the Range Rover, Discovery and Evoque families, but has always retained its supreme off-road capability.

That's why the Defender earned a spot in the next James Bond film,Spectre, for a pulse-pounding chase scene on snow-covered roads. It's also why the truck has been treasured by famous owners like Sean Connery, Bill Murray, Paul McCartney, Robin Williams, Ralph Lauren and Fidel Castro.

Along the way, the Defender inspired imitators like the Toyota Land Cruiser, but the copycats could never hope to measure up to the truly awesome original.

As production of this iconic off-roader nears its end, the company commemorated construction of the two-millionth Defender with this video.

Over the years the Defender has become ever more lavishly appointed, but the company aims to remind buyers of the original model with the Heritage Edition, which is outfitted to resemble that first Land Rover as closely as possible.

Thanks for the memories, Land Rover Defender. You'll be missed. 

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Photos by Land Rover