Andy McNab Pays Tribute to Defender
Former SAS sergeant Andy McNab has hailed the role of Land Rover Defenders in the British military after the last one rolled off the production line. He said Land Rovers have been “synonymous” with the Armed Forces because they act as a “huge weapons platform”.
Current and former workers at the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) plant in Solihull, West Midlands, cheered as the final Defender was presented, with its lights flashing and horn blaring. JLR used the occasion to announce the launch of a heritage restoration programme for what is one of the most-loved and long-lived road vehicles.
More than two million of the 4x4s have been built over the past 68 years.
A team of experts will restore a number of early Land Rovers at the Solihull plant, with the first ones going on sale in July. The scheme will also ensure spare parts are made available to enable existing owners to keep their cars on the road.
Motoring experts said production was ended because of difficulties in meeting modern safety and emissions standards.
McNab, now a successful author, recently bought his own Defender after learning that no more new ones would be made.
“I got one at the end of last year because of this,” he told the Press Association. “I love them. I learned to drive in one. They’ve always been there because it’s been the main vehicle for the military since about the Fifties.”
He described Defenders as “the basic workhorse” and compared them favourably to the US Army’s equivalent. “The American Humvee is a great machine but it’s so wide and cumbersome,” he explained. “The larger machines can’t get into areas as quickly as Land Rovers, it’s as simple as that. They’re fantastic.”
Defenders are a favourite with the Queen and have featured in a number of films such as James Bond movie Skyfall and Edge Of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise.
The vehicle, which was exported all around the world, represented the continuation of the very first Land Rover which arrived on the scene in April 1948 and was modelled on the wartime Jeeps.
JLR chief executive Dr Ralf Speth told the gathering of workers in Solihull that the vehicle is “the origin of our legendary capability”. He said: “(It is) a vehicle that makes the world a better place, often in some of the most extreme circumstances. There will always be a special place in our hearts for Defender, among all our employees, but this is not the end. We have a glorious past to champion and a wonderful future to look forward to.”
Jim Holder, editorial director of magazines Autocar and What Car?, said Defenders “appeal to every level of society”.
He told the Press Association: “It’s a classless vehicle. Anyone can drive it. You might be a farmer trying to get over the muddiest field or it might be the Queen driving around Windsor. Neither would surprise you if you saw it.”
Mr Holder believes JLR made the decision to cease production of Defenders because “regulations have finally caught up with it”.He said: “They haven’t been able to update crash safety or the engine emissions quick enough. “The world has overtaken it to a point where they can no longer keep on the right side of emissions and safety laws.”
JLR is working on a replacement vehicle for the Defender, but Mr Holder claimed it will be a “massive challenge” to match the status of the original.