Every manufacturer has that one halo model – or one that’s remembered most fondly – and for Land Rover that car is the Defender.

While some might argue the Range Rover has now taken over, if you look back at the enthusiasm behind the Defender, it’s easy to see what this model remains as iconic and appealing as ever.

Here we take a look at a brief history of it.

Iconic Land Rover Defender History 2

1948 – Grand unveil

Unveiled to the world on April 30, 1948, the Land Rover Series I was the firm’s first ever production model – showcasing Land Rover’s intention to be the best at off-roading from the beginning.

1953 – Longer wheelbases introduced

If you see an original Series I in the flesh, their compact size becomes immediately clear. To broaden the Landie’s appeal, a longer wheelbase version was introduced in 1953.

1958 – Series II introduced

After a decade in production, Land Rover introduced the Series II in 1958, which brought in a larger 2.25-litre petrol engine. While it might look identical, look at the curved shoulder line to see one of the most obvious differences.

1959 – The 250,000th version was produced

1966 – Number 500,000 rolls off the production line

1971 – Series III produced

Another slight revision that you’d be hard to spot the difference with, as key changes on the Series III are largely under the surface – a new gearbox and stronger brakes being the main alterations.

1976 – A million units produced

1979 – A mighty V8 is introduced

Seeing a V8 engine in a Land Rover today is quite normal, but in 1979 it was a big change for Land Rover to put a 3.5-litre Rover V8 underneath the bonnet – elevating its performance noticeably.

Iconic Land Rover Defender History 3
Iconic Land Rover Defender History 4

1983 – New 90 and 110 variants

Signalling the length of their wheelbase, the 90 and 110 Defenders were introduced in 1983 as another key difference for Land Rover.

Once again, the styling remained in check, so you need to look beneath the surface again to spot the differences – a new five-speed gearbox, front disc brakes and optional power steering.

1990 – The Defender is introduced

It might seem bizarre, but it wasn’t until 1990 that Land Rover officially started calling its rugged off-roader the Defender.

2016 – Final Defender rolls off the production line

After 68 years in production, the final Defender rolled off the Solihull production line in 2016, with emissions and safety regulations being to blame for its demise.

H166 HUE was the last Defender to ever be produced, and it’s painted in the same Grasmere Green as the original. More than two million were produced in the end.

Iconic Land Rover Defender History 5
Iconic Land Rover Defender History 6

2018 – A true V8 Defender

Despite the Defender being out of production for two years, it didn’t stop Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations division from creating a limited ‘Works V8’ model to mark the firm’s 70th anniversary in 2018.

2019 – An all-new model

After more than three years out of production, Land Rover unveiled its all-new Defender at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. While offering the tech, safety and efficiency expected of a modern car, it’s still remarkably capable off-road.



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