January 28th 2016 marked the last day of production of the Land Rover Defender. Why does this warrant mention? Because it is the most adventure worthy vehicle in the history of adventure vehicles.
While inspired by the original U.S. army jeep they were far more simple. Their square bodies was due to a lack of tools to create curves. They had no real creature comforts - some of the Defender era rovers added more comfortable seats, and a stereo. But the early models "air conditioner" were flaps at the bottom of the windshield that could be opened. The early ones were extremely underpowered, topping out around 50 miles an hour. But when crossing Africa, that was just fine.
They have been under construction non-stop since 1947. Not sold as year models, they were originally produced with a series designator. Series I, Series II then IIA then III in the 1970's. Later models followed the more common model years, and they finally picked up the name Defender, to separate them from other models Land Rover was making. In 1996 Land Rover stopped importing the Land Rover Defender to the U.S. because they couldn't meet the safety standards - in particular, airbags.
This vehicle is so ubiquitous that it has been from war, to UN peace keeping missions. It has been driven by dictators to royalty - This is literally the Queens daily drive when she visits Scotland, though where the Queen drives I have no idea. I can't list the number of films that Land rovers have been in. In 1992 Land Rover estimated that 70% of all vehicles produced were still on the road (or off road as the case may be). Despite all this love, crash test limitations and emissions laws are bringing it to an end.
All I wanted was a Land Rover Series IIA - from around the year I was born - with a kayak under it. The best I could come up with was this.
My beloved Isuzu Trooper 2 had a similar boxy shape and simple engine. I bought that truck when I lived in Manhattan and had to get to my kayak on Long Island and then get to the water. It costs a little bit more than the boat under it. Someone once told me it looked like Africa - someone who had been to Africa - and it was my proudest moment. I cried a little when that truck died. I got no closer to a Rover than that Isuzu, and while I love my Yaris, I still dream of an old uncomfortable Series. Or maybe an early 90's Defender - which unremarkably sell for more now then they did when released.
Goodbye Land Rover. You will be missed.