PETER FROST will not mourn the passing of the iconic all-terrain vehicle whose image will forever be tarnished by its association with political repression and warfare.
EVERY macho motoring correspondent, from jingoistic Jeremy Clarkson upward, is saying a fond farewell to the Land Rover Defender, production of which ended on Friday.
Indian owners Tata Motors had been threatening the end of the traditional Land Rover for many months but now production has finally stopped.
Of course I’m sorry about any potential loss of jobs at Land Rover’s Solihull plant, indeed more sorry it would seem than Tata, which is already hinting that some of the replacement vehicle production will move to one of two new Land Rover factories one in Puna, India, the other in Nitra, western Slovakia.
Iconic is a wildly overused term, but if there’s one car that’s worthy of it, it’s the Land Rover Defender, after almost 68 years on sale and with more than two million examples built.
It all started out as a sketch in the sands of Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey, drawn by Rover engineer Maurice Wilks, and the first actual car was unveiled at the Amsterdam motor show in 1948.
Wilks originally wanted something to replace the old Jeep he used on his farm.
Some historians say that the car was aimed as a stop-gap while the Rover car company got back on its feet after the war.
More certain was that the Land Rover became an instant hit, with the first year’s production of 8,000. No less than 24,000 rolled off the production line in the following year.
Soon Land Rovers were being produced at the rate of 1,000 a week, many more than Rover saloon cars. By 1976, one million had hit the roads. They went all over the world.
Last year, the two-millionth was built, making it one of Britain’s most popular cars, and when the last car rolls off the production line it will truly be the end of an era — not before time, some would say, though others will mourn its passing.
In truth, however, I won’t really be sad to see this 68-year-old vehicle disappear because throughout my life I always noticed that whenever a bunch of, usually white, armed policemen or soldiers have arrived to sort out a bunch of, often black, freedom fighters then a Land Rover was always their chosen means of transport.
From Southern Rhodesia (above) to Northern Ireland (below), Land Rovers, often armoured, played a key part in British imperialism’s darkest and most disreputable actions.
Britain sold these useful cross-country vehicles to every reactionary government across the globe.
They propped up the whole disgusting apartheid regime for years (below). US forces used them in the Gulf wars, and so did we.
Reactionary Arab sheikhdoms buy them in their hundreds to keep our oil supplies and their fortunes safe.
In 1990 they changed the name from plain Land Rover to Land Rover Defender. Perhaps it would have been more accurate to have emblazoned a different name across that purposeful bonnet. May I suggest Imperialism’s Chariot.
This article was first published 5 February 2016.