The Land Rover Defender.
The Land Rover Defender.
Image: Supplied

1948: Land Rover Series I, the “farmer’s friend” makes its debut in post-war Britain.

1949: Military Edition; the British Army orders its first Land Rovers.

1953: Long-wheelbase version introduced.

1958: Series II Land Rover unveiled, with more refined styling.

1971: The Land Rover Series III is launched, modernised with a synchromesh gearbox and a new moulded plastic dash to replace the metal one of earlier models.

1976: The one-millionth Land Rover is built.

1983: Coil springs replace leaf springs and the Land Rover gets a modernised interior with wind-up windows instead of sliding panels.

1984: The short-wheelbase Land Rover 90 is added to the 110 range (the numbers referring to the respective wheelbases in inches).

1985: The 127-inch Land Rover is introduced, which later becomes the Defender 130, although the wheelbase remains unchanged.

1990: The original Land Rover is renamed the Defender to avoid possible confusion with the new Land Rover Discovery launched as a separate model line.

Old and new: A heritage spanning 68 years.
Old and new: A heritage spanning 68 years.
Image: Supplied

1994: Rover Group, including Land Rover, is acquired by BMW.

1997: Land Rover SA offers a unique Defender powered by a BMW 2.8l petrol engine. The vehicles are built at BMW’s Rosslyn plant near Pretoria.

2000: The SA-built Defender 2.8 receives major updates, including new instrumentation and a modernised interior.

2000: Rover Group is broken up by BMW and Land Rover is sold to Ford Motor company.

2007: The Defender is updated with a modern Ford engine to meet tougher emissions legislation, and further interior sophistication with instruments from the Discovery 3. The seating layout is also changed, with the rear four inward-facing seats replaced with forward-facing ones.

2008: Ford sells its Jaguar and Land Rover operations to India’s Tata Motors.

2011: Land Rover unveils the DC100 Concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show to gauge public opinion. It isn’t kind, sending the designers back to the drawing board.

2015: To mark the Defender’s impending exit, Land Rover creates a giant sand drawing of the vehicle at Red Wharf Bay in the UK as a tribute to Maurice Wilks’ sketching his original Defender design there. The 1km-wide drawing is created using a fleet of six Land Rovers.

2016: After a continuous run of 68 years, the last Defender rolls off the Solihull production line in the UK.

2018: But it’s not quite dead yet. A limited-edition high-performance Defender Works V8 with a 5.0l engine and luxurious interior is launched to celebrate Land Rover’s 70th anniversary. Available in a limited edition of 150 units, these re-engineered Defenders are the most powerful yet offered.

2019: The all-new Defender makes its global premiere. The boxy shape channels something of the original and it’s offered with 90- and 110-inch wheelbase options, but that’s where the similarity ends. This is the Defender for the digital age.

 From the March issue of Wanted 2020.

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