Age of Discovery: Why we love our Land Rovers

Photographer David Chalmers, who uses his Defender 90 as a location vehicle. Picture: Tony Bartholomew
Photographer David Chalmers, who uses his Defender 90 as a location vehicle. Picture: Tony Bartholomew
  • It’s an iconic British vehicle and, as production nears the end of the line, Land Rover owners in Yorkshire talk to Mike Bartholomew about their special relationship with the 4x4s.
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It may have begun life as a sketch in the sands of a North Wales beach – but the angular silhouette of the Land Rover Defender has become an intrinsic element of the Yorkshire landscape.

The man who drew that sketch in 1947 was Maurice Wilks, at the time the chief designer for the Rover Company.

The Land Rover was his answer to the American Jeep, and was designed to be rugged, reliable and able to tackle difficult terrain with ease.

Entering production in 1948 as the Series I, the car we today know as the Defender is available in short- and long-wheelbase guises – 90 and 110, respectively – and has been produced non-stop since then with very few major updates and modernisations, maintaining a pared-back, utilitarian motoring experience in an age of increasing disconnection between car and driver.

While it has indeed gone on to see service in every conflict Britain has been involved in since its introduction, the Defender’s reach has extended far past its military roots, seeing use in all walks of life. This becomes very apparent in Yorkshire’s vast, untouched countryside, where Defenders are as common a sight as the livestock they transport and the green fields they traverse.

In the 67 years since the Series I Land Rover was unveiled on April 30, 1948 at the Amsterdam Motor Show, production has continued non-stop through 14 different Prime Ministers, two monarchs, the start and end of the Cold War and 17 Summer Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, the Land Rover company itself has introduced a variety of more luxury-orientated models, entered a partnership with Jaguar, been briefly part of the Ford marque and then bought by Indian giant Tata.

While it may seem like nothing could end this extraordinary run, Land Rover announced in October 2013 that increasingly stringent vehicle emissions and safety regulations would bring about an end to production of the Defender in December 2015.

While it’s now rumoured to be extended into early 2016 to cater for massively increased demand, it’s clear that the Defender is living 
on borrowed time.

Although a replacement is in the pipeline, promising a modernised Defender experience, there is concern amongst current owners that it will be watered down and fail to offer the same rugged appeal as the original.

From farmers to photographers, mountain rescue teams to park rangers, the Land Rover Defender is beloved by those who live and work in the Yorkshire countryside.