The final version of the current Land Rover Defender has rolled off the assembly line floor in Solihull, England, ahead of an all-new version that will debut by 2018.
The final model - a Defender 90 short-wheelbase Heritage Edition Soft Top variant with a canvas roof - rolled off the line on Friday in the UK, sporting H166 HUE numberplates; a nod to the iconic HUE 166 plates worn by the first registered, pre-production prototype model of the original Land Rover way back in 1948.
An event with 700 current and former workers in attendance marked the moment in the brand's history, following 68 years of continual production of the Land Rover in its varied guises - Series I, Series II, Series II (a), Series II, 90, 110, and Defender.
Dr Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, said at the event that the Land Rover series models, and the Defender that followed, marked a path that the brand cannot stray from.
"The Series Land Rover, now Defender, is the origin of our legendary capability, a vehicle that makes the world a better place, often in some of the most extreme circumstances," he said. "There will always be a special place in our hearts for Defender, among all our employees, but this is not the end. We have a glorious past to champion, and a wonderful future to look forward to."
What shape that future will take remains to be seen, with furious responses from die-hard Land Rover enthusiasts when the brand showcased its concept DC-100 models. CarAdvice has since learned that the new-generation Defender will not look like those models, but it is more likely to be a thoroughly modernised, safer, more efficient and more practical take on the Defender that we've become so familiar with.
Land Rover took the opportunity to try and ease the minds of its thousands of enthusiasts, with a new Heritage Restoration Programme that will see expert workers overseeing restoration projects of old Land Rovers from all around the world. The first examples of those models will be on sale in July 2016.
The two-millionth Land Rover Defender model sold recently for £400,000 ($830,000), but this final version will not be for sale. It is set to be stored at the company's headquarters.
A total of 2,016,993 examples of the Land Rover - across all series - were built.
The future of the Defender is just around the corner, with production expected to have commenced by early 2018. A family of models are expected, including short-wheelbase (three-door), long-wheelbase (five-door) SUV models, and the iconic - and oft-forgotten - utility vehicles.
Land Rover facts:
- The Defender was hand-built until the day production ended, with each vehicle taking 56 hours to complete
- One Defender rolled off the production line every four minutes
- The Queen of England, Sir Winston Churchill and Steve McQueen owned Land Rover series models
- Two carryover parts - the hood cleats and underbody support strut - have remained the same throughout production of Soft Top models since 1948