Farewell the Land Rover Defender - an icon of the African off-road world

It is claimed to be the first vehicle to have been seen by a third of Earth's population

(Photo/Land Rover MENA/Flickr)

(Photo/Land Rover MENA/Flickr)

The last Land Rover Defender, one of Britain’s longest-living road vehicles, will be produced on Friday. 

Born in 1947, the Defender was inspired by the US-jeep and since then little has changed   to the design - giving it true legendary status. Because it has been easy to adapt to the user’s needs, is very reliable in extreme conditions and has the uncanny ability to go practically anywhere. It is claimed to be the first vehicle to have been seen by a third of Earth’s population. 

It’s sturdiness and long presence on the continent is also the reason why the Defender is a car that became synonymous with Africa - working its way into the stereotypical image rankings alongside the acacia tree and orange sunset.

The UK was still a colonial power at the time of it’s inception and so the car spread throughout its colonies. It was quickly snapped up and used by government officials, for expeditions, safaris and hunting. 

To start off with it was simply called the “Land Rover” and it wasn’t until 1990/91 that the Defender name was added, to distinguish it from the new Land Rover Discovery and to underline its wide use by the armed forces.

The name will not die. The company is intending a replacement as part of its long term model strategy along with the Range Rover and Discovery. The new vehicle’s design is still under wraps. But it will not be the aluminium bodied, traditionally green four wheel drive “Landie” which is going out of production because it just no longer fits the times anymore. 

In Europe, European Union emissions controls and design concerns mean increasingly rigorous modern safety standards, would be a challenge for its continued production. They also haven’t been able to sell the car in the US since 1980, because it doesn’t have airbags. 


In celebration of the iconic vehicle, Land Rover invited the public to share their stories. So many of them were based in Africa, owned by people from all sorts of backgrounds - adventurers, conservationists, expeditioners…all paying tribute to the formidable vehicle. 

Here are a few of them…

Landrover 109 Still Going Strong, Brian Ng’ambi 

My brother owns a Landrover 109 from the late 70’s. He purchased it as scrap from a White Zambian farmer about 5 years ago. This is one tough machine. He uses it to ferry farming inputs, produce and timber for a small fee in the Mkushi farm block in Central Zambia. This vehicle has really been a blessing to his village. In times when he has a breakdown the community is always at hand to offer him free help, a true legend this one.

Sink or swim, Deon Kriek 

Driving and owning Land Rover Series and Defenders for more than 30 years, no trip has been more exhilarating as this one. Crossing the Xai river in Botswana. Too scared to walk the crossing due to crocodile activity - took the plunge and made it. Most serious damage - toilet roll underneath the driver seat got soaked and thus not usable.

Salt Pans of the West Coast, John Lucas

Since 2011 John Lucas has seen amazing award winning research and syllabus based citizen science expeditions across Southern Africa. Here our convoy of Land Rover Defenders find ourselves navigating the Salt Pans of the Olifants River mouth near the town of Lutzville on the final leg of our #e4kWaterWarrior project aimed at social upliftment and education of youth along the West Coast. Our Land Rovers have been transporting fresh water research equipment and much needed school supplies to students within this region for years. Thank you LandRover for allowing us to #CelebrateDefender with you in the only way we know how….. explore4knowledge - Education Through Adventure. 

Anti Poaching Patrol, Edwin Zank 

After a long hot day doing Anti Poaching Patrols to protect our Rhino, it is always gratifying to see the sun go down… Africa takes a breath and cools herself and all those around. The birds and animals all seem to jump to life in this twilight hour. My trusty Defender seen here also taking a break. 

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