posted on September 26, 2018

A British icon’s last stand

In case you haven’t heard, Turo just launched our full peer-to-peer service in the United Kingdom! To celebrate, we’re revamping our car of the month series for September 2018 with one of the most British vehicles ever produced: this 2015 Land Rover Defender Heritage Edition. The Defender began as the original Land Rover and finished as the longest-running production car in the world — it was discontinued in 2016 after nearly 70 years of continuous production.

Though modern Land Rovers are flashy, luxurious fortresses of leisure, the Defender is an old soul. It’s the most hardcore, focused, no-nonsense truck Land Rover makes made. For more than half a century, the Defender was the favorite tool of farmers, explorers, mining companies, militaries, and celebrities. Anywhere in the world a vehicle can travel, a Defender has probably been there.

Darren’s 2015 Heritage Edition in London is a special limited version honoring the legacy of the Defender, a certified icon of British motoring. Everyone from Steve McQueen to the actual Her Majesty The Queen drove a Defender. With only 400 Heritage Editions built, this is one of the rarest cars on Turo! It carries the spirit of the original on a modern(ish) frame, and was one of the very last Defenders to roll off the Solihull Plant assembly line.

If it ain’t broke

Considering the pace of advancement in the auto industry, the Defender has barely changed at all. Like the Willys Jeep, the Land Rover was a WWII military truck converted into a 4×4 for the masses. When production of the Series I Land Rover began in 1948, its simple body panels were made from the aluminum (aluminium?) left over from wartime airplane production. Even the green paint was military surplus.

The Land Rover received incremental updates through the decades, but the technology, style, and character hardly evolved. Coil spring suspension wasn’t introduced until 1983, and air conditioning was finally offered as an option in 1988. And as Land Rover began expanding its lineup in 1990, the model from the brand’s original lineage finally acquired the name Defender.

Heritage Edition

Darren’s Defender is of the model’s final generation, a far more polished machine than the first WWII trucks modified and sold by Rover. But by modern standards, the design is still rudimentary — the result of decades of proven functionality and durability superseding things like comfort and refinement.

There’s no way around it — this truck is slow. The 4-cylinder 2.2L turbodiesel makes a modest 120 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, which is technically enough, barely. But the economical powerplant does mean the truck manages 27 mpg, despite its considerable bulk and wind-grabbing block shape.

The Defender’s skill as a work truck and off-roader is matched only by the weight of its charm and nostalgia. The Heritage Edition has a bunch of retro callbacks to the Land Rovers of old, including the Grasmere Green paint, the original Land Rover logo everywhere, and the HUE 166 badge on the side, which is a nod to the registration plate on the oldest-surviving Series I Land Rover.

While the Willys Jeep lives on today as the Wrangler, the Defender was discontinued after 68 years of production in the face of modern emissions regulations. Together these two trucks pioneered civilian use of the 4×4, combining simplicity, affordability, and capability into platforms that were popular around the world. And despite its humble roots and primitive underpinnings, the Defender somehow became a classless automobile. The Defender you might spot trundling down a narrow English lane could belong to a local handyman or a member of the royal family.

Land Rover is planning a replacement for 2019, but the new Defender will be an entirely new vehicle and nigh unrecognizable from Darren’s truck. So this is one of the last examples of one of the greats of British manufacturing, a tribute to the endurance of strong traditions and uncompromised sentimentality. Those are things this world has less and less room for these days, but if you’re looking for a heavy green dose of nostalgia, the Defender Heritage Edition is the move.

Steven is an avid car guy and content maker at Turo. Between Golden State Warriors games he can be found getting lost somewhere in California.