It's hard to overstate the cultural importance of the Land Rover Series and Defender in the UK. These cars never arrived in the U.S. in substantial numbers, but they were very much the UK equivalent to our Jeep. The end of Defender production Friday was truly the end of an era for many brits.
A handful of 1960s films from newsreel producer British Pathé posted to its do a great job at explaining why everyone loves the original Land Rover so much.
The first, from 1961, features two Series Land Rovers adapted by creative owners to tackle terrain not imagined when the Land Rover was first designed. One is outfitted with tracks to handle the roughest forest terrain, and the other with a set of hydraulically-operated wheels for railroad tracks. Yes, this impetuous Land Rover owner by 50 years.
Beginning production just two years after World War II, the original Land Rover was designed with agricultural work in mind, but its workhorse nature helped the Land Rover serve in applications well beyond its original intent.
The Land Rover drivers in this film, from 1962, also beat Top Gear with a Land Rover adapted into a hovercraft. This one is actually used in agriculture, but it's hard to imagine the Land Rover's designers imagining their car would eventually do this.
The final film is one of the most spectacularly British things you'll ever see: the Land Rover owners club having a hill climb competition in the wet British countryside. Nothing like putting on your best shirt, tie and jacket to go play in the mud with your Land Rover.
There was virtually nothing a Series Land Rover couldn't do and it will surely be missed. Land Rover will eventually build a new Defender, but it has big shoes to fill.