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End of the road— UK

Preface

Robert Bound toasts one of Britain’s best-known automotive models that has been taken out of production.

Vehicles, Patriotism

2 July 2015

Well, that’s the end of an era. Bon voyage, the Land Rover, the best old bit of muddy-axled, boxy, agricultural engineering the world has ever seen. Want a new one? You’re too late. A couple of days ago the deadline passed to order a gleaming, box-fresh example of the car that made its debut at the Amsterdam motor show in 1948, a British jeep, if you will. Not a great sign of confidence, if you ask me, launching what was to become the most famous rough-and-tumble off-road vehicle in the world in a country without hills, but there you go. It was early days for the car of many corners, the Land Rover, the car that could.

Times change, though, and the Land Rover in question – the sturdy, but indefensibly named Defender – will fall foul of safety standards and carbon emissions set by the EU so it’s off to the great eBay Motors in the sky with it. Models under the great marque’s name come and go: the Cotswold barn conversion on gold-plated alloys they call the Range Rover; the Discovery – if anything, a Fulham tractor to its big brother’s “Chelsea Tractor” tag; the naff Freelander, about as welcome as a freeloader. But the original was the best. It was full-fat, old-fashioned, unadorned. It was Coke; the real thing.

Who will be getting dewy-eyed at the prospect of Land Rover-free roads? Aficionados of good design; people who look back at quieter roads and simpler times with affection, fans of the brand for whom nothing sums up Britishness as precisely as the posh bovver of a Land Rover rough-housing the school run, a pearl necklace and court shoes fearlessly at the wheel.

And who won’t? Well, all the other parents turning up in their hatchbacks trying to get a spot next to the school gates, campaigners who feel that 25 miles per gallon is on the inexcusable side of the eco-divide and anyone that’s ever been on the receiving end of a collision with one. It tends to be Land Rover 10 – other car, nil.

There was something artless and almost classless about the car beloved of the Queen and James Bond and by goodies and baddies both fictional and very real across the world. Those painted white for the UN, those painted green for the army, those caked in mud as the work-horses on generations of farms and, yes, those that barely knew what they were built to do and sat, valet-parked, in Belgravia or in Beverly Hills.

So, no more new ones. But then seventh-hand was always better. A few hundred thousand miles on the clock? Hardly run in. A toast to the Land Rover that is no more, then – here’s mud in your eye!

Robert Bound is Monocle’s Culture Editor.

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