The last Defender rolls off the production line today. Many are mourning its passing and the media have got themselves in a suitably nostalgic tizzy about their passing. They’ve probably never driven one. Perhaps the last Defender will be parked on the spare plinth in Trafalgar Square. I’m not mourning them and I’m not in a tizzy. I sat my driving test in a long wheel base Land Rover in the country lanes of Dorset. It was a perfunctory affair but the Sergeant driving instructor pretended to take it seriously, ticking the boxes on his clipboard as we meandered down the road. We meandered because the front and real axles never seemed to agree on the general direction of travel and there was about half a turn of slack in the steering which was fine because it took all my concentration to be able to see, what with a bloody great spare tyre attached to the bonnet and wing mirrors that flapped in the wind like ducks wings. After years of driving them, I still have yet to figure out where your right elbow goes, what magic trick secures the seat belt buckle, how you drive in the rain with windscreen wipers designed by a three year old and how you drive at night with headlights emitting the kind of luminescence usually found in striking a Swan match.
There were some endearing attributes to the vehicle of course. Who could forget that rush of excitement when a door would suddenly open when going round a corner or that comforting feeling when the foot well filled with water when it rained. If you ever feel like buying a Lannie, ‘because I’ve wanted one ever since I was a little boy,’ go and lie down for a while until the feeling goes away. Ignore my advice and buy one and you’ll need a second one to ferry the spares home from whoever sells them on Ebay. You won’t be buying a vehicle you’ll be starting a new hobby. You can look forward to leaking front hubs and axles, the gearbox and transfer box will always leak as will the radiator, water pump, clutch master and slave cylinders. In fact, any fluid containing part….. will leak. The other parts designed not to contain liquids such as the door frames, foot wells and chassis will though, retain fluids and rust in quick time. Engine seals will be another source of frustration as will rusting springs, bushes. Rubber anywhere in the vehicle will grow algae and moss throughout the year and perish……. along with your patience. The Land Rover Defender, the world’s first biodegradable vehicle.
You probably give more thought to putting the lights on your Christmas tree than the designer gave to the electrics and switches on the dashboard which merely suggest what could, or might, happen if activated. Undeterred you will soon become familiar with the clunk clung, clang clang of your engine calling you as the differential seizes. Of course the Lannie does have its delusional head-in-the-clouds oily rag zealots but I’m not one of them. You know what they say in Aus, ‘If you want to go to the outback get a Land Rover; if you want to come back, get a Toyota.’