The Land Rover Defender has effectively been in production since 1948. And in the nearly seven decades that it's been roaming the Earth, there are very few places it hasn't been driven. With the production death clock officially ticking on the vehicle that made Land Rover Land Rover, it's as good a time to look back at its amazingness, with these 9 things you didn't know about the Defender.

Land Rover

1. The Defender name has only existed since 1990

While it's correct to say that the Defender has been around since the dust settled from WWII, it wasn't technically named that until the Discovery was produced, and Land Rover dubbed the venerable 4x4 "Defender" to avoid confusion. Prior to that, it was known as the Land Rover Series I, II, and III.

Land Rover

2. The very first prototype had a center-mounted steering wheel

The Land Rover was conceived as an industrial and farm vehicle inspired by the Willys Jeep (and without much of a need for passengers). Still, it beat the Ferrari Tre Posti and McLaren F1 to the middle driver concept by decades.

Land Rover

3. All Defenders are made with aluminum skin, thanks to post-WWII steel supply shortages

After WWII, the UK had to ration materials like steel while the country got back up on its feet. As a result, aluminum was actually the cheaper option, so that's what was used. Today, of course, aluminum is preferred in production because of its lightweight properties, and it costs quite a bit more than steel.

Land Rover

4. It's the Queen's vehicle of choice when she's not in a limo

Let's see how the Popemobile does on an off-road trail.

Getty/Tim Graham

5. Not only does she drive one, she once used one to make a profound political statement

Women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and when then-Saudi Prince (later King) Abdullah made an official visit to Her Majesty's Scottish estate in Balmoral, she suggested a tour of the property. She promptly hopped in the driver's seat and blasted down trails at speeds fast enough to make Abdullah plead (through his translator, no less) for her to slow down.

Land Rover

6. You could order one as a monster truck

Technically, this number is called the Forest Rover, and it was built for, well, forestry work... but who cares? It's an old, factory-produced monster truck that's undeniably cooler than the majority of 4x4s on the market today.

Land Rover

7. Or you could just get one with treads

The Cuthbertson option you see here was designed help you drive across soggy marshes without getting stuck. Regardless, this is proof that Land Rover made some of the coolest and most serious vehicles you could buy in the 1960s.

Land Rover

8. The early station wagon models were built by the same company that did Rolls-Royce's bodies

Not everyone wanted a harsh, utilitarian 4x4, so Land Rover turned to Tickford, a coachbuilder known for its work with Rolls-Royce (among others). Tickford built new passenger compartments out of wood, and added niceties like leather seats and a heater.

Land Rover

9. After the Tickford, the 12-seat, 109-inch "Station Wagon" was actually a brilliant tax dodge

Under British law, the largest of the Series/Defenders technically counted as a minibus. This meant you didn't have to pay taxes when you bought it, and you could even use bus lanes to navigate London's notorious traffic.


Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor, and can be found on Twitter. He wouldn't mind taking a restomod Series III through a creek or two.

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