Land Rover opens historic Defender visitor attraction

Land Rover has officially opened a new visitor attraction at its Solihull plant by recreating the original production line which produced the very first Series I Land Rover.

Called the Defender Celebration Line, the attraction has been designed to pay tribute to the much-loved model’s legacy before production ceases later this year after nearly seven decades.

Land Rover’s Solihull plant was the site where the company manufactured its very first Series I 4×4 in 1948, after the original was dreamed up by Maurice Wilks on an Anglesey Beach.

Now open to the public, the replica production line features recreated models shown in various stages of production, each meticulously built using the same parts as the original Series I Land Rover.

“Land Rover has a rich heritage based around the Series I and Defender models,” said Jaguar Land Rover’s heritage director, John Edwards.

“We wanted to create something extra special that would give visitors and enthusiasts a unique insight into how it all started back in 1948.”

The display not only showcases the Series I Land Rover, which evolved into the Defender, but also the history of the post-war era in which the very first Land Rover models were produced.

Visitors will be asked to wear authentic period overalls, while the attraction also displays the original tools and drawing boards, along with previously unseen footage of founder Maurice Wilks.

Lasting approximately three hours, the tour begins at the start of the production line in the body shop, where each Series I and Defender model started life as a metal shell before being painted.

The tour then continues through to final assembly, where visitors can see the engines and gearboxes being lowered onto the chassis before the painted body panels are assembled and finished.

In order to create the most accurate representation possible, Land Rover turned to one of the world’s leading Land Rover enthusiasts and restorers, Phil Bashall.

Having built his first Series I replica at the age of 13, Phil is arguably the world’s leading expert in original Land Rovers, but still admitted shock when he was tasked with overseeing the project.

He said: “It’s been a struggle at times, but a real labour of love to source all of the original parts needed for vehicles that stopped production so many years ago.”

As well as creating the replica attraction, Land Rover has also announced a trio of new limited edition commemorative Defender models to send it out in style.

Consisting of the Heritage Edition, Autobiography Edition and Adventure Edition models, each will be available to buy in the UK from late spring, with prices ranging between £27,000 and £61,845.