They say that 70% of all Land Rovers ever built are still on the road – or should that be “off-road?”
While the last Land Rover Defender has just rolled off UK production lines, thousands of classic Landies still rumble round the farms, highways and byways of Britain.
And many of them have passed through the hands of the Land Rover Centre Huddersfield, a firm with a worldwide reputation among enthusiasts.
The Lockwood-based company, founded by Peter Garside in 1968, specialises in sales, repairs and restorations and exports to more than 20 countries across the globe.
Almost 70 years after the first Land Rover was built, the last Defender has come off a production line in Solihull in the West Midlands.
The no-frills go-anywhere 4x4 has now been morphed into a luxury, cosseted Range Rover but there is nothing like the original stripped down version for the purists at the Land Rover Centre.
Sales manager Mark Griffiths said while the demise of the Defender was sad it was also an opportunity.
“It’s very much the end of an era but, although I’ve no inside information, I am sure there will be a new Land Rover design in 2017 that will carry the Defender name,” he said.
“The original Land Rover ran from 1948-2016 and anything after that will not be the same but all the publicity about the brand has been good for our business.
“While there won’t be any ‘proper’ new Defenders anymore we will be rebuilding old ones until the cows come home!”
The Land Rover Centre always has around 30 Land Rovers in stock and can turn decades-old vehicles into as-new condition.
“It’s just an iconic vehicle,” said Mark, 54, who has worked at the Land Rover Centre for half his life. “Most of our customers are in their 40s or 50s and they all knew someone who had a Land Rover when they were growing up. People have fond memories of Land Rovers from their childhood.”
There is no such thing as an average Land Rover and each one has its own style and personality.
The oldest currently at the Land Rover Centre is a 1957 Series 1 canvas-hooded soft-top, worth £25,000, while in the showroom there’s a 1976 Range Rover Classic which has undergone a nut and bolt restoration over seven years.
The Range Rover, in gleaming Bahama Gold, cost £5,000 brand new. It now has a price tag of £75,000.
The restoration has been painstaking, right down to the engine labels which have been re-created to match the originals.
Other interesting collectibles include a futuristic City Cab, specially built for the 1995 film Judge Dredd, set in post-Apocalyptic New York.
The yellow ‘armoured’ taxi, based on a Land Rover 101 Forward Control, was among 30 made but was one of only two registered for the road. Both appeared at the film premiere in Leicester Square.
Worth up to £30,000, it has been in a private collection since 1998 and has been acquired for sale by Mark.
“It’s fibreglass and would be road legal with an MoT but it would need three people to drive it, two to look forward and one behind,” he said. “It’s like driving a tank and visibility is poor.”
Another unusual vehicle is a 1994 Defender liveried up as an army bomb disposal vehicle, complete with blue flashing lights and camouflage netting. It’s thought to be ex-MoD but maybe didn’t see active service and is probably one for military shows. It’s a snip at £7,500.
The firm sends Land Rovers all over the world, most exported on trust without being seen.
Mark recently sold one a soft-top left-hand drive vehicle to an American customer who will leave his new pride and joy with his parents in North Yorkshire for two years – until it becomes 25 years old and exempt from import regulations in the States.
Last year the firm sold a 1977 Series 3 soft-top to a production company which made BBC daytime drama The Coroner. The vehicle was driven by coroner Jane Kennedy, alias actress Claire Goose, and appeared in every episode.
The firm has survived two serious fires in its history, the latest in July 2014, which saw four vehicles destroyed and two others badly damaged when its car shelter went up in flames.
The vehicles weren’t insured and the blaze cost the firm upwards of £60,000.
The firm quickly bounced back and Mark said: “We are a strong business with a worldwide reputation. It was a business that grew out of Peter’s hobby and it’s now a passion we all share.
“Land Rover is an iconic brand that will always live on whether they keep making new vehicles or not.”