The venerable halls in Solihull, in which the Defender is still built using exceptionally traditional manual methods, seem somewhat behind the times amongst the other modern production plants in the huge industrial area. While, in the next room, the Range Rover and Discovery are assembled in gleaming bright, squeaky clean production palaces on the most modern production lines, in the Defender production plant things have a touch more cosy nostalgia.
Land Rover Defender production plant – just like back in the day
For years it has been almost impossible to get a look behind the curtains. Journalists, armed with cameras to boot, have begged in vain to be let in, all while more the modern production facilities for other models are freely and proudly shown off. There are also several anecdotes regarding the manufacture of the Defender, which, even in the modern era, is not short of anachronisms.
A fact that the perfection-loving German engineers whom BMW sent to Solihull in large numbers during its six-year Land Rover ownership and who, with their modernisation ideas didn't change everything for the better with building the all-terrain legend, to a certain extent despaired of. This was another, in retrospect, entertaining episode from a plant that has written history for almost 80 years.
Solihull was initially an aircraft engine plant
Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Solihull plant was established on a green field site, quite literally: it was part of the British government's "Shadow Factories" plan under which aircraft production was accelerated in the face of the threat of war. Solihull was one of more than two dozen such "Shadow Factories" and, with state financing, handed over to the Rover Company.
From 1940 to 1946, Rover produced aircraft engines in Solihull, but resumed car production there immediately after the war. After the Rover parent plant in Coventry was destroyed by shells, Solihull was unceremoniously selected as the new Rover headquarters. One year later it was there that a small, angular 4x4 took its first steps, and the rest is automotive history.
Even today, must of the work producing the Defender is carried out manually. Here the heavy ladder frames are heaved onto a jig, where two body panels are combined, rivet by rivet. While one hall on where the Land Rover's siblings are built, busy robots piece together the modern bodywork piece by piece, in the case of the Land Rover Defender, the majority of the parts of the overall piece of art are positioned by means of meticulously detailed manual work.
A year before the production of the Land Rover Defender finally comes to an end, at least in Solihull, this is an almost melancholic look at the production plant that we now present to you in the photo gallery and the video, which is almost ten minutes long. If you hurry you could also experience it in person: effective immediately Land Rover is granting access to the Land Rover Defender production facility within the context of plant tours, and for 45 pounds you can be there.