Words & Images Andrew Middleton
It is an icon, yes, and a capable 4×4 too, but it’s the people behind a product that give it a personality. This last-of-the-last Heritage Edition Defender I am driving is no different. Originally a British
interpretation of the Willys Jeep, the first ‘Landy’ sketch was imagined by drawing it into the cold, wet sand of Red Wharf Bay in Anglesey, Wales. Given the roughness of Maurice Wilks’ first sketch, the Defender stands today as proof that good design doesn’t need much evolution to be great.
I’ve driven to the small farming town of Greyton not far from Cape Town to meet a bunch of chaps who like their Land Rovers. A contact has told me that there are almost a hundred of these old
dogs − roaming fields, clattering through town and leaving an oily film in garages and lawns everywhere. If those are the owners, I muse, what are the vehicles all about? A hundred, though? That seems like an awful lot; but as I’m driving the very final edition of the Defender range, I’ll just have to have a look.
As luck would have it, I lost an argument with a tour bus on Signal Hill in the course of the evening prior to visiting Greyton, which put the brand-new Landy on its side in a ditch. Less than 500km
on the odometer, and I’d already crashed the poor thing – lucky that it’s built like a tank and gained only a dented fender. Oh, well, we must persevere; so the next day our newly ‘modified’ Heritage is heading into the mountains to meet some old relatives.
The Heritage Edition is the cheapest and most stripped-out special-edition Defender of the three that Land Rover produced in 2015. These special models include an Autobiography version, with
all the luxury bells and whistles, an Adventure version, which is extremely orange, and this one, which is painted in Grasmere Green and has the whine of mud terrains as the only music it can play. Also, the Heritage edition is the absolute last of the Defenders, with the final model ever produced being a short wheelbase Heritage soft top which sold for over R9.2 million (£400
000) at a UK auction recently.
After arriving in Greyton and having some dinner and brews with a couple of those Landy enthusiasts, whose thirst is on par with that of their steeds, the next day arrives all too soon. To my
dismay, but predictably enough, the heavens open. About 15 of us converge on the village, all with a plan to head to a muddy field for some pictures.
All manner of old Landys rattle up, from massive V8 camper conversions to original Series 1s. Nobody seems to mind a bit of drizzle, and we make our way to the field and get some pics. Soon, though, the drizzle turns to a full-on storm and in the face of rain driving at speeds faster than some of the vehicles can muster, even the hardiest decide that a warm fireplace and a hot cuppa char
would be a better idea than standing in the rain with me.