Billionaire Could Save Original Land Rover Defender

The rich, sometimes, have trouble letting a good thing go.

Original Land Rover Defender
Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Remember Walt Disney and his cryogenically-frozen body? Billionaires have a hard time saying goodbye. Reports indicate that one British billionaire—Jim Ratcliffe, founder of chemical company Ineos—is trying to resurrect the Land Rover Defender just six months after the iconic 4x4 finished its 67-year production run.

The United Nation's favorite SUV met its end after Land Rover finally admitted the half-century-old platform could no longer be successfully modified to meet increasingly strict emissions and safety regulations. Additionally, despite cultural significance, widespread adoration, and a near-frenzy for the trucks in the United States, sales volumes were low. Many, it seems, were happy to have a Defender on their computer desktop—just not in the garage.

Still, since when have major market forces gotten in the way of a billionaire's whims? According to The Sunday Times, Ratcliffe held a meeting with senior officials at Jaguar Land Rover, though neither JLR or Ineos will comment on the minutes. Ratcliffe, who purchased one of the last 100 Land Rover Defenders made, is rumored to be in talks to purchase either the intellectual property/licensing rights for the old Defender, the production means and machinery, or both, in order to keep them in production in the United Kingdom.

But the name isn't going away even if the Ratcliffe plans turns out to be smoke and mirrors. Land Rover is poised to begin production on a new Defender in 2018 or 2019. In order to keep costs low and meet the aforementioned emissions rules, the new truck will likely share an aluminum monocoque with the rest of the Land Rover line-up. In classic Defender tradition, several bodystyle options with different wheelbases and roofs will be available. Though the Defender may be the automobile most affiliated with Britain, continued production at JLR’s Solihull plant might prove too costly; manufacturing facilities in countries like Slovakia are being considered. Will a Defender manufactured by non-British hands retain its signature, loch-wide panel gaps?

No matter what happens, come 2020, lovers of the original Road Tractor should have plenty of options. For the rest of us who lack the billions of dollars need to resurrect it or even the tens of thousands needed to bring one home...well, at least we'll always have these sweet Land Rover Defender posters.