In Skyfall, the most recent James Bond movie, 007 speeds through the streets of Istanbul in a vehicle perfectly suited to the task. It’s not the famous Aston Martin DB5 (though Daniel Craig, who plays Bond, does drive that later) or the submergible Lotus Esprit, driven Jacques Cousteau–style by Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me. No, this Bond navigates the crowded market streets in a Land Rover Defender, a vehicle known for combining quintessential Englishness with globe-trotting exoticism, the two ingredients that have fueled the Bond franchise for more than half a century.
Although its 1948 debut was during the twilight of the British Empire, the Land Rover Defender has crossed the rugged terrain of all the exotic locales where the British have set foot—or rather, four wheels. “In many places around the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, India, Australia and the Middle East, it was the first vehicle many people had ever seen,” says Richard Woolley, Jaguar Land Rover’s advanced design studio director.