Aamer Mahmud is an affiliate professor in Automotive Design at Coventry College. This story initially featured in The Dialog.
The ceremonial funeral of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, came about on Saturday April 17 within the chapel at Windsor Citadel. However in a break from ceremony—a remaining quirky flourish from a characterful member of the royal household—the prince’s coffin was transported to the citadel chapel by a bespoke Land Rover Defender TD5 130, partially designed by the duke himself.
The specially-built hearse was within the works at Land Rover’s Solihull manufacturing facility since 2003, when the duke first approached Jaguar Land Rover with the thought. Eighteen years later, the car fulfilled its supposed operate—albeit on a quick drive from the citadel’s state entrance to the chapel, with the pandemic having altered authentic plans for the hearse to be pushed to the citadel from London.
The Defender itself has all the time been designed for performance. From battle zones to humanitarian disasters, far-flung analysis tasks to home farmsteads, Land Rover’s most recognizable car has touched most corners of the world. As a result of it was designed to function in all terrains and all weathers, the “very British SUV” has come to symbolize a imaginative and prescient of an industrious, intrepid Britain—although its worldwide use additionally highlights Britain’s legacy of battle and colonialism.
A far cry from the glossy fantastic thing about the Jaguar E-type that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle drove to their wedding ceremony reception in 2018, the Land Rover Defender is a stubbornly utilitarian car. Commentators imagine it symbolizes Prince Philip’s ardour for engineering and practicality—nevertheless it’s additionally a car that belongs to the identical period, possessing one thing of the identical aura, because the departing duke.
Match for a prince
The duke noticed to it that his funeral hearse would bear a number of options of his personal selecting. Most importantly, he reportedly designed the Defender’s open prime rear part, together with the rubber and silver fittings that can safe his coffin on its journey to St George’s Chapel.
Nods to the navy additionally function: on the duke’s behest, the livery has been modified from the unique Belize Inexperienced to Darkish Bronze Inexperienced—the shade of inexperienced utilized by the navy. Different particulars, such because the matching inexperienced hubs and black entrance grille, give the Defender an additional stripped-back, martial high quality.
The final royal funeral was held for the Queen Mom again in 2002, throughout which a extra acquainted horse-drawn hearse transported her coffin. So the duke’s funeral will definitely be distinctive, swapping hooves for off-road tyres, and mourning black for navy inexperienced.
An iconic design
The car can also be deeply iconic. First launched in 1947, the Land Rover—later renamed the Land Rover Defender—was a product of want and alternative. On the time, the automobile producer Rover took inspiration from Jeep to construct a useful off-road car that might make use of the surplus aluminium, which had been used for plane bodywork, left over after the second world battle.
It might have been supposed as a manufacturing stop-gap, however the authentic Defender’s designs, which had been saved very sincere and easy all through its lengthy manufacturing life, now carry a sure mythology amongst car followers.
The Defender’s continued presence in agriculture, development and the navy is a testomony to its long-lived sturdiness and adaptableness, which has been exploited throughout the a long time by explorers, researchers, laborers, and dukes.
That adaptability is essentially because of the simplicity of the car’s design, which adopted the design ethos “kind flows operate” lengthy earlier than it turned modern. As such, components and modifications will be swapped out and in throughout fundamental horizontal and vertical axes with relative ease.
The general aesthetics clearly reply to the supplies at hand. The uncovered hinges, flat glass, upright grille, and off-the-shelf parts all talk the Defender’s inherently utilitarian origins. All of it comes collectively in a kind that may be simply sketched with only a few strains. For us designers, that’s an indication of actually nice design.
Traditionally, the Defender outlined an period formed by analogue wants, like lumber transport or mountain rescue. However we’re transferring right into a future that requires digital designs and eco-friendly autos, and so the car market now requires a special sort of performance, achieved via very totally different specs.
The modified Defender that carried the duke’s coffin speaks as soon as once more to the car’s authentic, purposeful design. Its spartan simplicity and modest livery will enable the main target to be on the event.
Each the car and the person it was designed to hold are unashamedly British icons. They each have a globe-trotting historical past, navy affiliations, and a fame for no-nonsense practicality. However it could even be the case that the duke’s Land Rover hearse finally represents an epoch and a Britain that’s slipping away into the previous—warranting a second of reflection on the historical past of motoring and the achievements of the monarchy.