Monday, September 23, 2019


Gerry McGovern is having a great time in Frankfurt at the Media Preview.

The Land Rover Defender is finally public and he can relax and enjoy himself.
There is little sign of arrogance, no bluster, and just a quiet comfort with an impressive job of work.

“Am I nervous? No. Not at all,” Gerry tells me in a whisper, as we stand at the back of the Defender’s interior design presentation, the day before the Frankfurt Motor Show.

“We’ve done the job. We think we’ve got it right,” Gerry says.

The Defender is the star of Europe’s biggest show of 2019.That is, despite talk everywhere about electric cars - headlined by a new Mercedes-Benz that also has the design language of the next S-Class.

Even Ferrari tried to ambush the event by releasing preview pictures of its F1 and 812 GTS Spiders.

Land Rover has gone all-out on the Defender event, mounting a massive pre-brief for the world’s media that cost at least $500,000.

The only thing missing is some sort of driving involvement, but that part of the plan failed in the final weeks thanks to a huge price-tag for a minimal return, in the carpark at the Frankfurt auto show grounds.
As it is, the multi-piece preview event starts with McGovern introducing his new baby, followed by intensive chat with impressive videos on everything from the car’s connectivity to its 900-millimetre creek-wading ability and a huge number of factory accessories, and partnerships that include a giant LEGO model of the Defender.

With everything rolling smoothly, Gerry glides into a back room at the interior design presentation for a quick chat. So, is this his magnum opus, the culmination of his career?

“Not bloody likely,” he smiles. “I haven’t finished yet. I’ve got a lot more to come. I’ll work until I drop.”

He’s so happy he even turns the talk to the cricket, and Britain’s comprehensive loss to Australia in the latest Ashes series.

“You blokes had your backs against the wall. You really had to find something,” Gerry tells me.

“And you Aussies are more British than the Brits. It’s that fighting spirit.”

So he’s talking cricket, but it’s easy to draw a comparison with the work that went into the Defender.

“I’ve got more than 90 per cent of what I wanted,” Gerry says.

“We looked at everything. If it didn’t work, or we didn’t need it, it came out.

“That grab handle on the passenger side of the dashboard? You could move the car with it.”

So, which is the Defender he would choose, bearing in mind there is a 90 and a 110 with seven colours, a dozen wheel choices, four engines, and on and on and on.

“My favourite? It’s a 90 in Pangea Green, with a white roof and plain silver wheels,” he says.

McGovern has been the subject of intense questioning from Australian journalists from the moment the new Defender was first announced.

He knows he is facing a small-but-focussed group of harsh markers. As McGovern says: "You guys never give up, do you? I can always expect probing questions from the Aussies.

He genuinely wants to know the verdict.

For me, it’s a winner.

I’ve even decided it should be nicknamed 
'The British Bulldog'.

The big question is how the Defender will be built. The basics are simple, from a monocoque body to dual-range permanent four-wheel drive, but there is a lot of technology and complication. The new Defender is light years apart from the solid, hard-working mudplugger it replaces.

That final question cannot be answered yet, and not even for the next year as production ramps up to top speed.

The last words on the subject are all his own work:

“This is a hero vehicle. It's a fucking hero vehicle. We don’t want to water it down.”

But McGovern is smiling, he is happy, and he is looking forward to another future visit to Australia to tout his new hero car.

Gerry, passport photo dated around 1850(?),
shortly before boarding a convict ship
bound for Australia?
“You know I love Australia.

If I’d have been born in the 1800s I would definitely have been sent to Australia.

No doubt about it. I'd have been on one of those ships.”


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