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Published Date: 29/01/2016

While the name 'Defender' might conjure up a mental image of a classic, square green box, the classic Land Rover, in production since 1948, is one of the most varied and versatile cars of all time.

Land Rover Defender Judge Dredd

Even right up to the last car rolling off the production line this month, more than a dozen standard versions were available, in a variety of wheelbases and body styles.

However, this wasn't the limit of what could be done with the Defender and many more extremely specialised and unusual vehicles have been created using the iconic model.

It's hard to stand out in this kind of company, but the custom 101 Forward Control achieves just that. The original car is unusual in itself, with the cab above and slightly ahead of the front wheels (hence the Forward Control name), but the fleet of them used for the filming of Judge Dredd in 1995 are something quite special.

The film envisioned Land Rover as the only surviving car manufacturer in the world - the only vehicles tough enough to endure the hellish Mega City One - in the 22nd Century. Land Rover converted a number of 101s to an outrageously futuristic body style based on the helmet style of the Judges in the film, as police cars, utility vehicles and taxis. After filming, a number of vehicles survived and there are a handful that are road registered. 

Although Land Rovers have a peerless reputation amongst cars for off-road ability, there are other vehicles that can negotiate worse terrain - tractors, for example. When the Forestry Commission noticed that its regular Land Rovers were getting stuck, a tractor-based alternative was just the ticket. 

The result was the Forest Rover, developed by a company called Roadless Traction. Keeping the same basic form as the Land Rover, the Forest Rover included tractor tyres, which not only gave it tractor-like off road abilities but came with great wading performance thanks to the increased ride-height.

Some Land Rovers don't even need wheels. Cuthbertson of Lanarkshire created a number of cars based on the Series One and Series Two Land Rovers with caterpillar tracks. These tracked Defenders had a phenomenally low ground pressure as the tracks spread the load of the car across a wider area, so they could cross the swampiest of terrains with ease.

But even these wouldn't match up to the off-road ability of the Vickers Hover Rover. As the name might suggest, this was part of the Vickers Armstrong experiment with hovercraft in the 1960s. Oddly intended as a crop-irrigation vehicle, it might be the most unusual Defender of them all.

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