When the last Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line in January 2016, it left a hole in the hearts of many ardent fans. INEOS, the British petrochemicals company, is poised to fill that gap with a rugged and retro replacement, in an enterprise currently known as Projekt Grenadier.

It was in a small London pub called the Grenadier, around the corner from INEOS headquarters, that the plan to create a new 4x4 off-roader was hatched. Jim Ratcliffe, the INEOS Chairman, was lamenting with colleagues the recent loss of Land Rover’s great workhorse, when the idea was mooted, and Projekt Grenadier was born. 

'We are coming at this from scratch,' admits Tom Crotty, a director at INEOS and spokesman for the project, 'but we are also not bound by the traditional thinking of the car industry. We hope that towards the end of this year we’ll have a fresh design for a vehicle that stands out from the crowd: one that is reliable off-road, has an analogue feel to it and will become an icon it its own right.'

INEOS Automotive aims to achieve the perfect balance of German engineering and British design – and hasn’t had to look far for talent. Dirk Heilmann, former head of Engineering and Technology at INEOS O&P, is spearheading Projekt Grenadier and is the inspiration for the German spelling of its name. Meanwhile, Toby Ecuyer, creative director of British design studio RWD, has been brought on board to begin sketching ideas. 

Toby is well known to Jim Ratcliffe – he designed the INEOS founder’s 78m Feadship HAMPSHIRE II. 'I’m designing another yacht for Jim right now – an explorer boat,' says Toby, 'And as a big Land Rover fanatic myself, I couldn’t help but draw a few of them on the deck. So when he asked if I’d be interested in being involved in Projekt Grenadier, I had to say yes.' 

Though Toby’s work has been eclectic, he hasn’t designed a car before. 'I’ve been doodling Land Rovers for years now,' he says, 'I own a Defender – I love that it’s part tractor, part car, part family member – but there are lots of things wrong with it and it needs some smart design. It’s exciting to give validity to my thoughts.' 

The motivation of the team behind Projekt Grenadier is to capture the best aspects of the Defender – its utilitarian functionality and classless character – and improve on its styling and build. Toby is currently considering a more practical split tailgate (which would change the back shape) and galvanizing the chassis to avoid mud – and then rust – getting into the car’s nooks and crannies. The Grenadier will probably have three engine versions – diesel, diesel/electric hybrid and petrol. The hybrid would comply with limitations on city emissions and the petrol version would satisfy the potential US market.

With the current blurring of lines between urban and farm vehicles, the team is adamant that the Grenadier will be a pure workhorse, without technological distractions. 'We want to produce an uncompromising 4x4 that will do the job for farmers, forestry workers and safari managers,' says Tom emphatically, 'This is not about sat nav, autonomous driving and cruise control.'

Projekt Grenadier is currently recruiting automotive experts and the aim at manufacturing stage is to employ approximately 1,200 people. The search is on for a production site in either the UK or continental Europe, with good port access to export 70% of the 25,000 units they intend to produce annually. INEOS expects to invest £700 million into the enterprise: the vehicle will retail at around £30,000 and the projected release date is 2020.

Tom will shortly announce to the media that a website will launch in September dedicated to engaging with the Defender fan base. 'We want to share stages of the project with people and get their feedback, asking questions such as ‘should the car have a digital or analogue clock?’ We’ll encourage our followers to sketch and scan drawing suggestions and send them in to us.' When the Grenadier finally charges onto the market it will be a collaborative effort between Defender devotees – and a new evolution of the classic off-roader.

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