Believe it not, some of the best SUVs in the world are made in central Florida, at ECD Automotive Design. You don’t go to them for any old Land Rover Defender. You go to ECD if you’ve got deep pockets and you want something bespoke, restored from the ground-up better than new, the way you want it. Their process makes even Porsche’s Exclusive Manufaktur program seem somewhat limited.
ECD caught our attention (and seemingly the attention of the entire Internet) last year when the company launched a Tesla-powered Land Rover Defender. But, as we learned after speaking to two of the company’s founders — Scott Wallace and Elliot Humble — Tesla-powered Defenders are just the tip of iceberg. Electric conversions are just one item on a vast menu of tasty restomods they offer to clients.
For background, the company was founded by three U.K. expats — Scott Wallace and brothers Tom and Elliot Humble — and today it has a full-time staff of over 70 people, most of whom work out of the main 100,000 square foot facility in central Florida. Production is ramping up to roughly 100 vehicles per year, and to date they’ve sold nearly 500 trucks. It’s not all just old Defenders either. ECD also does classic Range Rover retromods, and now Jaguar E-Types as well, with a fourth, secretive model line in the works as well.
Why make an all-electric, Tesla-powered vintage Land Rover Defender?
Scott Wallace: The market’s asking for it. There’s quite a lot happening with electrification right now. But, for us, it was just a natural thing to do. Let’s be clear: we’re not an electric-car business. The electric drivetrain is another option for our customers, and our aim is to give people as many choices as possible, whether you want an LT4 Camaro V8 with 600 horsepower or you want a diesel, or an electric.
Elliot Humble: As well, electrification sort of opened the door to a whole market of people that would never have had a classic car before for the fear of maintaining and running them. You open them up to a whole new audience: people who aren’t mechanically inclined, or can’t maintain an old Jaguar V12 or an old Rover TDI. You don’t need to know how to maintain an EV because an electric motor is so simple. As long as you charge it up, it’s going to run.
How does all the hype around EVs, and classic EV conversions, play into this? We’re seeing lots of new players jumping into this space.
Scott: The hype is part of the problem. The challenge for the industry, the rest of the industry, is going to be all the headaches of finding a sustainable vendor base, a good vendor base, building a skill base, and then on top of all that, treat EV conversions right and give them the love they need. It’s a major project. Don’t say you’re doing electric conversion if you haven’t been through any of the headache and pain we’ve been through in figuring out how to get it right.
How many customers choose to go the electric route with their restomods?
Scott: I reckon it’s about one in five are electric. We don’t push customers one way or another, or market one over the other. We market the model, the ECD Defender, and then a range of options from our à la carte menu.
Why go with Tesla parts for the conversion?
Elliot: Tesla, they’re the name, aren’t they? So it seemed logical to work with Electric Class Cars in the UK, and go with their Tesla-based EV kits that were tried and tested. The motors were good, the batteries were good. But, as always, we’re looking to improve and make it better.
What’s the next step then; what improvements are you working on for the next-gen electric Defenders and Jags?
Elliot: One thing that we are including on our next Land Rover electric build, and every build going forwards, is the option to have a selectable four- or two-wheel drive system. Land Rovers don’t come with that option from the factory. But, since we’re finding that, for the most part, customers are driving on the road, we wanted to disconnect the front wheels and effectively halve the load on the motor. That way you get more driving range.
Scott: We’ve got over 200 miles [322 kilometres] of range and we’re about to get better.
What about recharging?
Elliot: The next thing that we’re trialing — it’s already working on a test mule — is DC fast charge. I went to SEMA last year [the big automotive aftermarket show in Las Vegas] just to find some more EV options, more kits, but almost nobody was offering fast charging in the aftermarket. We only we came across one company that had DC fast charge working. It’s a bit of a game changer for us. The ability to be running the truck and then to charge it back up to 90 per cent within about 50 minutes — it’s a pretty big deal.
Have you sold many restomods and EV conversions in Canada yet?
Scott: We do have clients in Canada already. But we’ve just expanded our outreach and marketing to Canada quite aggressively actually. Our marketing plans this year are for the UAE and Canada.
Elliot: The nice thing about Canada is your import rules for cars are a bit more lax than in the US. You can import cars that are 15 years old, where it’s 25 in the US. So, for any of our Canadian customers, you can have classic car that’s 10 years newer than the US customers can get.
And where would Canadian customers get their ECD restomod serviced?
Scott: We have three options for that. The first option is that you can go to a dealership we recommend and we support, that we train. We have a network of them. And if that’s a few hundred miles away from you, then we’ll take care of getting it picked up and delivered. Option two is that we send a technician to you — we had a customer ring up in the morning and by the afternoon a technician was in Boston fixing it. And the third option is we will bring it back to the facility here in Florida. We have our own shipping company as well, so that’s really easy to do.
Okay, I’m sold! If I phone up tomorrow, how much is an ECD Defender going to cost me?
Scott: Right now the average price is about US$280,000 but the base contracts are about US$225,000. That difference is upgrades, personalization and customization. That price also includes us sourcing classic Defenders and Range Rovers in the UK and bringing them over.