The Land Rover Defender with the Coronary heart of a Tesla

My customized Land Rover Defender 110 softtop is Geyser Blue, a Subaru colour. Though its bones are a minimum of 25 years outdated, it’s successfully a wholly new automobile. It has Barbour plaid inserts on its six seats (three rows of two, all ahead going through), Brembo brakes, and two Hella auxiliary lights flanking the winch on the entrance bumper. I went with metal coils as an alternative of the elective air springs within the identify of simplicity and reliability. Underneath the hood: batteries, as a result of my Defender is Tesla powered, with one battery pack up entrance and one within the rear feeding a 450-hp electrical motor that spins the manufacturing facility four-wheel-drive system. I am not likely second-guessing any of my selections on the construct, besides possibly the Brembos—getting the massive brakes meant I needed to go together with 18-inch wheels, and I feel Defenders look higher on 16-inch wheels with some extra sidewall on the tire. I skipped a lot of the physique armor (bull bars, even guards for the door handles) as a result of if I scratch it up and put on it out, I am going to simply convey it again to E.C.D. Automotive Design and begin planning a brand new one. My Defender solely price about $300,000, so if I get on the improper aspect of excessive tide on Nobadeer Seaside on Nantucket, I am going to make like Eazy-E—throw it within the gutter and go purchase one other.

It is simple to think about life as a carefree billionaire, as a result of E.C.D.—the artist beforehand generally known as East Coast Defenders—led me by way of the design course of in a lot the identical approach they might with a shopper, presenting the limitless litany of selections that may outcome, 14 to 16 months later, in an exquisitely good one-of-one Defender. We could have skipped round a bit within the E.C.D. design e-book, which runs greater than 100 pages. We undoubtedly skipped the half on the finish the place cash modifications fingers, beginning the clock on a Defender that is in contrast to something that ever rolled off the road at Solihull.

Fortuitously for me, I can nonetheless learn how my imaginative and prescient interprets to actuality, as a result of E.C.D. simply completed one very similar to it, proper right down to the Subaru-inspired colour—on this case, Cool Grey Khaki, a hue you in all probability affiliate with the Crosstrek. So I paid a go to to the E.C.D. manufacturing facility in Kissimmee, Florida, to search out out what occurs once you shove Tesla guts right into a British farm implement.

That is not a slander towards Defenders—any given E.C.D. truck could have spent its most up-to-date years plugging by way of the mud on a farm exterior of Eglwyswrw, Wales, earlier than being snatched up by E.C.D.’s U.Ok. vehicle-sourcing outpost and despatched throughout the Atlantic. Every completed E.C.D. Defender is often the product of two donor autos: an a minimum of 25-year-old one that may be imported complete and a later-model truck with the up to date inside prized by the type of people that purchase Defenders that begin at $209,000. Sarcastically, it is the newer vehicles that get preemptively destroyed abroad, their alternative dashboards despatched alongside to hitch an import-eligible chassis in Florida. And within the case of the electrical fashions, there’s additionally a Tesla concerned. Electrical Traditional Automobiles within the U.Ok. handles that aspect of the logistics, sourcing and adapting a Tesla Mannequin S P100D powertrain—divvying up the battery pack and including its personal controllers and software program.

At E.C.D.’s 40,000-square-foot facility, I meet Scott Wallace, a co-founder of the corporate together with fellow Brits Tom and Elliot Humble. As the corporate grew in recent times, it purchased up area in adjoining properties, however the advert hoc growth wasn’t best for an outfit that is now producing one truck each 5 days. Thus, E.C.D. is about to maneuver right into a 100,000-square-foot constructing of its personal design, proper down the road, with plans to construct a truck each 4 days. If that does not sound like a blistering tempo, that you must perceive the extent of fanatical perfectionism that goes into every automobile. “Attending to 95 % perfection is simple,” says Wallace. “It is that final 5 % that is onerous.” I’m wondering what number of North American–specification Defenders have been ever 95 % good on their greatest day.

At any time throughout an E.C.D. construct, any technician can flag an issue to be remedied. Software program tracks the progress of every truck and who’s signed off on every element. There are three quality-control stops alongside the construct course of, and the corporate places a thousand shakedown miles on every truck. If a truck must be pulled apart to handle some thorny concern, there is a bay for that and time constructed into the schedule. And each employees member is inspired to counsel any means to enhance the completed product. For example, Hector Lopez, the pinnacle of the paint division, knowledgeable E.C.D. that Spies Hecker clear-coat appears to be like higher than PPG’s product, a contentious assertion since E.C.D. had a contract with PPG to make use of its paint begin to end. A blind comparability ensued, with PPG conceding that, yeah, that Spies Hecker clear-coat is mighty good, and go forward and use it.

All this consideration to element permits E.C.D. to supply a guaranty that’s, primarily, all-encompassing so long as you personal the truck. If in case you have an issue, you name, they usually get it mounted, even when it is not likely their fault. Wallace says that fixing particular person issues can typically appear to be a foul enterprise determination—flying a tech someplace to repair a difficulty that possibly may have been solved domestically or over the cellphone—however leads to a particularly loyal buyer base. There are repeat clients who promote their Defenders again to E.C.D. and fee a brand new one each few years. As a result of, hey, seeing your dream truck come to life is a giant a part of the enjoyable. Then the used truck will get offered to somebody who’s possibly by no means owned an E.C.D. Defender however will get hooked and decides to spec out a brand new one, and the method repeats. There’s one explicit Defender that E.C.D. has offered eight instances. Thus far.

Within the gross sales workplace—its partitions adorned with leather-based samples, steering wheels, gauge packages of various designs—I meet John Worth, gross sales and design lead, and co-founder Elliot Humble. A rendering of my Defender is up on a TV display in order that we are able to all admire my good style and restraint. However what if, I ask Worth, a buyer needs one thing lower than good style, like yellow paint with a purple grille, the ol’ mustard and ketchup? “Our position is to construct regardless of the buyer asks for,” he says. “In fact, we may advisea distinct route.” There are limits, after all. I ask what they’d say if I needed an unbiased entrance suspension, and Humble replies, “Nicely, that is not a Defender although, is it?” All proper, I am getting on my Gulfstream G650 and getting out of right here. No person says no to the founding father of Ezrariffic Industries.

However first I am going to drive Undertaking Britton, the electrical Defender 110 parked exterior subsequent to its evil twin, a black E.C.D. Defender 90 powered by a GM-sourced supercharged LT4 V-8. Until you are eager sufficient to note the absence of an exhaust pipe, the 110 affords no clues that it is now electrical—the Tesla motor sitting beneath the ground about the place you’d count on a shift lever to sprout. Inside, there is a main clue: The analog tachometer reads to 12,000 rpm, a pace that may trigger the internals of a Rover V-8 to exit by way of the hood.

This truck, whereas it appears to be like flawless, is barely previous the primary quality-control examine and nonetheless has some tuning to be performed, most notably within the energy supply, which might elicit some juddering and vibration if meandering about in the midst of the accelerator’s journey. However when you’re shifting, it is a stoic Anglo-American tank, the air springs smothering the street and the steering monitoring higher than any unique Defender ever did. There is a whine from the gearing that mates the Tesla motor to the Land Rover switch case, however in low-load—suppose cruising—all you hear is the noise of the wind and tires. And even that is subdued, due to thick layers of sound insulation beneath the carpeting lush sufficient for a Bentley. The doorways seal so nicely that it’s important to shut them with authority to make sure they latch. “Usually, Defender door seals are all collapsed,” Wallace says after my first failed try to softly shut the motive force’s-side door. Should you’re accustomed to Defenders which can be on a continuum of shattered decay, you will want to regulate your expectations upward. Manner upward.

Particularly relating to acceleration. I additionally drove the LT4-powered Defender 90, for science, and the Tesla-powered 110 feels shut. E.C.D. claims a 5.0-second 60-mph time, and that is totally plausible. At one level, I’ve to blast throughout an intersection with 4 lanes of visitors, and as I cross the crown of the street halfway by way of, at possibly 40 mph, Undertaking Britton is pulling onerous sufficient to briefly spin the entrance tires on the moist pavement. E.C.D. estimates vary at round 200 miles, and whereas I can not confirm that, a half-hour spent researching most acceleration solely knocked about 10 % off the cost. Apart from, what number of miles of roads are there on Nantucket, anyway?

There are just a few drawbacks. For one factor, you possibly can’t use a Tesla Supercharger—simply common Stage 2 charging, which suggests you’d want longer than in a single day to replenish roughly 100 kilowatt-hours of batteries. And, because the rear batteries go below the ground, you lose some flexibility together with your third-row seating preparations. (E.C.D. can do two forward-facing seats or one thing just like the setup on this truck, which contains a rear-facing leather-and-wood tailgating lounge.) Oh, and going electrical provides about $90,000 to the worth, however I’ve a sense that is not an enormous deterrent to this demographic.

With E.C.D.’s new facility greater than doubling the area it has now, you’d suppose there could be room to sort out some new tasks. Like, what is the automotive equal of a Defender—iconic, British, comparatively plentiful but worthy of a 2200-hour restoration? “The Jaguar E-Sort,” Wallace says. “Now we have some plans for that.”


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Patrick Moore

Patrick is our chief editor and he's very passionate about cars. He has a bachelor's degree in marketing and he studies journalism. His favorite brand is BMW and he drives an X5 series. When he's not writing for Vehiclenews.net, he enjoys spending time with his family and 9 years old son.

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