Earlier this month, Electrek got an invite from ECD Automotive Design to come visit its facility in Orlando and discover how its team builds completely custom 1:1 electric Land Rovers. The company has recently begun building electric versions of its one-of-a-kind vehicles by integrating Tesla motors and battery packs. After a tour of its entire footprint and a test drive in a completely custom electric Defender, it’s fair to say that ECD Automotive Design puts the “custom,” in “customer service.”
Table of contents
- Humble beginnings
- Land Rovers shipped from the UK and rebuilt custom
- Land Rovers (electric and not) that are truly one of a kind
- ECD’s builds now include electric Land Rovers.
- Project Britton: An all-electric Land Rover Defender
- ECD’s future with electric Land Rovers and beyond
ECD Automotive was founded eight years ago over several adult beverages between two of the three founders – Scott Wallace and Tom Humble. They’re friends with no automotive manufacturing experience who thought it might be a great idea to open a custom vehicle shop – a business focused on one-of-a-kind Land Rovers from their native UK, designed with the customer in mind throughout the entire process.
Wallace recounted the boozy brainstorm to me outside ECD headquarters, sharing that when the next morning came, he had expected to hear from Tom, admitting the beers had gotten the best of them. In a clearer state of mind, the idea of making custom cars was silly, if not fleeting.
To Wallace’s surprise, Humble had instead quit his sales job. The two then recruited Tom’s younger brother Elliot from the UK, rented a 1,200 sq. ft. garage unit in Kissimmee, Florida, and ECD Automotive Design was born.
Land Rovers shipped from the UK and rebuilt custom
ECD Automotive specializes in completely custom vintage Land Rovers – more specifically, D90, D110, D130 Defenders, the Series IIA, and the Range Rover Classic. Since these Land Rovers are much more prominent in the UK, the guys at ECD have cleverly figured out a process to ship them over in cost effective ways.
To import Land Rover chassis from the UK, they must be at least 25 years old. So, ECD Automotive ships the chassis alone, then newer Land Rover models are dismantled and shipped over as parts. ECD’s team then sand blasts the chassis to ensure they are quality and begins the custom rebuild with the newer parts atop them.
Remember that 1,200 sq. ft. garage I mentioned? ECD Automotive has since taken over the entire 45,000 sq. ft. facility, combining all its individual garages into various work stations, each with its own role in the build.
According to Wallace, the entire custom vehicle process takes 14 months from the start of the design to customer delivery. That includes 2,200 hours of labor spread across 20 different stations. The custom Land Rover spends five days at each. ECD also test drives its completed builds for at least 1,000 miles before delivering them to ensure the quality and design is up to spec for its fastidious customers.
Although Wallace comes from a venture capital background, he helps run an extremely tight ship at ECD, using organized processes and technology to keep track of every single movement of each and every vehicle, from chassis to completion – putting talented individuals into roles that empower them but still hold them accountable. Each step of the process is triple checked by multiple teams, then probably checked again.
Land Rovers (electric and not) that are truly one of a kind
When I say these are custom vehicles, I don’t mean you simply choose your exterior color and your interior fabric (you hear that, Porsche?) These are complete 1:1 automotive works of art that are hand built to a customers’ exact specifications, which can change quite often during a 14-month process.
Wallace explained to me that once a custom Land Rover is delivered from ECD Automotive Design, it becomes the intellectual property of that customer. Should a new customer see one of ECDs many previous projects and request the same build, ECD will say no. No two vehicles that leave its assembly lines are the same, and the ECD team prides itself on that approach.
Throughout the tour, Wallace gave me story after story of the customizations ECD Automotive has brought to fruition for its customers throughout the 400-ish builds it has completed to date. This includes everything from a custom skid plate with a message in Swahili cut out of it, to various animal furs on the dashboard and even a custom paint color to match a client’s house.
“We always say yes,” admitted Wallace as he explained the true nucleus of ECD Automotive’s customer-first approach. Give the customer exactly what they want and keep them in the loop throughout the entire process, including after delivery by offering a warranty that covers personal and efficient fixes for any issues or damages that may arise after delivery.
ECD Automotive’s customers are truly hands on in the design process.
If customers don’t come visit ECD’s facilities in Florida, the company will send them various leather and color samples along with video and picture updates of the build every two weeks. Customers also receive one of the original door hinges (see above) framed and sent to them as a memento of the old Land Rover before it becomes completely reborn.
Lastly, when an ECD vehicle is delivered, each customer receives their own custom book, documenting the entire assembly process with photos and professional images of the final product. This attention to detail and customer service is a large reason why ECD Automotive Design has doubled in growth YOY.
Despite custom Defenders starting at $180k each, ECD gets plenty of repeat customers, some purchasing three or four. Wallace explained that ECD once delivered a custom Land Rover on a Saturday, and that same customer reached out about another build on Sunday. He compared it to a child leaving for college – These customers miss being part of the design process that has been a part of their life for over a year.
Recently, some customers have begun requesting electric versions of ECD’s custom Land Rovers, and who are they to say no?
ECD’s builds now include electric Land Rovers.
As a writer of electric mobility news, the main reason for my visit was to experience one of the newer types of custom builds at ECD Automotive – all-electric Land Rovers equipped with Tesla Motors and batteries.
Currently, ECD is using an electrification kit from Electric Classic Cars (ECC) in the UK, which is comprised of one 450 kW Tesla Model S motor and two Tesla battery packs – one to use under the hood in lieu of the combustion engine and one for the rear. These 8,256 cells combine for a battery capacity of 100 kWh.
I was able to see one of the electrified versions being built and got a peek at ECD’s clever approach to putting a Tesla Motor on a 25+ year old chassis. Rather than have the electric motor turn the wheels directly, ECD’s team turns the Tesla motor 90-degrees to power the existing driveshaft.
While electrification is somewhat new to self-described “Petrol heads” like the Humble brothers and Wallace, they are optimistic they can continue to electrify their Land Rovers and provide better specs to customers. “When building one of a kind vehicles, there isn’t a book,” Wallace told me as he spoke about all the various engine and motor options ECD Automotive can offer, “Normally by truck six or seven, we figure it out.”
That may sound like a nonchalant approach to vehicles costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, but make no mistake – even if the ECD founders sometimes fly by the seat of their pants to deliver what their customers want, the teams they have put in place that actually build the vehicles know exactly what they’re doing. One of the ECD paint team members, Gio Sarika, even showed me how to do my first hydro dip:
Project Britton: An all-electric Land Rover Defender
Following my tour, I was able to test drive a recently completed EV called Project Britton – a Land Rover Defender D110 equipped with the aforementioned Tesla Model S motor and batteries.
ECD co-owner Elliot Humble walked me around the electric truck and showed me the batteries. As you can see from the images, the rear pack is hidden by beautiful teakwood that doubles as a bench which can be slid open for easy access.
According to Elliot Humble, the 100 kWh battery currently delivers 170 miles of range on average, which makes sense for a vehicle much larger and less aerodynamic than a Model S. He said that if you were to drive frugally, you could probably get 200 miles of range out of it, but who wants to do that?
The current electric Land Rovers rolling out of ECD use a J1772 plug rather than the proprietary Tesla plug and support Level 1 and 2 charging. Elliot Humble told me that future electrification kits ECD acquires will soon be able to offer DC fast charging capabilities as well.
ECD Automotive Design can electrify any of its Land Rover models for customers, which tacks on about an additional $50k for the Tesla kit.
On my drive, I noticed a mixed feeling within the electric Land Rover. The accelerator had the oomph that comes with the instant torque of an EV (which never gets old, btw), but the brake required a lot more push than I’m normally used to, more reminiscent of a combustion truck.
Once ECD’s sales and design lead, John Price, and I got out on some open road outside Orlando, I punched it over 60 mph in under five seconds. There was a whistle-like hum of the electric motor working, giving me a feeling of being inside a teakwood clad spaceship. That being said, the sound was nothing compared to the rattling and revving of a combustion engine, especially the Chevy LS3 or LT4 engines ECD currently offers.
The interior was absolutely stunning, featuring a simplistic but intuitive dash that supports the EV without losing its classic car charm. I truly enjoyed the experience and hope to be asked back when the new facility is up and running.
After driving in both an electric and combustion Land Rover, I’ll take the electric all day. According to the ECD team, most people that have driven the electric Land Rovers agree.
ECD’s future with electric Land Rovers and beyond
Looking ahead, ECD Automotive Design continues to expand. I was able to pop in and see its new 100,000 sq. ft. facility being completed across the street. The departments will slowly start switching building in the coming months. When the new space is running full steam, ECD’s build capacity will jump from 60 vehicles a year to 200.
As EV adoption grows, ECD’s new facility should be able to support orders for more and more customers requesting all-electric Land Rovers. Currently the company is cycling about one EV a month, but as kit prices lower and electrification becomes more mainstream, ECD is confident it can sell plenty more.
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