East Coast Defender Reinvents the Classics
“It doesn’t matter what you drive.” We say this often and we say it loud. Overland Bound Member Rigs reflect this founding principle by representing a wide variety of makes, models, years and gear in our ranks.
And as the overland industry continues to grow, more and more businesses are offering specialized products and services to meet the demand for overland vehicles and their drivers.
And then there’s East Coast Defender.
East Coast Defender has built custom Land Rovers from the chassis up since 2013. The passion, attention to detail and quality in each build is unique and mind blowing.
And while the price tag on one of their custom builds might cause some jaws to drop, their business is thriving by delivering the highest quality, most bad-ass Defenders to customers who know *exactly* what they want.
We talked to Tom, Elliot and Scott, the Founders of ECD about how they got started and what’s in the works for 2017 and beyond.
What’s the backstory? How did you guys come up with this as a business?
I was working in the industry as a re-seller for other so called ‘builders’. I saw the work they were doing and the quality that was being passed on to people. It made me realize there was a market for someone to set-up in the U.S. using the American workforce and have everything open door and transparent for our clients. Having family history in the auto-restoration business made it even easier to recognize the opportunity.
I met with Scott (1.5 years before he invested in us) through a family connection. I turned up at his house in a Defender 110, and he loved it. We started talking and he said to me if I ever wanted to make a real go of the business, I had to lose my safety net. At the time my job was a Project Director for another automotive brand. It was the best job I had ever had; however, two weeks later I had served my notice and was full time on my own in a little 900 sq. ft. shop thinking, “What the **** do I do now?”
Jump forward 3 years. We now have 23 full time employees, 15,000 sq. ft. of premium workshop space, and are building around 40 luxury custom vehicles per year. (Tom)
How are they registered?
Every vehicle is registered as it is, normally a late 80’s or early/mid 90’s vehicle. We never build on salvage or damaged vehicles. We only use good quality base vehicles that we tear down and rebuild. Whereas some other companies use damaged vehicles or register as kit cars, ours are all genuine Land Rover Defenders. (Tom)
On average, how long does it take to do a build out?
From start to finish, around 9 months for a top level build. (Elliot)
Is there a waiting list? How long?
We factor our clients wait time into the build, we use this time to source long lead items, plan production and source base vehicles. Our total build time for our clients is between 10-12 months start to finish. (Tom)
What about reliability? What if I want to take this around the world?
The LS3 and LC9 engines that we offer come with 6 speed auto transmissions, so the daily drive is comfortable highway cruising with plenty of power. They have 2-year warranties and are serviceable at any GM dealership in the USA. We have about 20 LC9 and LS3 Defenders on our build schedule currently and the owners live anywhere from the heavily snowed in areas of Wyoming to the city streets of New York, so we build our Defenders to do what they do best and that’s to go anywhere. (Elliot)
Can I choose an engine make?
We offer the 4.0 and 4.6 Rover V8 engines, Chevrolet LC9 and the Chevrolet LS3 performance engines. We are looking into other engines, such as diesel options that will meet our standards of a smooth, quiet, and modern drive.
How extensive is your process?
It is a full ground up rebuild. Every nut and bolt is replaced. There is no part of the vehicle that gets left as it was before. The trucks come into ECD as whole rest of world imports or North American Specification (NAS). They are fully stripped down to a bare chassis. We then either decide to reuse or replace the chassis. If we reuse the chassis it goes through media blasting, welding repair, laser alignment, rust prevention treatment and then powder coating. We then rebuild these vehicles using mainly new parts from Land Rover in the UK, brand new Chevrolet engines and transmissions, and the latest in comfort and technology.
Is it difficult to acquire inventory?
Our Father is back in the UK and he acquires any Defenders that we need to import. We have trusted eyes and ears on the ground. There are some real turds out there. People try to ship them to the USA because clients don’t get to see the vehicle in person before they buy it. We do.
Where do you primarily source your parts?
Chevrolet parts are all purchased here in the USA. The same for all of our custom hand-made fuel lines and brake lines. The Land Rover genuine parts we import from the UK as this is where they are readily available for us. (Elliot)
All-time favorite build?
For me it is project UA XIII. I absolutely love the power of the LS3 with performance road setup. It was lowered 1″ below factory height and a has full modern luxurious interior. Iconic look with modern comfort. It is truly a luxury daily driver. Anyone could swap their Range Rover Autobiography or G Wagen for UA XIII and be very happy indeed. (Tom)
Project Spectre was the turning point of ECD. It was internally named ‘Project Perfection’, and it was this point where we decided that we would no longer compete with other Defender builders out there. We were just going to build the best trucks possible. (Elliot)
Most requested feature?
How much does it cost?
Our custom ground up rebuilds start at around $150k and our high end performance vehicles average around $200k up to $250k. We do offer a NAS vehicle factory refurbishment program on a limited range of vehicles. This starts at $99k. (Tom)
Most out there custom request?
One of our clients is a pretty bad-ass artist and has requested for their D130 to include Alligator skinned seats and accessories such as the steering wheel and center console box to also be trimmed in Alligator skin. (Tom)
What’s your daily driver?
Jaguar F Type & any Defender needing test miles! (Scott)
What else should we know?
We are control freaks. By the end of 2016 we will have every aspect of our builds in-house, including the final three elements – AC , Exhaust & performance tuning. By having 100% control we can only blame ourselves for anything less than perfection in the outcome. (Scott)
What else is interesting?
We have an idea bank for everything we want to achieve in future builds but can’t quite get to yet. Innovation is never short at ECD – only time! But we have an agenda in 2017 & beyond to start applying these ideas. (Scott)