E.C.D. Automotive Design

First Drive: Why We’re Amped on This Electric Range Rover Classic

First Drive: Why We’re Amped on This Electric Range Rover Classic

With foot to the throttle, I feel my back immediately press against the diamond-quilted leather seats as my hands grip the traditional wood-grain steering wheel. This surge of power is certainly not the norm for a conventional Range Rover, circa 1990s, but more akin to what would be expected from a Tesla Roadster. Then again, the torque-on-demand dynamics is from a Tesla Direct Drive EV power train that has been packed into this restored Range Rover Classic—a case of retro meets retro-rocket.

Few automobiles, save for some of Porsche’s air-cooled 911 variants, seem to inspire more restomod fervor than those from Land Rover’s stable of Defender and Range Rover models. The demand is understandable. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too does the US automotive market, at least when it comes to the Defender, which stopped being sold Stateside in 1997 and went through a global hiatus from 2016 until the new, redesigned Defender appeared last year.

E.C.D. Automotive Design’s all-electric Range Rover Classic. 

Photo: Courtesy of E.C.D. Automotive Design.

Since 2013, Florida-based E.C.D Automotive Design has been among those at the forefront of reimagining Britain’s utilitarian masterworks. After electrifying the Defender last year, it has now given the Range Rover Classic a similar treatment, a welcome jolt into the future for a vehicle born the year after we landed on the moon.
“States are going to dictate that gas is going to become a thing of the past,” opines Scott Wallace, E.C.D. Automotive Design’s cofounder, on the step to keep current with battery technology. “But I think the real driver for us is just the innovation side. More than the business reason for electrification, it’s based on a passion to do everything better.”
An expat Brit, Wallace is a longtime automotive enthusiast and venture capitalist who joined up with brothers Tom and Elliot Humble, fellow countrymen, nearly a decade ago. Tom and his wife Emily emigrated to Florida from across the pond and began selling older Land Rovers on the side after discovering there was a surprising amount of interest in what they viewed as workhorse farm trucks back home.

The Tesla Direct Drive EV power train inside E.C.D.’s most recent Range Rover Classic restomod. 

Photo: Courtesy of E.C.D. Automotive Design.

As the story goes, Tom, Elliot and Scott were basically daydreaming about their ideal jobs over a few beers when the idea of starting a restoration house was tossed around. What Wallace didn’t expect was for Tom to quit his full-time job the following day and the younger Elliot to abandon university so they could focus on the new collective goal. Wallace was all in at that point, and the automotive atelier in Kissimmee opened its doors.

“Our joke is that Tom has a vision, and Elliot and I do it,” quips Wallace. “It’s a really good mix of skill sets, and we rarely share the same. I think we have three minds that create one good brain for business.”
Part of that winning model is a painstaking attention to detail, which becomes evident during my time behind the wheel of the electric Rover. The example is still very much in its shakedown phase of development, as Tom drove it for his first time roughly 24 hours previously. Riding shotgun, he points out the chassis vibration that is barely perceptible to me and assumed to be part of the classic’s character. But it’s a glaring issue for Tom, and one he plans to have addressed before the client takes delivery.

Piloting the all-electric Range Rover Classic on the roads of Kissimmee, Fla. 

Photo by Tom Humble.

I’m more mesmerized by the immaculate detailing, including the collection of traditionally styled circular gauges complemented by the vast custom dash presented in a rich wood finish and carbon-fiber-like patterning. The entire interior, with seating dressed in Spinneybeck’s Pueblito Tan leather, still presents a very 1990s aesthetic that’s belied only by the Alpine Halo9 infotainment system’s touch screen with Apple CarPlay, the Bluetooth functionality and the back-up camera.

The interior’s Spinneybeck Pueblito Tan leather accented with diamond-patterned stitching. 

Photo: Courtesy of E.C.D. Automotive Design.

Another contemporary addition is the push-button controls for Start, Reverse and Drive that manage the 450 hp Tesla motor fed by a 1,000 kWh battery pack reported to have a 220-mile range. The motor and energy storage system were sourced from Richard Morgan and his team at Electric Classic Cars (ECC) in the UK.
“We first got introduced to ECC when I was looking for a kit for the Mini I was rebuilding,” notes Elliot. “We had seen that they had done a Defender, and that sparked our interest.” For Wallace, it seemed like kismet, adding: “Richard is very similar to us three, and that was important. We didn’t want to get into a corporate partnership. We had a call, he liked us, we liked him—it was like dating.”

A traditionally styled gauge for a modern, alternative power train. 

Photo: Courtesy of E.C.D. Automotive Design.

The relationship has resulted in a Range Rover with library-quiet operation, near-instant throttle response and a rate of acceleration touted as zero-to-60 mph in 5.2 seconds. The overall drive experience is not unlike what I imagine from a hovercraft. Despite the stock suspension, there is a definite sensation of floating. It’s not the wafting of a Rolls-Royce Phantom mind you, far from it, but the feeling of being airborne with a bit of turbulence. Chalk it up to the marginal chassis shimmer and slight lag between steering input and its translation to the 18-inch wheels, shod in Continental Cross Contact tires, that figure into the equation. Not to be forgotten is that it’s a nearly 30-year-old vehicle at its core, which is, after all, the main appeal.

The restoration house features an extensive complex of build stations. 

Photo: Courtesy of E.C.D. Automotive Design.

E.C.D.’s latest electric entry, showcased in a glossy Alpine white exterior contrasted by silver metal bumpers and a black grille, is far more than a glorified farm truck. It’s a swank conveyance built for tomorrow’s emissions regulations without losing the stylistic authenticity of its period.
The initial project is a Southern California–based customer’s commission and represents more than 2,200 hours of labor in the 45,000-square foot “Rover Dome,” as the E.C.D. headquarters and build site is affectionately known. But personalization is the linchpin of the operation, the company’s rai​son d’être defined from one customer to the next.

A part of E.C.D. Automotive Design’s inner sanctum. 

Photo: Courtesy of E.C.D. Automotive Design.

“We have clients that ask us to build something that will sit in their car museum and never be driven, and then we’ve got people who want to use it as their daily,” mentions Wallace when asked about E.C.D.’s mission statement. It’s a mantra that’s certainly been given more juice by this recent foray into electrification. “Create it. Build it. Live it,’ he states. “You create it, we build it, you live it.”

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