“Success is never achieved in your comfort zone,” says Tom Humble, the original founder of E.C.D. It is this sentiment that has fueled E.C.D. into the brand it is today. The story of E.C.D. starts with Tom and his beginnings as a purveyor of vehicles. Initially, two vehicles were brought to the U.S. as a favor to a few family members who had plans to drive them here in the U.S.
Starting our the restorations in a 900 sq foot shop, including office space, the concept for E.C.D. had started before anyone even realized. Bringing his brother, Elliot Humble, on board, E.C.D. was finally beginning to take shape… sort of. In a bizarre fit of ‘coincidence’ that none of us understands to this day, another Brit happened upon team Humble, Scott Wallace. The three gents decided to get serious about the Defender restoration idea, so of course, that meant a high-level meeting in the parking lot of the local WaWa, very professional.
To be fair, the famous “Wawa Trip” had proven to be the exact moment needed for our three founders and ultimately for E.C.D. A catalyst of “onion peeling” (another Tom quote) began soon after as E.C.D Automotive Design started its journey as the Kings of USA Defender Restomods.
We never did it for money
“I think writing the ECD business plan with a financial objective from the beginning would have stifled our growth. We made some really bad financial decisions in the first three which actually have become the gatekeepers of the brand & product, the nonfinancial decisions shaped our culture & the financial outcomes are now a byproduct of that culture,” says Scott, Co-Founder.
No puns intended, but E.C.D had very, very humble beginnings. The goal was to re-introduce the Land Rover Defender to a country that rarely knew the vehicle’s purpose and history. It was about making a slightly more modern version of the Defender that the American market could enjoy, an ode to the British classic, and all its nostalgia. But in the same sense that “don’t eat cheese before noon” could mean depending on one decision the rest of your afternoon could go to shit, E.C.D. had the culture of never picking the easy route. We prefer to enjoy the cheese and deal with the shit later.
So in going from 900 sq. ft. facility, it grew slightly to accommodate more builds, more work, better quality. But even doubling the space couldn’t satiate the three founders, who, despite dedicating day and night to E.C.D. (what’s work-life balance?), still wanted more. It was “survival through ignorance” at this point.
“To survive, we had to learn everything in our trade; when the mind is in survival mode, then you view work differently. You have to throw yourself into every challenge. It’s a very different stimulation when you have to learn a skill to survive in business. Ignorance is great nutrition for the mind if you apply it to a problem,” recounts Scott again.
As a year or two ticked by, E.C.D. began to take shape as something different. The business was no longer about spitting out one running Defender after another, but giving a one-of-a-kind touch to each vehicle, something that I can attest Americans crave. It ballooned from ‘offering custom paint, hand-stitched seats in one’s preferred color, and whatever accessories your heart’s desire’ to “how the hell can we be one of the firsts to put a truly modern engine, corvette for example, into this 25-year-old vehicle and make it work.” This is where we began to just eat the cheese. As we grew in our craft, we took on challenge after challenge of making sure every custom Defender from the Rover Dome was like no other, not only in the US but in the world.
The world became the new challenge. So in 2016, we built a custom Land Rover Defender with an LS3 engine, The Beast.
The Beast notified E.C.D. of plenty of individual challenges we hadin’t even considered outside of fitting a fucking Corvette engine into a 25-year-old vehicle. These were our paint points. The paint was never exactly right, the seats didn’t scream “Made by E.C.D.,” and we couldn’t take as much pride in the project as we should have. So we doubled in size yet again, this time including space for our in-house upholstery, state of the art paint facility (known as The Lab), and we scaled the business to handle the quality, luxury vehicles we wanted to be associated with the E.C.D. brand.
It all became about innovation and being a facility like no other.
“If you didn’t turn up today to build gold quality, turn around and go home” (Tom)
Of course, luxury didn’t stop at the quality of our custom Defenders, but we invoked it everywhere. From the people to their skillset and certifications, to our world-class Concierge service. Now, having a Client Concierge is, in fact, just as fancy as it sounds. An individual that schedules your Rover Dome facility visits answers any questions you may have and sends you all the fun gift boxes that may or may not include a bottle of gin.
Our Concierge service set us apart in that we bring our clients to the shop for an in-depth tour of the Rover Dome, a sit down with our Design team to produce a 3D rendering and our beautiful online portal. The online portal gives clients access to their build, updated photos as their customized restored Land Rover passes from bay to bay, and access to ask questions at their convenience. Our need for innovation doesn’t exclude our Concierge service. In fact, we’ve got something cooking up that you’ll have to stay tuned for at the end of the year. What really gets our clients going is the custom box we send them that includes paint color samples, threads of different textured leathers, and an assortment of items that help inspire them for their design meeting.
Moving to ground-up restorations gives our clients the ultimate control over not only what their vehicle looks like but also what literally goes into it. From engine options to wheels to decals and adding in their own personal logos, it’s all discussed in an extensive Design meeting. While some things aren’t to our taste, that part is none of our business. As Scott remembers in recounting a story, one client’s Mrs. literally had us paint their build based on the color of her favorite dress, which was a sparkly fuschia number.
What is important to us is that regardless of design choice, the vehicle performs and looks to our standards, which are pretty fucking high. “Perfection” is a word often thrown into every other conversation at E.C.D. It’s written on the walls, and you can go have a look if you don’t believe me. Over the last two years or so in E.C.D.’s quest to be resto kings of all things Land Rover and luxury, we’ve invested quite heavily into one element that touches every aspect of the business: Quality Control.
“Set up alarm bells in the business as you have on a car dashboard. When that the alarm bell goes off fix the issue immediately” (Scott)
Every bay has its own set QC process that prevents the build from moving forward if there are “alarm bells.” At the end of all that, the build still has to go through the two QC bays that involve a 400-point and 3D inspection.
“The three owners know every truck in every bay by name, design spec & dates due even when it is just a frame. We walk the bays multiple times daily & ask questions about the product,” brags Scott. These walks are not-so-secretly his favorite pass-time as it gives him the chance to prod and question everything about what’s happening in that bay, keeping our techs on their toes.
What makes us Kings in the craft of Defender restoration is our ability to champion any challenge into a new line or offering for clients. Our quality builds don’t even stop at Defenders. Over the years, our confidence has grown to include adding the Series IIA, Range Rover Classic (RRC), and, most recently, the Electric Defender to our line up, a full suite of luxury custom SUVs. Just like the Defender, these are restorations that we’ve had to immerse ourselves in learning about, hiring quality, certified team members, and learning from brands who are currently the best in their class.
“When we say skilled mechanics it means we push and reward every one of them to be ASE verified when we say we use premium products just look at our cost of goods line in the accounts… If you say “we build quality” then everyone in the business needs to live and breathe it and be prepared to be challenged on it. If you are going to put a name on the tin, then when I open the tin, that’s what better be inside it,” says Scott.
Years of experience, the people, and a culture that keeps us from saying, “We can’t, that’s not possible,” has pushed E.C.D. into the world-class restoration brand it is today. It’s simply not in our DNA to be anything less than great innovators. We believe in taking risks, and we accept any challenge.
Unit 107 – 4930 Industrial Lane Kissimmee, FL 34758
UK logistics Center
Unit 5 Crown Industrial Estate
© 2022 ECD Automotive Design. All images are the property of ECD Auto Design and cannot be used without our consent. E.C.D. Automotive Design is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with Jaguar Land Rover Limited, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, including Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC. DEFENDER and RANGE ROVER are registered trademarks of Jaguar Land Rover Limited. We build restored defenders, range rover classic’s, and jaguar etypes.