In true restomod fashion, rebuilding a classic Land Rover Defender from the ground up isn’t for the faint of heart. Swapping an engine, a new paint job, freshly reupholstered seats, all things that can be done with idle hands during a summer off. But a true, rebuilt from a naked chassis restored Defender is guaranteed to take months, maybe even years, to accomplish if it’s done well.
Starting from sourcing a vintage Defender, to begin with, one can look high and low for one of these legendary vehicles that are no longer available clean off of a production line, especially here in the US. You may see a couple of the classics roaming around the US, and you can bet they are true to their heritage with little to no modern upgrades. There just aren’t that many restomod or auto body shops that work on these historic utility 4×4’s. If searching from coast to coast doesn’t drain you, one might find it easier to import a rusted classic from across the pond, it may look rough, but the bones are good.
ECD, in fact, just opened up a logistics center across the water in our founder’s and the Defender’s country of origin, the UK. The logistics center will focus on sourcing and shipping base vehicles for ECD’s custom restored Defenders. ECD also shipped the original founder, Tom, to oversee the entire facility. (We’re sure he’ll miss the sun and surf here in Florida, but don’t worry, he’ll be back.) With this new facility, sourcing builds will be a much smoother process. With our new facility in the US, our goal of being able to rebuild 100 restored Defender in a year becomes completely possible. You can follow our ECD UK facility on Instagram and Facebook and watch as they deconstruct and pack an entire build into a beautiful pallet ready to ship.
Once these beauties arrive to us, after a lengthy stop at customs, the true efficiency of the Rover Dome takes place. The build is further torn down, and that possibly rusted chassis gets a meticulous make-over. Any issues are fixed, holes filled, rust removed. At last, a clean chassis remains and is set up to be refinished to protect it for its future journeys. The rebuild process tends to happen across many bays at a time, and the new wiring harness for the build is being created to the build’s specifications, ready to be installed once the chassis is rolling.
Other upgrades that are introduced to the restored Defenders, based on design, include refreshed axels, an all-new suspension, and a completely new transfer case. The rolling chassis is rewired, and the build’s predetermined engine is test fitted onto the chassis. Everything lines up in our drivetrain bay, but only when the build goes into the cosmetics bay does it begin to look like a restored Defender again. The newly repainted panels, beautifully buffed and sent from a few doors down at the Rover Dome’s paint facility, are put back in their place. The shell rolls through the Rover Dome, as a million different components are being ordered, delivered, restored, and hand-built by the ECD team. Details like LED headliners, custom-built cabinets, animal skin upholstery are all being made within the Defender’s 12 month restoration time. Everything is rebuilt by hand, with the exception of newer exterior accessories and things like tires and wheels. One can see the details coming together and think it’s no wonder the build time takes 2,200 man-hours.
Wiring, fitting the insulation, and the new Puma dashboard all happen under the cover of the Defender’s newly repainted body panels. On the outside, a classic Defender is taking shape; on the inside, what looks like full-on chaos is happening as every aspect of the rebuild is rebolted, sewn, or welded on. After years of experience, the team at ECD, full of talented individuals, makes the process look like a well-oiled machine, a 5-star kitchen; in fact, one of the most used phrases at ECD is “Mis en Place.”
The cosmetics bay goes to work recreating a modern version of the timeless restored Defender, all while the upholstery team is test fitting newly reupholstered seats, door cards, and cubby boxes. The entire process is fascinating to watch, and something like an orchestra, a complete body of sounds coming together for one amazing performance. The music swells when the engine is dropped back into the build before the wings are installed again. The final touches are often exterior accessories and customized features, but the test driving is probably the most exciting part of the rebuild aside from firing the newly installed engine for the first time.
With pride and a sense of accomplishment, and rightly deserved, every restomod Defender that comes out of the Rover Dome is a hand-built one-of-one. What may seem like a simple build is a fully restored beast that initially arrived on a pallet, a blank slate, optimized for the ’90s and never meant to see modern times. You can watch the process of how we build the perfectly restored Defenders on our YouTube channel and see for yourself how these beauties are brought back to life.
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.