At 9:30 a.m. on the morning of last Wednesday, Scott Wallace and the rest of the founders of ECD Automotive Design gathered at the Nasdaq MarketSite, situated in the upper west section of a 48-story high building in Manhattan. As ECD’s promotional videos were displayed on the facade of the building, overlooking Times Square, Wallace, the CEO, and the other founders simultaneously pressed a large button on a digital table. Bells chimed, signaling the commencement of the trading day at the Nasdaq stock exchange.
The start of trading for ECDA, previously known as E.C.D. but now without the periods, was announced by the ringing of bells. According to Wallace, this marks a new phase not only for ECD, but also for the industry of restoring classic cars.
According to him, ECD was originally known as East Coast Defenders and its main focus was importing old 1983-94 Land Rover Defenders from Great Britain to the US for rebuilding and modernization. While this still remains the main aspect of their business, they have also expanded to include other vehicles such as the Land Rover Series IIA, Range Rover Classic, and the Jaguar E-Type. The Jaguar E-Type, which has a price starting at $299,995, boasts a 450-horsepower GM LT1 V-8 engine.
The occurrence takes place in a recently built, highly contemporary establishment spanning 100,000 square feet in Kissimmee, Florida, located just below Walt Disney World in Orlando and in close proximity to the site of the former factory. Dubbed as the “Rover Dome,” the structure houses the new factory, consisting of two assembly lines with plans for a third. Additionally, it serves as the headquarters for ECD Automotive Design, consolidating all operations under one roof.
Since its establishment, ECD has successfully distributed over 600 vehicles, with a significant number of them priced at $300,000 or higher. Through a “business combination” known as a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), EF Hutton Acquisition Corporation, with the support of its affiliates, is supplying funds to support the company’s growth.
The team led by Hutton reached an agreement for a $15 million PIPE investment, following the assessment of ECD with a pro forma enterprise value of $330 million. The current CEO, Wallace, will remain in his position, along with the other founders Tom Humble, Emily Humble, Elliott Humble, and CFO Raymond Cole.
What makes Land Rover Defenders so special? Many of the creators were raised in the Midlands of England, just 40 miles away from the factory where Defenders were produced. According to a brochure for the company, they were constantly surrounded by Defenders and often drove around on their friends’ farms with hay bales, their family dog, and occasionally even farm animals. Unlike in the U.S., the Defender is not seen as a fashionable vehicle overseas, but rather as a reliable and hardworking workhorse.
ECD mainly specializes in selling custom-made vehicles that are tailored to the exact specifications of the customers. Within the Rover Dome, there is a cozy sofa and a large 72-inch television screen. This area is also where John Price, the director of vehicle design, has his office. As you sit on the sofa, his assistant works on a laptop to help you design your ideal vehicle.
At present, ECD offers 17 fully rebuilt Defenders for sale, which includes three 1995 Range Rovers. If you are not willing to wait for a customized build, these vehicles are readily available. One of the Range Rovers features a supercharged LT4 V-8 and is priced at $209,995.
The current lineup of Defenders available for immediate purchase includes both the 90 and 110 versions, with the highest priced being a 1995 110 for $299,995. Each of these models have been driven for 1000 miles to ensure their quality before being sold. In the unlikely event that there is an issue, buyers can take advantage of a 24-month transferrable warranty and 24/7 roadside assistance. The most affordable option is a pre-owned 90, equipped with a 5.3-liter V-8 engine, priced at $149,995.
Exploring the Rover Dome is a truly enlightening experience as one can witness a hundred employees dispersed among different sections, from upholstery to the state-of-the-art paint booth. The majority of them are dressed in casual attire of company-branded t-shirts, jeans, or shorts, creating a relaxed atmosphere. The entire facility is impeccably clean, brightly illuminated, and equipped with cooling systems from a company called Big Ass Fans. One can also notice a significant presence of British accents, including those of Wallace and the other co-founders.
The dual assembly lines, located at the far end of the building, consist of one for Defenders and the other currently dedicated to Jaguar E-Types. Both cars and trucks are obtained in a similar manner – often as worn-out models that are stripped down to the frames and thoroughly reconstructed, often with a new GM powertrain.
ECD’s business has been expanding, with a significant portion now focused on electric conversions. Initially, they utilized Tesla motors and batteries obtained from the secondary market, but encountered challenges in optimizing them. As a result, ECD has switched to using Ampere units, which are produced by a company in Dawsonville, Georgia and are known for their straightforward installation process. One of the Range Rovers currently offered by ECD is equipped with an electric drivetrain and is available for purchase at a price of $279,995.
The DesignStudio at New E.C.D. showcases a new Rover Dome with a showroom. The image features a compressed and cropped version of the showroom, which was taken by Hagerty Media.
During my visit, I observed that ECD has constructed a single electric version of the Jaguar E-Type, with another one currently being assembled. The completed vehicle is equipped with three batteries, with two located in the front and one in the trunk, providing a combined capacity of 42 kWh. This amount of power is equivalent to that of the LT1 gas engine, generating 450 horsepower and allowing for a distance of 150 miles.
Following the tour, I went on a brief drive in the rain with a brand new Defender 110 equipped with a 6.2-liter LS3 engine and an automatic transmission. I was impressed by its stability, as the air suspension effectively absorbed the impact of bumps and potholes – a feat not achieved by any previous Land Rover Defender model from 1983-94. Despite its weight, the vehicle had more than enough power. The only notable similarities to the original model were its wide turning radius and closely-spaced pedals, which required me to use my left foot for braking.
In all aspects, ECD’s truck had the appearance and sensation of a recently purchased vehicle, although it was not.
Scott Wallace and his team have a big plan – either succeed greatly or give up. Will other aftermarket builders choose to do the same?
We will witness.