East Coast Defender 90 and 110 Drive Impression

Mar. 15, 2017 By Seth Parks, Photos by Drew Phillips
The East Coast Defender team focuses on high-end Defender builds. We had a chance to check out a Defender 90 and 110 build recently.

If a better-than-new iconic British off-roader built to your specification is your thing, East Coast Defender has the answer. The Florida-based company has emerged as a premier provider of bespoke Land Rover Defenders. But if you have to ask how much one costs, they probably aren’t for you.

We recently met with co-founders, Tom Humble, Elliot Humble, and Scott Wallace, who visited the west coast to show off their creations. Before some wheel time in a 110 and a distinctly different 90, we got the low-down on ECD. These guys are unequivocally enthusiasts and being British doesn’t hurt their credibility. But if you have not heard of ECD, it’s probably because their organization just coalesced over the last couple years.

The ECD vision, already rolling through more than 50 builds, is to recreate Defenders that express each customer’s imagination while retaining the character of the original, all in a high-quality package with remarkable attention to detail. You can provide your own Defender, though there is no need as one can select from ECD’s inventory of locally and internationally sourced 90, 110, and 130 donors.

Even though these were customer rigs, we did get the chance to actually drive both the Defender 110 (shown) and 90.

East Coast Defender starts with an original rig then replaces and/or upgrades all the hardware, fittings, and hard parts, as necessary. These are frame-off builds. And although some finished units resemble the original, these are not restorations. For example, some customers want a Defender that looks original, inside and out, but features GM V8 power along with a few subtle touches of modernity.

Likewise, these are not restomods, as the frames and basic architecture are retained. They are not, for example, grafting a Defender body onto an LR4. These are Defenders through and through. And that means many of the original foibles remain. Mushy braking, check. Oddly placed door latches, check. Tight egress, check. If you are comparing one of these to other similarly famous off-roaders like G-Wagon or Wrangler you may find the Defender, well, inconvenient. But that would miss the point. 

You get what you pay for: The Defender 110 is loaded from floor to roof.

East Coast Defender is not targeting the 1,800 consumers per year who purchase a G-Wagon, much less the 200,000 who purchase Wranglers. They are aiming at just 30 individuals per year who want a distinctive, high quality, one-of-a-kind Land Rover Defender.

Customers take many forms. Some 70 percent are fashion buyers who may specify low-profile tires, bumpin’ sound systems, and quilted suede headliners. The other 30 percent are more closely aligned with traditional off-road enthusiasts. Regardless, ECD customers are drawn to the globetrotting old-world charm and old-school bulldog toughness unique to Defender.

An LS3 powers the "Beast" Defender 110.

The 110 we drove had a 6.2L Chevrolet V8 wedged between the front fenders providing 430 horsepower. This rig is about a year old, and although the ECD team is justifiably proud of its creation, they were quick to point out under-hood improvements made subsequent to its creation. Newer LS3 powered rigs feature re-plumbed air and revised wiring, transforming an already professional engine swap into an exceptionally clean, better-than-OEM engine compartment.

A distinctive Kahn wide-body kit and 1983 alloy wheels in meaty 285/65/18 Nitto rubber ensure this Land Rover will not be mistaken from afar as an original. Take a few steps closer and encouraging details emerge. Lazer Star LEDs show the way, subtle Masai Panoramic glass adorns the rear, and a Slimline bumper cradling a Smittybilt 10,000-lb winch is perched out front. The growl from the LS3 routed through a throaty Magnaflow custom exhaust underlines that this is not a numbers matching machine.

Race-inspired leather seats are featured up front in the 110.
Inside, there is an ECD Puma dash conversion with Custom Speedhut gauges, well amplified eight-speaker sound, corbeau heated front seats, and marine-grade carpeting throughout. In black, it looks as sinister inside as it does outside. And to emphasize its menacing presence, a seamlessly executed drawer is mounted in the rear, accessible only by opening the hatch. It is perfect for long-guns.
Defenders are imperfect animals. Their original go-anywhere mission drove compromise in just about every aspect of their design not related to off-road utility. They have never been dynamic driving machines. But their stalwart singularity of purpose is exactly what we love about Defender. It better be, because you can take the Defender out of Coventry, but you can’t take Coventry out of Defender.
I have never operated a Defender that one would characterize as powerful by today’s standards. Not until I got into this 110. On the road, the ECD 110 is brutish. Its weight ensures it remains numerically unimpressive to 60 mile per hour. But never mind. Through the seat bottom, steering wheel, and ears, this SUV communicates its position among the fastest Defenders anywhere. What about corners? Yes, it goes around them.

The ECD Defender 110 may look good, but it can still wheel as well.

Once un-tethered from the country roads around the sprawling citrus and berry farm we were granted access to, the Defender led us to a steep, muddy descent. Its handlers were not thrilled. But tomorrow’s detail be damned, commitment is more than just a word. Down the muddy hill we went, after which the grade moderated but the trail gradually narrowed and we began harvesting wonderfully ripe avocados with the Safety Devices external cage. Unfortunately, our single track faded into the grove. A lengthy uphill reverse was required. Up we went, the Defender unperturbed. We got ourselves turned around at the base of the steep section, which was now even sloppier thanks to our own tracks and the recent rains. We looked skyward over the bonnet and pushed the upgraded LT230 Transfer case into 4-Lo. Up we went. No drama.

The Defender 90 typically runs about $170K from ECD.

We also trotted the 90 around the property, careful this time not to let its keen sense for uncovering off-road challenges take us to the dark side. As expected, and while not extreme, the shorter wheelbase provides more of a bottle cap on a rolling ocean ride versus the 110. Sitting slightly lower than stock sans the wide-body kit with a soft top, the 90 is also visually distinct from the 110. It’s a great ride for somebody who wants the looks of an exclusive off-road classic in a more reliable, better accelerating, slightly more user-friendly package.

The Defender 90 is a distinctly different ride from the 110.
The ECD Defender 90 retains much of the Discovery architecture while still being very much a custom rig.

Pick your flavor or make your own, expect to spend about $170,000 for a unit like this 90, or $210,000 for one like the 110 profiled here. As extreme as those price tags may be, consider that you get a one-of-a-kind ride with like-new reliability and outrageous capability. If that makes sense to you, ECD would like to hear from you. If not, join the rest of us commoners.
Build Lists
“Beast” - Land Rover Defender 110 Station Wagon

Price As Tested: $210,000
6.2L Chevrolet LS3 V8 430BHP
6L80E transmission
Full heat and sound deadening
Land Rover LT230 Transfer case upgraded
Custom Magnaflow exhaust system
Land Rover axles with heavy duty axle shafts and CV joints
Alcon performance front braking kit
Custom driveshafts
Custom hand-built aluminum radiator
Upgraded fueling system with braided steel lines
ECD Puma dash conversion
Upgraded sound system, touch screen infotainment, backup camera, Sirius XM, 8 speaker setup with sub woofer and amp Corbeau heated front race seats
Puma middle row with three-point harnesses
Black marine-grade carpet with rubber matting
Kahn 1983 alloy wheels
Kahn wide-body kit
Full Safety Devices roll cage
Panoramic rear glass
Custom pull-out gun drawer
Corvette shifter with manual selection
Nitto Grappler tires
Custom Speedhut ECD gauges
Remote locking and alarm
LED lighting: Lazer Star LED light bar, Putco daytime running lights
Slimline front bumper with Smittybilt 10,000-lb winch
“Venice” D90 (client-owned vehicle upgrade project)
Price As Tested: $170,000
6.2L Chevrolet LS3 V8 430BHP E-Rod system
4L80E transmission
Full heat and sound deadening
Land Rover LT230 Transfer case upgraded
Land Rover axles with heavy duty axle shafts and CV joints Alcon performance front braking kit
Custom driveshafts
Custom hand-built aluminum radiator
Upgraded fueling system with braided steel lines
Corbeau heated front seats
TD5 style center pod with touch-screen infotainment
Upgraded sound system
Custom Borla exhaust
Kahn 1983 wheels with BFG T/A tire
Puma style hood
LED lighting

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