“New” Defenders from the East Coast

For many people the rugged and capable vehicles that built Land Rover’s rich heritage have become just that, heritage. Camel Trophy trucks no longer push and wade their way through the depths of foreign jungles, and the rows of machines that once rattled Defenders off the Solihull lines have finally fallen silent.  It would seem that those loyal to the green oval have been relegated to the leather clad luxury machines which wear the badge today; but for a select few that possess a Range Rover budget and Defender dreams, East Coast Defenders has the perfect alternative; a built to order “new” Defender.

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So wait, what do I mean by “new”? Is some regulation crazed customs agent out there waiting to confiscate this truck? Don’t worry, these Landys are totally legal, but lets start with a little back ground on the men behind the company and where they come from.

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Tom and Eliot Humble founded East Coast Defender (ECD) just over four years ago, but their history with Land Rovers goes back much further than that. The two brothers were raised around farms in the midlands of England and their love of Defenders grew while riding in the back of them with animals, hauling bales of hay, and wrenching on them as they broke down. By 2012 the pair had moved to the United States, and while they still turn a few wrenches on these classic work horses, they are far from the rusted and leaking examples of their childhood.

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The Defenders their team turns out today are some of the best in North America, and the level of craftsmanship put into each is unmatched. That’s a big statement, but after talking with the owners I would say they’ve earned it.

There are plenty of Defenders being sold in the U.S. today, what makes your vehicles so different?

“Each vehicle we sell has been torn down to the frame and rebuilt piece by piece so nothing is EVER overlooked. While other companies sell a Defender running on 1980’s components, we start with a totally overhauled vehicle as the base. We even machine our own door handles because the originals didn’t meet our standards.”

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With this level of expectation for quality, it’s no surprise that ECD had to internalize all the work on these trucks, but that is easier said then done. Our discussion quickly revealed that their requirements for staff exceeds that of any Land Rover shop we’ve yet experienced.

“One of our biggest challenges was finding the necessary skill base to complete these vehicles. We discussed a few options but ended up settling on a core team of four people we named the quadruplets. It’s comprised of a Land Rover Defender technician with 25 years of experience, (ECD had to bring him over from England), a head of engineering from Volvo, a 4×4 quality control specialist, and a custom car builder from the U.S.. After that we hire techs through a three step interview process, a face to face interview, an in shop evaluation, and finally a special project test. Once they pass they are sent through an OSHA and ASE cert process. We expect continuous improvement out of our employees, just like we strive for continuous improvement in our vehicles.”

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While all their builds can be purchased as “base models”, they say that most of their customers want to add modern luxury amenities. These can include anything from an improved interior, to different suspensions and accessories, all the way to a GM drive train with an LS3 motor. That’s the same engine used in the corvette for those who aren’t familiar. Each build is unique and designed from the ground up to fit the needs of the customer buying it. If your daily drive requires hidden storage, a fridge/freezer, portal axles, or just about anything else, they can make it happen.

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Of course these vehicles don’t come cheap, but East Coast Defenders makes the purchase process a little easier with several incentives including a pay as they build option, a free $10,000 in accessories for those that qualify, and a level of service that matches the buyer’s investment.

“When someone buys a truck from us they become part of the East Coast Defender family. Through the build process we send customers pictures of the vehicle coming together, and we’ve even flown people in to see it themselves. We will always stay in touch, it’s a sort of ongoing concierge to show our appreciation. If they want to upgrade to a different Defender down the road we give them a guaranteed trade in, and we can even help them sell the vehicle to someone else”

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So what if you already have a Defender and just aren’t happy with it, will ECD bring it up to snuff? You bet. They now offer a “drive-thru” service where their team will upgrade your truck with any number of packages including drive train, sound system, seats, a Puma dash, off-road wheels and tires, and exterior accessories and paint.

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So now to the question you’ve all been wanting to ask, how much do they cost? Well for a frame up restored NAS spec D-90, about $79,000 USD. That might seem like a lot, but for those looking for something more unique and adventurous than a Range Rover, which totes a base price of $85,000 USD, it’s a great alternative. As you move into the 110 and 130 platforms and begin adding options like LS drive trains and hand stitched interiors, prices can climb to nearly $200,000. These ultra-exotic builds might not be our cup of tea, but the thought of buying a “new” stock Defender certainly is.

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At the end of the day these trucks aren’t for everyone, and there are sure to be several comments complaining about the price, but that’s okay. While most people, myself included, can’t even afford to dream of buying these trucks, the fact that over 100 have been sold in four years means that we might just get our chance some day.

 

To learn more about East Coast Defender and the work they do, or to just waste time using their awesome build your own truck tool, check out their website here. 

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, in 2009. While working on his business degree, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. It was there that he fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, eventually leading him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. After several years of honing his skills in writing, photography, and off-road driving, Chris now works for the company full time as Expedition Portal's Managing Editor.

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