KISSIMMEE, Fla. — We went down to ECD Auto Design to drive its brand-new Jaguar E-Type restomod, but the folks there didn’t let us leave without enjoying another treat from its bread-and-butter business: a Land Rover Defender. “ECD” used to stand for East Coast Defender, but that’s been modified to ECD Auto Design since the company produces both Range Rover Classics and Jaguar E-Types. We’ve driven the various Defender and Range Rover builds before, but it’s been a few years, so it’s time for a refresher.

Specifically, we hopped into a Land Rover Defender 110 (four-door) Soft Top fitted with GM’s LT4 supercharged V8. For the uninitiated, that’s the same engine that’s under the hood of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, previous-gen Corvette Z06 and much more. To say that it’s a lot of horsepower for the original Defender, what was essentially a farm vehicle, is an understatement. If you manage to get the throttle all the way to the floor without crying uncle, that’s worthy of some commendation. For the less power-hungry, ECD will sell you Defenders with lots of other powertrains ranging from less powerful V8s to a diesel and even an all-electric version. The LT4-equipped version we drove is the most ridiculous of them all.

The sound of the supercharger and utterly rocking exhaust is otherworldly coming from this type of vehicle. In the same way that a Jeep Wrangler 392 feels like it shouldn’t exist, this Defender takes it even further. Its steering is slow and unreactive like you’d expect, but thanks to the four-wheel-drive system, it manages to put the power down without completely overwhelming the all-terrain tires. Its suspension is similarly well-equipped to handle all that extra power, as ECD uses air suspension paired with Fox shocks for the best possible ride. The compliance and comfort over poor roads is shockingly well sorted, to the point that you could drive around with the car regularly and not feel beat up.

The chassis, roof and some of its original (but restored) running gear is almost all that’s left over from what this Defender started out life as. ECD imports seven to eight Defenders from the United Kingdom every month before completely stripping them and turning them into absolute beasts. And while you might get a modern infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and other modern amenities, you still get the charm – or flaws – of the Defender. The steering wheel is not even remotely lined up with your natural seating position. Its pedals create an awkward leg arrangement, and when it comes to NVH … we’re afraid that department didn’t show up to work.

The price for such a build is nearly as extravagant as the E-Type, with the 110 Soft Top starting at $249,995. A two-door 90 is slightly cheaper, while the 130 pickup is more expensive. Of course, adding an LT4 and all the suspension and appearance bits you see in the pictures above only adds to the price.

We sat down with some folks from ECD to build a Defender of our own, and the ability to customize every last bit of the vehicle is truly astounding. Every single project is one-of-one, Wallace remarked on several occasions. One buyer even chose a specific herd of cattle in Italy they liked the color of for the upholstery in their Defender – ECD tells us it was a $70,000 add-on to the final price.

Even if someone wants to make a copy of someone else’s build, the company won’t let them because every single vehicle that rolls away is required to be unique. It’s an ethos that has served the company well through the Land Rover days and now into the Jaguar E-Type project. What comes next is still anyone’s guess, but Wallace tells us there’s more in the future than just old British cars, as he hints at Porsche, American muscle and more. We’ll just have to wait and see, but one thing’s for sure, the Defenders are never going away.

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