KISSIMMEE, Fla.—At the upper end of the automotive market, there exists the restomod. A portmanteau of restoration and modification, the restomod is usually a reimagining of a classic car, with a fit and finish far in excess of factory spec—and a price tag to match. It’s a less conventional alternative to spending six figures on a supercar and a great way to stand out from the crowd (or blend in, depending on how stealth you go). And nothing in the world of restomodding appeals to me as much as the electric conversion.
Some classic cars lend themselves to the electric restomod treatment better than others—like the gloss-white 1995 Range Rover Classic you see in the photos here. No one’s really going to miss its old Rover V8, originally originally an engine of Buick design as nerds will know. And while you could replace it with a modern V8 fresh out of a crate (as is the case for most of ECD Automotive’s restomods), doesn’t a Tesla drive motor and some Tesla lithium-ion sound a whole lot cooler?
It looks a lot cooler under the hood of the electric Range Rover, too. Instead of an oily engine bay, you find one of the two battery packs, nestled with ancillaries like the cooling system beneath a custom cover. The other pack is at the far end, where it takes up some (but not too much) space in the cargo area. In total, the batteries amount to 100 kWh, good for about 220 miles (350 km) of range. The packs feed a single 450 hp (335 kW) drive motor from a Tesla Model S, mounted roughly where the transmission used to be so it can drive the front and rear axles in a 50:50 torque split.
The inside looks decidedly smarter than standard, too. The polished wood trim looks like it might be original, but the tan leather is of a higher quality than anything that left the Land Rover factory in Solihull back in the mid-1990s. That said, the vehicle is still a Range Rover Classic in terms of ergonomics, the science of which was less refined when the cabin back was being laid out in the late 1960s.
Levers become buttons
Some concessions have been made to modernity though. In place of levers to control the transmission and transfer case, there’s simply a panel with four buttons. The lightning bolt turns the Range Rover on or off. The other three button are self-explanatory—fwd to select forward, rev to engage reverse, and a button for the parking brake. The Alpine infotainment screen looks more out of place, and in this case, it’s mounted to the dashboard because the client who commissioned the car wanted it there. And finally, a keen eye will spot that what looks like a tachometer on the main instrument panel is actually an ammeter.
But I could have told you almost all of that without getting on a plane and going to Florida. The reason I did that was to find out what the electric Range Rover Classic was like to drive.
It’s definitely quicker than when it left the factory. The Tesla motor has more than double the output of the original V8, and 60 mph is arrived at from a standstill in less than half the time once required. (Which is now 5.2 seconds, to be precise.) That was to be expected, though, and I’m confident that all of ECD’s restomods are faster than when they were brand new. What makes the electric Range Rover Classic more remarkable is that it does so without most of the noise and vibration that would be unavoidable with a V8 under the hood.
ECD might have rebuilt the Range Rover from the ground-up, but it’s not quite the same as driving a modern electric vehicle with 21st century aerodynamics. Panel gaps and rain gutters add more wind noise than you’d experience in an EV optimized for low drag, but I’d wager it’s still quieter when cruising than it was back in 1995. But that instant wave of torque is definitely an EV thing, and small throttle applications are all you need to keep pace with traffic. Like a Tesla, there’s regenerative braking when you lift off the throttle, but not when you use the brake pedal.
Smooth and pricy
The ride is smooth, probably thanks to the air suspension. Back in the day, Range Rovers rode on coil springs until air became an option in the early 1990s, and all of ECD’s EV restomods use air suspensions, because that makes it easier to compensate for the changed weight distribution of an EV powertrain. But the vehicle dynamics date to the mid-’90s at best, and the Rover is still a tall car that leans a bit in the corners.
While the rest of the electric Range Rover Classic felt sorted, its electric power steering remains a work in progress. The new steering replaces the original hydraulic system, and when I drove it, there was some more calibration work left to do, with a fair bit of slack around the dead ahead. Based on a quick go in a couple of ECD’s V8-powered Defenders, I think that, even when it’s fully sorted, the steering will remain perhaps the most classic car-like part of the driving experience. (But that is just my opinion, man.)
You can expect to pay $200,000-$250,000 for a restomodded Range Rover or Defender if you want it to run on electrons. That is a fat cent by almost everyone’s standards, although I think ECD’s customers are paying for an experience as much as it the car itself. Each project starts with an eight-month design process, with another 100 days necessary to go from a sandblasted chassis to complete car.
Listing image by ECD Automotive