– Orlando, Florida
There are people out there who believe certain cars are untouchable. Icons like the Ferrari F40 and the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, for example, are more valuable to collectors when left unmolested. Some unapologetic Jag enthusiasts might say the same about the E-Type, a vehicle that Enzo Ferrari himself allegedly called “the most beautiful car ever made.”
But as we've learned over the last decade or so with the growing number of restomod specialists popping up, almost nothing is untouchable so long as someone is willing to pay for it. In this case, the folks over at ECD Automotive Design in Florida – who let me drive their Tesla-powered Land Rover Defender just last year – have a new production line dedicated to made-over Jaguar E-Types.
Upgrading The E-Type
In October, ECD announced it would be producing E-Types with ICE and EV powertrains alongside its current range of Defenders. Since then, the company has fully built out its South Line for Jag production, debuted a second-generation electric powertrain, and delivered its first customer car – the one I'd be driving.
But restomodding an E-Type isn't necessarily as simple as doing the same with a Land Rover. The unibody chassis – instead of the Rover's more adaptable ladder frame – is basically torn down to the bolts, cataloged, and fully restored before any upgrades can be made.
"We dismantle and label everything because we're going to restore most of it, whereas on the Defender all we keep is the frame," Scott Wallace tells me as we walk along the South production line – he’s one of the company’s three founders. "It's the reverse business model for us. This is true restoration."
One of the biggest hurdles for restomodding an E-Type is acquiring parts. Wallace notes that certain replacement pieces for the E-Type can cost upwards of $15,000, whereas finding similar bits for the Defender is more affordable.
And the whole process is slightly different compared to the Defender. As opposed to the step-by-step, down-the-line manufacturing ECD has essentially mastered with the Land Rover, the E-Types take a more circuitous route to production.
"Unlike the Defender line, we have four phases," notes ECD production manager Charles Bigelow. "Our four phases are kind of a bit different because obviously, we're doing a restoration model, we're not building up with all new parts."
ECD tries to reuse around 30 to 40 percent of the E-Type's original pieces in each build, depending, of course, on the condition of the car when purchased. And they aim primarily for V12 base vehicles built between March 1971 and February 1975, which would make these Series 3 models. Customers with enough cash can request a Series 2, but ECD says the longer wheelbase Series 3 E-Types are simply easier to work with, especially for EV conversions.
"It's the reverse business model for us. This is true restoration."
The company will actually offer four powertrain options on the E-Type. "Pursuits" can ask for a fully restored and upgraded version of the original V12, bored out to 6.1 liters and uprated to 348 hp. The base LT1 small-block V8 option delivers 450 hp, while a more powerful LT4 has a whopping 650 hp. And of course, buyers who want the E-Type EV can ask for the ECD’s second-gen Cascadia electric motor with a more modest 301 hp.
The process of buying an E-Type from ECD is identical to the shop's Land Rover process. Sales and Design Lead, John Price, calls customers with a laundry list of options they can choose from, ranging from exterior paint and trim pieces to leather and powertrain options. ECD then sends a nifty box of goodies with paint and leather samples specific to your build, and they even render a 3D model for customers to preview.
Here's what my dream E-Type looks like in the virtual world:
That intricate development process, starting from the moment a customer picks up the phone, takes a few months depending on the options customers select. In total, ECD says it can produce anywhere from 10 to 12 E-Types per year alongside its current run of Defenders.
LS1 > V12
With ECD only recently completing production of its first battery-powered E-Type (which they promise I'll be able to drive soon, fingers crossed), the shop instead tossed me the keys to an E-Type dubbed "Project Dallas" during my visit – the very first E-Type off ECD’s production line.
This one isn't battery-powered; under the hood is an LT1 Corvette engine with 450 hp paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, an upgraded coilover suspension, and bigger six-piston front and four-piston rear brakes. A quick 20-minute jaunt on the roads surrounding the ECD facility gives me a sneak peek of what customers like the owner of Project Dallas will be lucky enough to live with daily.
While some customers will undoubtedly prefer the charm of Jag's original V12, it's hard to imagine a better alternative underhood than this LT1. The V8 provides the perfect amount of power with a buttery smooth delivery, gobs of torque, and an excellent sound. The retro-styled quad exhaust tips offer a unique aural mix of classic British and modern American muscle.
The coilover suspension makes the E-Type eager around corners, but not so stiff that it loses the wobbly charm of the original, says ECD. The massive wood-rimmed steering wheel directly ahead of the driver controls a modern power steering rack with a nice, weighty feel and excellent feedback. And the bigger brakes still feel heavy, but they bring the E-Type down the speed without drama. Part of ECD’s ethos is keeping the car’s driving identity (mostly) intact, which rings true here.
Buying an ECD E-Type, of course, isn’t cheap. This car with the base LT1 V8 will set you back about $300,000 before options. The more powerful LT4 V8 is pricier still, as is the V12 enhancement. And the EV powertrain will add about $50,000 to the base asking price. But most customers wealthy enough to even consider an ECD E-Type probably won’t mind splurging on an extra $100,000 worth of options on top of that.
And with the arrival of the E-Type line, ECD only continues to grow. The company has announced an upcoming public offering, plans for more facilities with in-house dynos, and of course, more production lines and more vehicles.
"We are adding a third product next year," Wallace hints. "It’ll be European."