Convert a 1990s Land Rover to Electric Power—for $185,000+
The 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 was powered by a 4.0-liter V-8 that kicked out 182 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. The 4x4 SUV got about 13 mpg. At the time, it was base-priced at $32,000 and had a small cult-like following.
Electric Defender NAS-E (Image: Twisted Automotive)
More than two decades later, that same vehicle—meaning a 1992-97 North American Specification (NAS) Defender rather than the all-new model that was introduced last year—now starts at $185,000.
Except it’s not exactly the same Defender. The U.S. operations of Twisted Automotive, a 20-year-old British tuning company that specializes in Land Rovers, is retrofitting the older models with an electric drivetrain and adding some modern amenities and other upgrades.
Twisted believes there’s a niche West Coast-centric market for a modernized version of the classic Defender design.
“As the world moves steadily toward mass electrification, the Californian market has been missing a uniquely stylish electric 4x4 option," asserts Bruce Riggs, who heads Virginia-based Twisted North America. "The Twisted NAS-E is the ultimate expression of the American coastal lifestyle.”
And by niche, we’re talking hypercar-like quantities. Twisted initially aims to make just 30 of the zero-emission Defenders. Buyers can choose among three colors (Malibu Yellow, Yosemite Green and Tahloe Blue), which the company says were inspired by California landscapes.
Some carmakers have taken a similar approach with their classic models. Volkswagen is working with German electrification specialist eClassics to retrofit electric drivetrains into its Type 1 Beetle and its iconic microbus. Aston Martin is doing the same with some of its cars.
What You Get
Twisted’s $185,000 Defender NAS-E is powered by a BorgWarner electric motor that generates 214 hp and 280 lb ft of torque. Despite the absence of a transmission, drivers still will be able to select gears manually during off-road maneuvers via a 2-speed step-down transfer case.
The drivetrain is paired with a 60-kWh battery that provides an estimated driving range of 200 miles.
Performance brakes and suspension, sport rims, fabricated Bimini hood and a roll cage are standard. Interior upgrades include leather seats, air conditioning, sport steering wheel, full infotainment system and a separate EV touchscreen display.
For another $25,000, buyers can upgrade to the NAS-E Plus. Power is increased to 320 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque. Other goodies include a brush bar, side steps, rollbar spotlights, black side sills and an exclusive body stripe decal.
It takes about nine months to adapt the Defenders to electric power and complete the conversion.
Twisted also is expected to sell the NAS-E in other markets. The company reportedly spent $10 million to acquire 240 of the base 1990-era Defenders, which works out to about $41,700 per vehicle (some classic NAS models have fetched nearly $200,000 at auction).
In case you’re wondering, the all-new 2020 Defender with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine (296 hp, 295 lb-ft) starts at $49,900. The optional 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine (395 hp, 406 lb-ft) teamed with a mild hybrid system adds about $12,000.
As Sunday will be the Super Bowl, there will undoubtedly be plenty of automotive commercials before, during and after the game, many of which focus on pickup trucks, because the ad agencies who work for the various OEMs have done deep demographic research that indicates that people who like football like trucks and vice versa. (We’ve always been a fan of the 1998 Nissan Frontier commercial that told us “Dogs like trucks.”) Anyway. . .there is one tough pickup truck that won’t be part of the festival of ads on Sunday because it is for a product that isn’t available in the U.S., the Volkswagen Amarok.
There is a growing concern among automakers that young people just aren’t as keen on driving as those automakers—as in people who are generally north of 45—find that even their own children, kids who have grown up with a highly satisfactory lifestyle thanks to the existence of cars and trucks, are largely indifferent to driving or, in some cases, even getting a license.
The way people are going to get transportation is changing the world over. Get ready for it.