In A Writer's Life, Annie Dillard writes of a painter friend who was once asked by a student, "will I be successful?" The painter replied simply, "well, do you like colors?" The answer prompted Dillard to ask the same of a would-be writer, "do you like sentences?"
Land Rover enthusiasts need to like the elemental components of the Land Rover: Birmabright alloy, sheet steel, gear oil, cast iron, engine oil, wires, bakelite, tire rubber, "elephant hide" vinyl, straw, fiberboard, coolant. If they do they'll appreciate the mechanical design, engineering solutions, simple styling, durability, versatility, field repairs, owner maintenance, driver input, direct response, off road capability, and sense of adventure.
Loving all this does not mean you can make it your business. Over the past 20 years many Land Rover shops, parts outfitters and off road adventure companies have tried and failed to succeed in the market.
East Coast Rover has succeeded; combining genuine enthusiasm, a yacht builder's drive for perfection, encyclopediac knowledge and an engineer's delight with systems and processes, the company has become the US leader in Land Rover restoration, refurbishment and customization. Land Rovers from across the US are delivered there to begin new lives or extend their current ones.
I first met the founder, Mike Smith, when he started in a garage in Hope, ME, and have enjoyed his professional capabilities and personal friendship since 1993. When I worked a great deal on the mainland and would need a place to work on my own Land Rover, Mike would permit me to tackle repairs outside of his shop. I always knew that professional expertise was just inside; Mike and the crew knew that many laughs could be secured outside just by watching me bungle another repair.
The "shop" has moved from a garage in Hope, to a 4-bay shop with a paint booth in Warren, to a new 16,000 sq. ft. facility in Rockland, ME. Their work has gone from tune ups and repairs of old Series Rovers and Range Rover Classics to total refurbishments, customizations, and restorations of Land Rover Defenders and other late-model Land Rovers.
You have to admire Mike's accomplishments, professional and personal; they're mirrored in the staff and professionalism of East Coast Rover.
I have always had a deep desire for interesting vehicles.
Even before I had a driver's license I was messing with and working on vehicles. The motorized works of art have been my passion from my earliest memories. I believe my starting a vehicle based business was carved into my thinking back in the 1960s when I would fall asleep in back seat of my dad's cars clutching a Matchbox toy truck in each hand. My father shares some of the blame too, as he had a serious car fetish when I was young. He would always be pulling in some cool ride and then bring home another new one about 6 months later. Over the years I became a self taught mechanic (ask my mother how many times she saw my BMX bike in bits in the basement), because if I wanted a nice car, no one was going to buy it for me, so that meant I had to build them, paint them and keep them going.
Many years, numerous projects and dozens of cars later I was just out of college and it was time to get a real job, so I worked all over the world on motor yachts in capacities from engineer to Captain. After living at sea for a time I then headed a restoration company that restored vintage motor yachts, taking 100 foot vintage yachts and restoring them from the hull up to better than their former glory. The motor yacht industry was very rewarding, but something that started simply from a comment my British girlfriend, now wife, whom I met while working on a yacht in Japan, said turned into what is now known as the East Coast Rover Co. (named East Coast Rover Co. because we had no idea where we would settle down, so we figured that name would cover it).
We left the yacht business and started small, importing a few trucks with help from her family in the UK and fixing them up on this end. Then folks found out we sold them and wanted us to fix them. Then they found out we fixed them and wanted them modified. Then they found out we modified them and wanted them restored, and the result is what you see on our web site.
In 1993 I started East Coast Rover Co. in ernest back in my home state of Maine in order to utilize a crew with that New England boat builder spirit that puts outstanding quality and attention to detail first. Flash forward through hundreds of projects and 15 or so years and you'll find us here in our new facility in Rockland, Maine, our third such step forward in shop expansion. It has taken a lot of time to get here but I invite you to tour our best facility yet via this web site.
Enjoy and thanks for your help in getting us here,
"You've Been Roverhauled!"
In late 2005, Jeff became the recipient of a wondrous Christmas gift, courtesy of the initiative of East Cost Rover.
The story is best told by ECR in the "Roverhaulin' " section of their website. If you've ever wondered if you could completed refurbished a Land Rover in 5 days, read how it's done by professionals.
Enjoy the photos and the story!
Ian Cook and Mike Smith of East Coast Rover
How The Grinch Saved Christmas 2005
The QE I At East Coast Rover
Perhaps this orginal frame should be replaced?
From Behind the Steering Wheel, The Rovers North News, March, 2005:
Oh, my, what a Christmas gift I received courtesy of East Coast Rover and Rovers North. The whole story appears on the ECR website and in The Rovers North News. but the first day of driving reminded me why I love Land Rovers, particularly, my ‘66 Series II-A 88" SW.
It’s a frigidly cold Saturday morning in January, -12 degrees F. I have invited my "Little Brother," Nick Barton, to join me to pick up the car at East Coast Rover in nearby Warren, ME. We get a ride from the ferry terminal on the mainland to ECR and gaze in wonder at my refurbished II-A. I take the keys from under the mat and push the starter button. It groans like Godzilla on his death bed; it will barely turn over at all. "Ah," said Mike Smith over the phone, " you didn’t get the email message about your failed alternator." As ECR’s Ian Cook said, "Your car kept crying ‘New parts, I want new parts.’ Every time we touched something it fell apart." In the bitter cold, Mike found he had to take his wife’s car as his own truck wouldn’t start either. Nevertheless, he came and jump-started my Rover. We gave it some time to warm up before we caught the next ferry home.
Once underway the car seemed addicted to additional choking in this cold weather, not the norm for my II-A. It idled superbly at 500 rpm or so and accelerated nicely while sitting still, but it seemed weak-kneed under speed. Land Rover enthusiast Barry Enis, Kent, CT, works as an airline mechanic and he reminded me that engines sitting for a long time can require some running to flush out any sludge and evaporate any moisture from any porous surface. On this clear, sunny day, the relatively clean, newly painted Rover gleamed in the bitter cold. Once aboard the ferry, Nick and I sat and luxuriated in the warmth of the Rovers North Mansfield heater, which had replaced my Kodiak heater. After an hour or so, Nick looked down and his feet and asked, "What’s that?" Sweet smelling and green, it was clearly antifreeze. Somewhere in my new heater was a minor core leak. My car could not go without a leak of some sort.
The following day forecasters predicted a blizzard and one of the greatest storms of recent times dumped nearly 3 feet of snow and produced winds of 45-50 mph. Even the plows stayed put for much of the day. Of course, I had to drive around in my Rover. I fabricated an excuse for a drive and stepped outside into the snow. This time, the starter chirped rapidly but the car failed to start. I opened the hood to discover several inches of snow blown onto the battery, distributor, coil and spark plug wires. Once I dried it all off, the car fired up and I pounded through the two foot drifts. With a rebuilt steering box, new parabolic springs, Old Man Emu shocks, new Cooper tires, rebuilt differentials and propshafts, the car felt very solid in the storm. Even with a slight leak, the Mansfield heater kept up nicely with the cold; those new door seals kept virtually all of the snow at bay, even in the gale force winds.
Since the re-launch, the Rover has battled two weeks of sub-zero temperatures every morning, another snowstorm and hundreds of miles of rural roads. Behind the "new" thin-rimmed banjo steering wheel, I sit on a straw-filled "elephant hide" cushion that sounds like breaking ice when you enter the car on a cold morning. Of course, you sit bold upright. All instrumental information resides down by your right knee, forcing you to take your eyes off the road. Best not to - just use your ears, eyes and other senses. They’ll tell you all you know. That’s why you drive a Land Rover anyway.
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."