This interview is an extract from our last LACE magazine.
The automotive industry has produced a countless number of iconic car designs.
Emblematic models, notably, the Porsche 911, or, the classic Ford Mustang, and also, the ever-legendary Land Rover Defender, just a pigment of what's out there. It all started with a simple sketch in the sand, drawn by Rover engineer, Maurice Wilks, the car later being unveiled at the Amsterdam motor show back in 1948. Originally the concept for this vehicle took after the old Jeep, sturdy and withstanding. Driven by everyone, from Farmers to celebrities, and also being Queen Elisabeth II's all time favorite vehicle.
The Defender offers a truly unique driving experience, however, over the years and despite many upgrades, the Rover was no match with the comfort, anti-pollution and security standards of that of the modern vehicle. Perhaps these are just some of the reasons why Land Rover stopped the production in early 2016, after 68 years (2 million vehicles sold) of loyal service.
There continues to be a couple of companies worldwide that still offer brand new Defender, with also the possibility of customization, making them genuinely unique. And one of these standout companies is Twisted Automotive, based in Thirsk in the United Kingdom. Twisted offers the Defender redefined, the next step to absolute class. Twisted Automotive blends the famous classic car design with value added features to improve comfort, style and performance; this does sound a lot like Clae's philosophy and so naturally we wanted to take the opportunity to have a chat with Charles Fawcett, Managing Director at Twisted Automotive.
* What was the idea behind the Twisted Automotive concept?
Twisted came along in 2000, it started off as a bit of fun, it ran from half my desk and half out of my garage at home. By 2008 it grew to a £500k turnover; by 2017 £8.2m. One clear vision, to build the best Defender for passionate people and don't digress into other models. Give us a year, we will open elsewhere, employing more people and building more vehicles. What we won't do though, is modify anything other than Defender.
* Why have you focused on this specific model?
I love the Defender and have built a team of individuals from all walks of life who have the same passion for this product. While there have been many iconic vehicles over the years, I'm not sure there has been one that has stretched so far and had such a following. We build vehicles for dozens of countries, individuals from every nation and all walk of life. It's incredible how varied the ownership of Defender really is and it's clear that these owners come to Twisted to have built the best Defender they can buy.
* What makes Twisted Automotive different from other customization car companies?
Twisted is, I believe, the only company to work entirely with Defender. It was the first of its type, I was bored of off road, mountain climbing, bog hopping, desert crossing, suspension lifting, mud covered modification. There was a new customer for the Defender vehicle, one who loved the rugged nature but wanted a little more usability, more power, more refinement, comfy seats, road bias suspension and a few creature comforts. Not to make it soft, not to remove the character or take away the charm, just subtle modifications to make the drive easier. No other company has achieved that, there have been lots of 'blingers' and 'pimpers' in the Defender market and rightly so, JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) have got upset at this and put things in place to prevent supply and warranty cover to these companies. We were invited to buy vehicles before they ended production and in fact managed to buy 240 or 4 years supply!
* How did the end of production of the Defender affect your approach and your work?
We were able to really focus, we planted our stake in the ground and stuck with it, all the other companies that had jumped onto our band wagon, diversified, we built an order book that now extends beyond 12 months, and grew our stock to in excess of 250 defenders at points. The average build has grown in spec, time and value, customers are having more and more detailed vehicles built. It's become fun again and the future is very exciting.
*Land Rover has announced the release of a new and modern Defender in the next 2 years, how do you see the future?
The new Defender will no doubt be an amazing vehicle, it will fit into the family of JLR vehicles well and sell en mass. What it won't ever do is replace the original Defender, the one we all grew up with - and that's where our focus will remain.
Photographs by The Automotive Collection