Owning a classic car is more about passion than utility. Perhaps that’s why the idea of electrifying a classic causes so many heated exchanges on social networks. But like works of art, what you’re really looking for with a classic vehicle is uniqueness and provenance – a story you can tell your friends. This is what AVA aimed to do with its EV conversions, and the latest example to achieve near production readiness is the Croxford Defender – a very special electrification of a Land Rover 110, beloved by off-road expeditions and armed forces around the world for nearly 40 years.
The first AVA vehicle I mentioned, the Tara Browne AC Cobra, had a narrative background in abundance. The Croxford Defender has a different story to tell, but no less interesting. The vehicle is inspired by and named after a British Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan, Stuart Croxford. The donor’s choice of vehicle echoes the type of Land Rover widely used by his unit when the improvised explosive device that injured him was detonated, although he was in a vehicle called Jackal at the time. Interior color choices (sand brown exterior) and even seat belt stitching reference Croxford’s military service, acting as a tribute to what he gave for his country.
But the Croxford Defender is not a military vehicle. While it’s as good or (more likely) even better in off-road situations than the 2015 Land Rover Defender it’s based on, the Croxford Defender is unabashedly luxurious and hugely powerful for on-road use too. Although the original car has been retained as much as possible (although renewed and refurbished), the transmission is very different. The four-wheel-drive system remains, but the engine is no longer up front under the hood. This is instead supported by one of two battery packs (one 60kWh unit).
Originally the car was fitted with a 120 hp 2.2 liter Td4 diesel engine, but this and its gearbox and central transfer box were deleted. In their place, sitting below where the transfer case used to be, is a large Tesla drive unit (the rear motor of a Model S or Model X). This could deliver up to 536hp, although AVA has limited it to 450hp, with 450Nm of torque. The rest of the drivetrain has been retained, although there are torque differentials front and rear.
A second 30kWh battery is located at the rear, bringing the total to 90kWh, which will give the Croxford Defender a range of around 200 miles despite its 2.3 tonne weight and chunky gold brick shape. The interior is also extremely plush, which will perfectly suit the lifestyle of a high-end buyer. The Recaro seats are particularly comfortable and a far cry from the seats of any running Land Rover. The purchase price of the Croxford Defender is not fixed, as it will be auctioned, and part of the profits will go to Blesmaa charity that supports serving and ex-service men and women who have suffered life-changing limb loss.
I had the chance to drive the Croxford Defender on country roads near Dublin, with a view of the Great Sugar Loaf mountain in the background. The first thing you notice is how much pulling power this car has, for what is essentially a truck. AVA claims the Croxford Defender will hit 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, which seemed fair based on my driving experience. There are bloated Defenders and Mercedes G-Wagons that deliver this level of performance using an internal combustion engine, but the electric delivery is much smoother and so the Croxford is a car you could live with more easily on a day-to-day basis. . Like any VE, the torque arrives from zero rpm, as soon as you press the accelerator.
Road holding is also better than you would expect for such a big car. The country roads I drove were narrow and windy, but the Croxford Defender felt right in its element. Because you never need to shift and there’s plenty of regenerative braking at your fingertips (but not enough for “one-pedal riding”), you can easily develop a very smooth riding style. where most speed controls simply require pressing the accelerator. Hill-starting is a snap with any electric vehicle because you never have to worry about clutching or stalling, which you can’t do with an electric motor. The speed lap the Croxford can deliver on a highway will also surprise other road users, who might expect typical Defender acceleration. The stock 2.2-litre diesel could only manage 0-60mph in around 14 seconds, so the Croxford is almost three times faster.
The Croxford has all the usual comforts like air conditioning and heating, although the latter must be electrically delivered as there is no internal combustion system providing heat as a by-product. One thing missing is a satellite navigation system, but the Alpine hi-fi system supports Apple Car Play and Android Auto, so a smartphone can perform this function if needed.
The Croxford Defender is the first in a new series of Land Rover EV conversions by AVA, which already also includes the AVA Arctic Defender. This is said to have the lowest carbon footprint of any car due to its extensive use of recycled materials (including the donor car itself). A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of this car will go to the Lewis Pugh Foundation. I was also able to drive the Arctic Defender and found it to be just as cheerful as the Croxford, but with some of the steering characteristics still in place that are usually associated with the short wheelbase Land Rover 90 on which it is based.
The Croxford Defender is a very well done electric conversion, taking most of the agricultural roughness out of a Defender while retaining its rugged capabilities. But it is also a real topic of conversation, carrying a clear positive message for the association with which it is associated as well as for the environment. It’s a unique vehicle with a unique story to tell.
Alongside the launch of the Croxford Defender, Stuart Croxford is also cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats in May to raise funds for Blesma. The Croxford Defender will be a support vehicle during the trip and donations can be made through the challenge’s JustGiving page.