Chattanooga, TN, does Christmas right, with a host of downtown festivals before the holiday. This spirit of fun led to Dave McCurdy receiving his best Christmas gift ever.
Last December, Dave and his wife, Bibber, were walking through the many festival exhibits when he saw a ’73 Series III 109” with a roof-top tent. “I recognized it immediately,” Dave remembered, “and jumped at the chance to speak with the owner about it. That’s how I met Enoch Elwell, the founder of Vintage Outfitting. My wife could sense my excitement – imagine, a Land Rover built the year I was born!”
Vintage Outfitting grew out of Enoch’s love for the power of experiences. As a kid, the Jersey Shore native “could not wait” to leave for the Jersey farm country and travel along the east coast. As a student at Chattanooga’s Covenant College, he studied business and youth ministry, graduating in 2010. “I had side businesses throughout college and loved making things,” Enoch said. “I tried my hand at making guitars and lutes in western Massachusetts, but the guild-like structure of the craft did not appeal to me.”
Enoch found himself back in Chattanooga in the quandary of a “quarter-life crisis” – wanting to be creative, contribute to the world in a positive way and be sustainable financially. These goals led Enoch to create CO.STARTERS, an international online network of support groups to help creative people build sustainable futures. Within a decade, CO.STARTERS had supported over 20,000 small businesses in launching and thriving in hundreds of communities worldwide.
Although still passionate about helping entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, Enoch felt that “I was losing the creative side of myself,” so while CEO of CO.STARTERS, he opened up Treetop Hideaways around seven years ago.“The idea grew out of my desire to create a hospitality-based experience. Nostalgia is very compelling – everyone loves treehouses. The fun challenge for me was designing the treehouses, placing them and then hiding the creature-comfort amenities, like Wifi and fine wines.”
With the pandemic came a reduction in treehouse rentals, but an upsurge of interest in outdoor camping adventures. “I realized that I needed to take this experience out in the road, Enoch said. “What’s the best vintage vehicle for a camping experience? For an iconic theme experience, it had to be a Land Rover. Market research in 2020 from my treehouse guests, combined with information from a market research firm, proved the appeal of a heritage Land Rover.” Thus, Vintage Outfitters was born.
Enoch rented a warehouse in Chattanooga, hired a skilled team, and began refurbishing and modifying Land Rovers to make them “user friendly.” “Every person I talked to knows a ‘Land Rover guy,’” he recalled, “but one that jumped out was Price Griffith, who is now our chief mechanic. He knows Land Rovers, their build components, and what to took out for. Having him in-house with us is incredible.”
At press time, Vintage Outfitting has a total of 12 Land Rovers, five of which are ready for rental. Some will be modified to accept Range Rover Classic or Discovery chassis and drivetrains underneath their Series Land Rover bodies; sadly, too many Americans cannot handle manual transmissions and drum brakes. “I’d like to refurbish them as much as possible,” said Enoch, “but I need to keep them ‘user-friendly’ to potential clients. We have South African partners who can source Series bodies for us, but underneath, we’ll have to use different drivetrains with automatic transmissions, and suspensions to accommodate the preferences of our clients.” Enoch would also like to develop a parallel line of vehicles that could be leased out to resorts, which will also want the emotional appeal of a heritage Land Rover to share with their guests.
I reached out to recent clients to inquire as to their impressions.
For Dave McCurdy, the owner of an ’07 Range Rover, a glamping getaway in “Grover,” the Series III, provided the perfect Christmas gift. “This was the first Series truck I’d ever driven. If you love those vehicles, it’s unbeatable! You can almost see the rhinos out the window. I absolutely loved it. I envision taking a camping trip in it with our son, Means [age 12], as soon as we can find the time!”
This past Valentine’s Day weekend, Chad and Claire Chang Tetzlaff took “Grover” to the Prentice Cooper State Forest outside of Chattanooga. “We had been living in a Fort Transit van throughout 2021,” Claire said. “Chad owned a Series Land Rover years ago and during our travels, he would point out every one that he saw.” Chad cited, “my favorite aspect of the Series II was just how physical it was. There’s no power steering or braking. It was physically tiring, a nice contrast to contemporary cars. You’ve really got to pay attention when you drive it.”
Claire called the ride “quite exhilarating – like a roller coaster!” The rooftop tent was extremely convenient, and as it came with bedding – all we had to do was to crawl into it. Enoch even packed a treasure chest of wine, s’mores and a breakfast. It was a perfect night of glamping, with a table, lanterns, even a collapsable toilet.” (She suggests the addition of a battery pack and/or solar recharging.)
Chad and Claire had met at the Savannah College of Design (SCAD) and quickly decided to take their design and communication talents around the world. Their pause over Valentine’s Day provided a respite from their travels and reignited a desire to find a Land Rover of their own.
Creating powerful experiences through Land Rover travel has provided Enoch with “the perfect dream experience – one that involves Hannah and our children, Clark , Charlotte , and Katherine , with Land Rovers.” It’s doubtful that there’s a better way to create magical family memories.
[To view Chad and Claire’s Land Rover adventure, visit YouTube___ ed.]
Creating a service business focusing on classic Land Rovers and outdoor experience activities – during a pandemic – might have seemed risky to conventional banks. Perhaps it was just sour grapes, but we weren’t alone in wondering how Vintage Outfitting secured financing to create its fleet of Land Rovers. To learn more, we reached out to Juli-Ann Morgan of SouthEast Bank in Chattanooga.
“This application appealed to me because I’m not a career banker, Juli-Ann recalled. “I came out of the design industry. As a small community bank, we can think outside the box and deal with creative ventures. Enoch was referred to the bank through our president and a business partner; I had not worked with him before, but I was familiar with his treehouse project as my daughter had worked with him. And I was familiar with CO.STARTERS. I was super excited to work with Enoch because he’s such a creative entrepreneur. I would love to take a trip in a Land Rover!”
“Through my work with another car enthusiast at another bank, I was aware of the cult following for Land Rovers. There are so many people who are enthralled by those vehicles!”
“The more I thought about his ideas, the more I thought, we don’t need more Walmarts and Targets – we need more Enochs to make our lives more interesting!”