Photographer: Carter Fish
BlackBridge’s latest Defender-styled concept – called the Mark IV – is the perfect vehicle for summer! At first glance it looks like a traditional Land Rover Defender – but it’s actually a brand new, custom- built SUV. If you look hard enough, you’ll notice the wheelbase is a touch longer than a Defender, and it’s a 4-door convertible which is a style Defender never produced. And, most importantly, it’s a custom- engineered combination of a brand-new-f rom-the- factory chassis, a brand-new-f rom-the-factory GM Performance 6.2L V8 powertrain mated to a 6-speed automatic or manual transmission – with an optional want, from the look of the console and interior, to the amount of legroom, to the type of seats. One guy even opted for seats that swivel to accommodate fishing right from the side door!
And if you instead want a different vintage 4×4, perhaps a Bronco, an early Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser…or any other truck…or a traditional 5-door hard-top Defender…or a 60’s Mustang or Corvette… or a particular European sports car…or any other car of your dreams… BlackBridge will engineer a car that looks like your dream, but is actually a brand-650hp version available, and all other brand new parts. You can personally customize whatever you new, much-improved, newly-engineered vehicle, made with all factory-new components.
Scott Gilbert is the owner/operator – and mastermind – at BlackBridge. He’s nothing like any auto shop guy you’ve ever met. He’s a 40 year old, well-spoken, clean-cut, retired Goldman investment banker, who lives with his wife and kids in New Canaan, is always dressed like he’s going to a polo match, and runs the operation more like a computer chip manufacturer than the typical grease monkey garage. He must have been really good at whatever he did at Goldman, as he obviously invested a bundle in establishing the BlackBridge operation in his fabulous shop and showroom at 314 Wilson Avenue in Norwalk. He’s got a staff of full-time college educated mechanical engineers, who do the computer-assisted brain damage of fitting the new chassis, powertrain, and other components together, and designing or even machining whatever must be custom made. He’s got a dedicated team of full-time experienced leatherworkers, captained by a woman who’s solely involved with aesthetic design and execution.
And he has a crew of of mechanics to put the cars together, who work more like team of surgeons than the wrench-slingers you see on the TV shows.
A call to Gilbert is all it takes to get your car built. You don’t need to know anything about cars other than the look, feel and use you want – or you can be involved in every aspect of your car’s development. “My first call with a customer is really a lifestyle conversation,” Gilbert says. “I’m trying to understand your use for the vehicle. If it’s primarily going to be used at your summer house and you need space for when the gang piles in with all the umbrellas and coolers to go to the beach…then the Mark IV is perfect for you. But if you’re looking to use the vehicle in ski country, or for road trips with material highway use, then let’s talk about building the ideal solution…which may include a more powerful motor, an 8-speed automatic, and a hard top body style that will allow you to cruise at 80mph in total comfort and in all four seasons. And maybe the SUV ‘for the family’ is easier to ‘sell at home’. But if this is a present to yourself – and, after all, luxury is supposed to be a little bit selfish – and you’ve had your eye on a two seater classic, BlackBridge will build that dream too.”
Gilbert explains, “We aren’t doing traditional vehicle restorations – we’re building better. It’s as if you were buying an old house because you liked the period and style, and have to decide whether you want to restore it exactly the way it was when built, or renovate it with modern electric and plumbing, air conditioning, and a state-of-the art kitchen. Unless you’re working for a historical society, you want the best of all worlds…and that’s what we’re building at BlackBridge. We have no interest in putting your old Ford pick-up back to the way it was from the factory in 1965…but if you have the car body you want to use, or want us to find it for you, we will design a modernized chassis and pair it with the latest and best motor and transmission, and re-engineer the rest of the vehicle. It doesn’t make any sense to restore an old car to original conditions if the brakes were insufficient and other critical and safety components were lacking or non-existent at the time that car was originally manufactured. We can re-engineer the car of your dreams to make it safer, more reliable, faster, better handling, more comfortable, and more fun!”
Because they are building what amounts to a new car, all BlackBridge vehicles come with a 2-year bumper- to-bumper warranty . And BlackBridge offers complete service on every vehicle it sells. As Gilbert puts it, “The business at BlackBridge is about quality of design, engineering, production, and service. We want our customers to have a perfect new car buying experience… and to drive away with a vehicle that is completely unique.” Make no mistake, this is luxury at its finest. A completely re-engineered, purpose-built, and custom designed vehicle. Fulfilling the fantasy of a vintage dream car – but with re-defined safety and convenience, and personalized comfort and style. An indulgence to be sure. And while there’s no need to justify luxury, this is only about the cost of a vacation more expensive than buying the less-than-satisfying mass-produced Suburban, Bronco or Rover, or the used vintage car you can’t depend on to start – or stop – when you need it to.