British-based Arkonik Ltd. recently opened its first U.S. facility and new North American headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina.
Arkonik, which restores and improves vintage Land Rover Defenders, located the new headquarters and production unit in Charleston to take advantage of the Port of Charleston, said Andy Stacey, brand manager at Arkonik.
“We chose to set up in Charleston for many reasons — we can ship straight into the port there, we can do the work there and also we can ask clients to come down for a test drive and do the handover there,” Stacey said.
The Port of Charleston has five public terminals owned and operated by the South Carolina Ports Authority. In 2019, the port handled 2.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).
Stacey added, “Charleston just felt like a good fit for us: what Arkonik is about, what Charleston represents, its culture as a city.”
The firm’s new facility in Charleston will be called Arkonik SVO (special vehicle operations) and will serve as the company’s flagship operation for engine and transmission upgrades. The company is also planning an electric vehicle platform by the end of 2021 at the facility.
Based near Bath, England, Arkonik has been restoring Land Rover Defenders since 2006.
The company, which has 70 employees, finds vintage Defenders all over Europe, from auctions to sales, and upgrades them to modern standards for export.
“All our vehicles are sourced from Europe, they are left-hand drive and obviously of 25-year old vintage,” Stacey said. “What we’re after is the chassis, the frame, and then we also retain the block from the engine.”
Stacey said finding or sourcing parts for vintage Defenders gets harder every year and “basically led us to fabricate a lot of our own metalwork.”
The company has restored around 300 Defenders and shipped more than 270 to the United States, its largest customer.
The average cost of a restored Arkonik Defender is $180,000. It costs around $15,000 to ship a Defender from Southampton, United Kingdom, in a temperature-controlled vessel to Charleston. The Port of Newark in New Jersey is the other seaport Arkonik utilizes for shipments.
Stacey said the company has been in business long enough to understand the complex customs laws required for importing classic vehicles.
“Because it’s a classic vehicle, it has to be at least 25-year-old vintage, but also U.S. import rules are very strict on what you can and can’t do,” Stacey said. “But we know what we can do, and we take a lot of pride in our work.”