The need for exploring off-road is a notion that we feel we can find across the entire United States. That’s the drive behind our column, Stateside Shop Tour. Come with us as we tour the nation looking at shops that build or support capable off-road machines of all shapes and sizes.
Last week, we gave you a look inside the day-to-day operations of Unlimited Offroad in Fenton, Michigan. With strengths in making Jeeps go from bone-stock to ready-to-rock, owner Adam Shoemaker was doing some great service to the off-road community in the Wolverine State. Now, we head southeast to talk to Eric Brown at Trailhead 4×4 in Valley View, Ohio, where the focus switches to Land Rovers.
An Ohio resident his whole life, Brown cut his teeth as a Marine driving Humvees and five-tons, and came back to the homeland ready to take on off-road projects. He got into working on Land Rovers from his time spent in various dealerships over the years, and now has close to 20 years of experience tinkering with these Britain-born SUVs.
“In 1996, I answered a job posting where I was going to school,” explained Brown. “There was a brand new Land Rover dealership being constructed in Akron. The Land Rover stuff just sort of fit well with what I liked to do, so I did it and made it my specialty.”
Once he had gained enough confidence to start anew, Brown begun his operation. It was 2004, and the young man was willing to put in the time and effort to do a great job, which got him very good word-of-mouth publicity. “I started in an industrial unit that measured 1,800 square feet,” he said. “I’ve since expanded into a 4,800 square-foot shop, which is plenty for my needs.”
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years has been Brown’s one-man operation. As he explained, “It’s just me. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. I don’t see myself hiring any employees in the near future, as I don’t want to get too big and impersonal.”
Throughout the conversation, we couldn’t help but wonder what led Brown to Land Rover in the first place. Traditionally speaking, they tend to make their way from high-society folks to the middle class, and then finally reach off-road enthusiasts. “The thing about Rovers is you can buy them amazingly cheap and put a few thousand into them and start adding stuff. Otherwise, they’re just durable, tough trucks. Myself, I drive a 1997 Discovery I with 216,000 miles. It’s my workhorse and daily driver, and sometimes I take it on some club outings.”
Armed with his knowledge and flair for personal touch, Brown does indeed take care of the customer. Recently, he took care of a mild build on an 1989 Toyota Land Cruiser. “We ended up doing Old Man Emu suspension, because he wanted to sit higher and have a nicer ride,” said Brown. “It was about two to three inches higher than stock. It was a phenomenal car, in amazing shape. We added an ARB bumper and winch, and that was about it. I’m thinking he’ll be back for something else later on.”
Our hats are off to Brown and the work he’s able to do all on his own. If anything, it’s inspiring to us that he’s able to take on each of these projects and deliver such stunning results. Find out more about his shop online, and stay tuned to the Stateside Shop Tour here on Off Road Xtreme. Next stop – Pennsylvania.