Journal: Would You Drive a Classic Car Converted to an Electric?

Would You Drive a Classic Car Converted to an Electric?

By Yoav Gilad
June 17, 2014
25 comments

Photography by Josh Clason for Petrolicious

Electric cars seem to be the future, if you believe Mr. Elon Musk and Tesla anyway. But if you prefer driving classic cars would substituting an electric drivetrain be sacrilege? Obviously this ruins a car’s originality, but what if you have a body and chassis lacking a drive train? Should this relegate a car to sculpture or, worse yet, the crusher? Why not give it a second life? There are a number of companies thinking along similar lines and building electric cars based on classics such as Zelectric Bug and Kriss Motors.

The advantages are obvious–first of all, you get the amazing style and heritage that comes with owning and driving a gorgeous classic and second, instant and full torque. Additionally, maintenance is nearly a non-factor. For some range might be an issue, but sporting a range around 100 miles, this shouldn’t be a problem for most people. When we asked Mr. David Benardo (CEO at Zelectric Bug) why he chose a Beetle to showcase his technology he explained that was a combination of the aforementioned factors as well as the fact that classics appreciate, are lighter than their modern counterparts, that the power train swap doubled the horsepower, and he was attracted to the Beetle’s iconic status.

Clearly, there are benefits to these cars and the style is just the proverbial tip of the cliché. there something missing. But what we want to know if you think the benefits outweigh the obvious compromise–that of originality.

Would You Drive a Classic Car Converted to an Electric?

Join the Conversation
Related

Leave a Reply

25 Comments on "Would You Drive a Classic Car Converted to an Electric?"

avatar
Photo and Image Files
 
 
 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Adam Holter
Adam Holter
2 years 5 months ago

Sure! White Zombie, anybody?

Fred Owens
Fred Owens
2 years 5 months ago

Absolutely! Drive is the key word. Wouldn’t be right to convert a museum piece. Our ’53 Kaiser Dragon has nothing to fear. But given the time and a light weight beauty with decent handling, I’d drive it every day. My pipe dream involves a rust-free gen1 Scirocco powered by 9″ AC regen motor & Li-ion batteries mounted low. Whooosh! I urge any nonbelievers to try a Tesla S — utterly awesome!

Andreas Lavesson
Andreas Lavesson
2 years 5 months ago

I would certainly [i]drive[/i] an electrified classic out of sheer curiosity, but I would never own one or do the swap myself. To me, the engine is the heart of the car and I was hesitant even to regular engine swaps for the longest time. However, I could consider swapping a combustion engine, given it’s “the right one”. No go for an electric though. Efficient and exciting as they can be, I will always favour mechanical over electrical.

Alex Hemmer
Alex Hemmer
2 years 5 months ago
Definitely. I have VW type 2 a/b 1.8L and that engine gives me nothing but grief. In a car like a Kombi van the engine is irrelevant, in stock form you can barely hear it and it’s only there the move the thing. Rebuilding such an engine (in Australia at least) costs upwards of $4000. Doing it yourself is easy enough but will still costa couple of grand in genuine parts and you still only end up with 60-70hp. Once electric technology gets cheap enough I will be first in line to do the conversion. I will gladly drop the… Read more »
Ryan Hoyle
Ryan Hoyle
2 years 5 months ago

Wow, crazy, I was talking about one day getting a Porsche, but that it’d have to be quite a ways into the future, when gas will likely be very expensive. She said oh just convert it to electric power, and I said ya I could probably do that maaaybe. It would probably be quite a bit different from the way they drive now though.

All that depends on if gas actually does skyrocket or become hard to find when we move to an alternative energy.

Micha? Le?niowski
Micha? Le?niowski
2 years 5 months ago

Would love to! I guess this solves the problem of old engines with mediocre power and high gasoline consumption. But for sure I wouldn’t switch old Mercedes–Benz V engine for an electric one 😉

Joe Griffin
Joe Griffin
2 years 5 months ago

Why not, in the mid 1960’s, general motors played with the corvair as an electric, while I think the lack of engine noise would be a take away, this is something that would be neat as a commuter, not as a weekend cruiser.

Kerry
2 years 5 months ago

I already do. 1969 bug convertible that is my short range cruiser and a 1984 e30 with 240kw.

Jake Williams
Jake Williams
2 years 5 months ago

No

Jimmy
Jimmy
2 years 5 months ago

Agreed.

Chris Newport
Chris Newport
2 years 5 months ago
As both a daily EV rider and owner of several classics I would say yes absolutely, but not yet. I’m not worried about the change in sound and certainly not the fun factor; my Zero FX is as fun as it gets on and off-road. But matching the performance of my ~550HP ’70 Corvette would be quite the expensive hotrodding endeavor with current technology, and add a lot of weight. Low performance cars like the Bug are a good choice, and a land yacht would be fine with buckets of cells in the trunk. To keep a sportscar a sportscar,… Read more »
Vianney Lalain
Vianney Lalain
2 years 5 months ago
Well, that’s an interesting idea but to my mind that is not the point of a classic car. A classic car is a classic car for its noise, its smells and everything linked to its old engine. I like being in the street and turning my head after hearing the sound of a classic. To my mind, that would be sad that some history on wheels had the same sound as a regular car. However, i like the idea that Mathew brought up. An electric classic Rolls would kind of make sense, an electric engine could indeed fit right with… Read more »
Doug Churchill
Doug Churchill
2 years 5 months ago

Funny you should ask. I have a 76 BMW ’02 I have been considering going electric for use around town and local highways. Looking at kits using lithium batteries. Not cheap proposition and I’m sure there are DIY ways of reducing cost but if I’m going to do this it would have to be plug and play as much as possible.

Any wrecked Tesla’s around?

Alexandru Ionut Bujdei
2 years 5 months ago

A VW Golf MK2. 2 doors. red. roof opening. and make it my daily driver.

Antony Ingram
Antony Ingram
2 years 5 months ago
Having driven David’s Zelectric bug last year, I have to say yes – absolutely. I was worried it would affect the character of such an iconic car like the Beetle, but while you don’t get the noise, you do get everything else that makes a Beetle a Beetle. And a much quicker, less leaky one at that! I wouldn’t like to see every classic turned electric, but to me it’s no more heretical to make an old car electric than it is to perform any other engine swap. Or even fit a car with non-period features. At the end of… Read more »
Shawn Baden
2 years 5 months ago
Short answer: absolutely. I’ve thought about converting older vehicles over to electric and making some improvements in the process. No small feat. But I’d stick with classic cars where the engine wasn’t the draw. So 1969 Camaro Z28 – hell no. But plain old ’68 Camaro convertible with an inline 6? – yes. I had a K5 Blazer that I toyed with the idea – go as far as remove the hump for the driveshaft down the middle of the floor and have a flat floor for more room. Another cool candidate would be a 60 series Land Cruiser. But… Read more »
TJ Martin
TJ Martin
2 years 5 months ago
No ! Absolutely not ! A Classic who’s motor has been converted to Hydrogen ? Absolutely [ conversions will be made available once the Hydrogen economy is in full swing which is but one of the many advantages of hydrogen . Any ICE can be converted for a minimal outlay of cash ] But to an EV ? With all the inherit problems with EV’s I wouldn’t even consider buying a new one . Never mind ruining a classic in the name of pretentious ‘ Green ‘ . And err …. Hate to rain on Mr Musk’s parade but everyone… Read more »
Ronnie M
Ronnie M
2 years 5 months ago
Those same manufacturers that you listed have also abandon hydrogen in an ICE application. Hydrogen doesn’t return the same kind of horsepower and torque numbers. CNG is actually a better alternative in that application. Most viable hydrogen applications are using it in a fuel cell to power an electric motor. EV’s Achilles’s heel is the battery not the motor. The biggest advantage of EV is 100\% of torque from zero rpm. Check out the Wrightspeed X1 on YouTube. There’s also a Chevrolet Spark EV with 400 lb-ft of torque. The future is bright.
Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle
2 years 5 months ago

Yes i would drive one out of sheer sheer curiosity just to see what it feels like. With that being said i think i will stick with the good ole gasoline engines. Driving a car is a multi sensory experience and hearing that wonderful exhaust is part of driving a car.

Ronnie M
Ronnie M
2 years 5 months ago

When these electric engine swaps first started, the 911 was actually a popular candidate. I’m not sure if it still is.

I think electric has the possibility to usher in a new era of hotrods. Imagine just swapping out an engine, power supply or battery or downloading an upgrade for more torque and/or horsepower. The battery range/temperature problem is the big hurdle that needs to be overcome.

Taylor Nelson
Taylor Nelson
2 years 5 months ago
My gut reaction says no. I mean, I love the rattle and clatter and everything that makes my ’67 bus what it is. But the more I think about it, yeah, maybe I would. Hell, I’d probably have more power and torque to get over hills (without having to shift down to 3rd) and I might even have a higher top speed on the freeway! I know of someone who has built a deluxe microbus out of a panel bus and made it completely electric. It’s pretty impressive! You can read all 37 pages here: http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=539140 But really, for me… Read more »
Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
2 years 5 months ago

It depends if the engine used to power it is not integral to the character of the car then why not? I wouldn’t want to convert a Ferrari 250 or early 911 to electric power, but say a sixties Rolls Royce that was known for it’s near silent running would make an ideal candidate.

Afshin Behnia
Afshin Behnia
2 years 5 months ago

Agreed! I could see myself driving a 1st gen Fiat Panda or Fiat 126 that was converted to electric.

Afshin Behnia
Afshin Behnia
2 years 5 months ago

Adding to my previous comment, in many major European cities where it’s almost impossible to drive legally in city centers with a high-emissions car, a stylish electric daily-driver vintage car would be perfect alternative to modern-day generic econoboxes.

Tommy Plouffe
Tommy Plouffe
2 years 5 months ago

YES! I would take a classic Fiat 500, convert it and add some flexible solar panels! 😀

wpDiscuz