They Save Classic Cars Through Electric Conversions

Dan Smith

DENVER, Colorado (AP) – When Kevin Erickson cranked the engine in his 1972 Plymouth Satellite Sports Sedan, instead of the pistons moving the crankshaft, the gasoline going through the carburetors, and the exhaust whine, there was a low hum. I heard a sound.

Nearly silent, but the classic American muscle car isn't broken: it's electric now

Ericsson is part of a small but growing group of all-American enthusiasts, racers, engineers and entrepreneurs transforming old trucks and cars into not only greener, but faster electric vehicles.

Despite derision from some purists attacking mods that look like golf carts and remote control cars, battery technology has advanced and as the world turns to clean energy to fight climate change. Electric powertrain modifications are becoming more common as

"The remote control car is fast, so that's actually a compliment," Erickson says. Renamed 'Electrolite', in 3 seconds he accelerates from 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) and reaches around 155 mph (249 km/h). There is also growing interest in public charging stations, which are becoming more popular nationwide.

Ericsson, a truck driver living outside Denver, purchased the car for $6,500 in late 2019. He then spent his year and a half converting this car into his 636-horsepower (475 kW) electric sedan, using the battery of a crashed Tesla Model S, his pack, the motor, and the rear of his entire subframe. started working on

Ericsson, who invested about $60,000 in the entire project, explains:

Jonathan Klinger, vice president of car culture at collectible car insurance company and automotive lifestyle brand Haggerty, said turning classic cars into electric vehicles is "definitely a trend." Yes, but research on its practice is limited.

In May, the Michigan-based company conducted a web survey of nearly 25,000 car enthusiasts in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. About 1% had partially or fully modified classic cars with some form of electric drivetrain.

Improving acceleration and performance was the main reason respondents modified their cars. We worked on projects that were fun and challenging, but also dealt with environmental and emissions issues. About 25% said they would approve the partial or complete conversion of conventional vehicles to electric vehicles.

“Electric vehicles perform well simply because of the nature of their operating mechanism,” says Klinger. So it's no surprise that a small percentage of people converting classic cars to electric cars are interested in improving performance. He compared the current trend to his 1950s hot rod his car move.

But Klinger, who owns several older cars, doesn't believe all internal combustion engines will be replaced by electric motors, especially when it comes to maintaining historically significant vehicles.

“There is something very satisfying about owning an old car with a carburetor,” he explains. Some enthusiasts want to keep the roar of the original petrol engine.

Other barriers to car modifications include the knowledge required to undertake such a complex project, the availability of high voltage components, parts, and the safety of the time it takes to demonstrate positive environmental impact. concerns above.

Conventional cars drive less than 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers) a year on average, Klinger said, so it will take longer to offset the initial carbon footprint of battery manufacturing.

And then there's the issue of price.

Sean Moudry, co-owner of Inspire EV, a small modification company outside Denver, recently modified a 1965 Ford Mustang that was destined for scrap. Their project took him a year and a half, cost over $100,000, and exposed many other obstacles that underscore why the conversion was more than just a plug-and-play project.

Moudry and his colleagues tried to put enough power into the car that it would burn out the tires when it started on the race track. He replaced his low-power six-cylinder petrol engine with that of a crashed Tesla Model S. He also installed 16 Tesla battery packs with a total weight of about 360 kg (800 lbs).

Most classic cars, including the Mustang, weren't designed to handle that much weight or the high power output of powerful electric motors. I had to.

The result is a Frankenstein-like vehicle with Ford F-150 pickup rear axle and Dodge Durango SUV rotors, powerful disc brakes and coilover shocks both front and rear.

Ford and General Motors have plans to build stand-alone electric motors for owners of conventional cars, but Maudry said the casual auto mechanic couldn't afford to have such a complex system. He says it's still unrealistic. We have resources to work on your project. For this reason, he believes the conversion to electric vehicles will take time to spread.

"I think it will take 20 years," he estimated. "It will be 20 years before he goes to a car show, but 50 to 60 percent of his cars have some kind of electric motor."

But that reality could come sooner than expected, says Mike Spagnola, president and CEO of the Specialty Equipment Market Association, an industry group that specializes in automotive replacement parts.

He said about 21,000 square feet of space was devoted to electric vehicles and their components at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas this fall. This was a mere 2,500 square feet (232 square meters) increase compared to the 2021 fair.

Companies are developing lighter, smaller and more powerful batteries along with commodity parts. We also have easy-to-install wiring components and many other innovations. Some manufacture vehicle frames with electric motors, batteries and components already installed. Buyers can easily install a classic car body on top of the chassis.

“Early adopters would take the engine, harness, battery, and everything else from a crashed Tesla and put it in whatever car they wanted to build,” says Spagnola. “But today a lot of manufacturers are starting to make parts…we are very excited about it.”