Virtually every major automaker has invested huge resources into the Electric Vehicles (EV) industry, making and remodelling popular and classic cars into environmentally friendlier versions that are available in dealerships worldwide.
What is absolutely unparalleled, however, is the aesthetic of a vintage car.
For car purists, electric cars do not deliver the same sounds, smells, or drive that classic vintage cars do. However, vintage-auto insurance company Hagerty, recorded more requests for vintage auto-insurance quotes by Generation Xers and Millennials than by baby boomers. The firm tracks classic car values and conducts driver-owner surveys, and trends are beginning to show global buyers who are considering social and environmental impacts when it comes to collecting classic cars.
While the market is still small for restoration projects, companies– both boutique and large automakers– have begun to combine restoration with green technology for a different sort of preservation that is thrilling car collectors all over the world.
Here is an inside look into the hottest new trend of restoring vintage vehicles and giving it all-electric new life.
Zelectric Motors and EV West: Porsches and Vintage Volkswagens
Somewhere in sunny Southern California, vintage car refurbisher David Bernardo, head of Zelectric Motors, teamed up with electric car parts company founder Michael Bream of EV West to restore vintage Porsches and Volkswagen Beetles.
Given the long history of the ‘People’s Car’, the Volkswagen Beetle has been in production for 80 years and there have been plenty of modified Beetles on the roads.
With plentiful lightweight and inexpensive body shells, the Beetle is a prime candidate for for electric modifications. Zelectric Motors radically improved the driving experience of the Bug, not just with a meticulously clean installation of an electric drivetrain, but with other upgraded components such as brakes, transmission, tires, suspension, brakes, seats, wiring, LED lighting equipment and even an electric heater.
Since the boom of electric vehicles, EV West teamed up with Zelectric Motors to retrofit a vintage Porsche 912 with a motor from a Tesla Model S P85. The rusty shell of the Porsche, taken from an owner in Las Vegas, was transformed into an all-electric sports car with 550 horsepower with 4,500 pound-feet of torque.
“[It was] a little bit of a challenge, engineering-wise because the car is much smaller than the cars that we’re pulling the components out of. A Tesla drive unit comes out of a 5,500-pound car, and we’re trying to shoehorn into about a 2,300-pound car,” says Mr Bream. “So there’s a lot of engineering challenges there.”
The retrofitted EV Porsche has a range of 140 miles (225 kilometres), and lays the groundwork for future EV restoration builds.
Jaguar E-Type Zero
As the newlywed Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, drove to their evening reception in their electric blue 1968 Jaguar E-Pace, little did the millions of fans watching realise that the royal couple had just made automotive history.
Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works collaborated with Rimac Automobili– a company specialising in electrification systems for cars, to create the first electric car to be used at a royal wedding. While the royal car may have looked like a stock vintage E-Pace, an all-electric crossover, the E-Type Zero, has been in the works since 2018.
Rimac was required to create a system that suited any reversibility for conversion, which means it can be reverted back to its original straight-sixth form if ever the royal couple choose to. Outfitted with a 220-kilowatt electric drivetrain weighing in at less than 50 kilograms, the beautiful blue roadster boasts a driving experience that is almost similar to the original E-Type.
Aston Martin 1970 DB6
Perhaps the most iconic James Bond car, the Aston Martin DB5 is the quintessential mid-century luxury car. First introduced in the 1964 film, Goldfinger, Aston Martin has followed up with its successor– the 1970 DB6 MKII Volante. The demo car, pictured above, was assembled by hand at the company’s original Newport Pagnell factory, as was the first to receive the electric conversion.
Earlier this year, the company unveiled a reversible “cassette” system– which offers owners both the classic drive and all-electric options. A zero-emissions electric drivetrain is installed directly on the original engine and gearbox, and is enclosed within its own cell or “cassette”.
The British carmaker recognised growing environmental and social pressures would result in the automobile industry having to cutback on emissions. By restoring heritage cars with all-electric motors, Aston Martin hopes to give their iconic vintage cars greater longevity.
Zero Labs Ford Bronco
Zero Labs’ restoration of the Ford Bronco is truly something to behold. The 1959 Bronco has been transformed into a 21st century SUV, while still maintaining the soul of a classic car. Zero Labs affirms that they do not manufacture cars– they simply sell limited editions of detailed restorations from non-functional Broncos, or what they call “survivors”. CEO Adam Roe emphasised the need to let classic cars live out their lives first, refusing to transform good-condition and unaltered Broncos.
The re-engineered and re-designed bronco houses an all-electric motor and 70-kilowatt lithium ion battery pack that gives around 300 kilometres range with 400-horsepower. Inside, you can expect refurbished seats made with hand-stitched leather and panels made out of bamboo and walnut. Zero Labs produces a subtly futuristic looking Bronco, while respectfully keeping its classic heritage alive.
The consensus among companies in the restoration business is that they will not touch a car in good or working condition. For boutique companies, no permanent modifications occur and can be easily converted back to gasoline vehicles (although, all companies claim that none have been done so far).
Social norms are shifting towards the seemingly inevitable future of silent driving, and Aston Martin Works’ President, Paul Spires, had the foresight to realise that the longevity of cars lives on when they are not “gathering dust in museums, where no one can actually enjoy a classic Aston on the road.”