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Electrifying news: How to future proof the collector car hobby

Electrifying news: How to future proof the collector car hobby

‘Electra-mods’ may be the solution for keeping old cars on the roads of 2030 and beyond

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a week-long series that looks to the future of the collector car hobby.

Old cars can be wonderful things to collect but, let’s face it, they leak and smell and sometimes leave you stranded beside the road, and it’s difficult to steer or even stop without power assist, and you need to at least install seat belts to feel minimally safe out on the road. 

Increasingly, to make such vehicles as much fun to drive as they are to appreciate parked in the garage, collectors are installing modern, more efficient and more powerful engines, plus power-assisted disc brakes and steering gear, radial tires, oh, and don’t forget air conditioning, and while you’re at it, a Bluetooth audio system hidden beneath the original radio faceplate.  

The process has been dubbed “resto-mod,” a vehicle restoration but with modern automotive technology. While the car looks the same on the outside, under the sheetmetal or fiberglass it is basically a modern if modified vehicle, and a pleasure to drive.

Resto-mods have helped popularize the collector car hobby. And now it’s time for the next phase of the phenomenon, the “electra-mod.”

The what? The “electra-mod,” a process by which classic cars get electric power, and it’s a process that some automakers call future proofing.

“We have been looking for some time to find a way of protecting our customers’ long-term enjoyment of their (vintage) cars,” Aston Martin’s Paul Spires said in December when that company unveiled its new “cassette” electric powertrain in a 1970 DB6 MkII Volante.

What the company did was devise a way to remove the original petroleum-fueled engine and replace it with electric motors and batteries.

“Given the historical significance of these collectors cars, it’s vital any EV conversion is sympathetic to the integrity of the original car,” the company said. “The cassette system offers the perfect solution, offering owners the reassurance of knowing their car is future-proofed and socially responsible, yet still an authentic Aston Martin with the ability to reinstate its original powertrain if desired.”

“We are very aware of the environmental and social pressures that threaten to restrict the use of classic cars in the years to come,” added Andy Palmer, Aston Martin Lagonda president.

Indeed, around the world city and national governments are pushing for the electrification of the automobile, and even establishing dates when petroleum-fueled vehicles will be banned from certain areas.

One way to keep classic cars on the roads instead of restricted to museum displays or perhaps to be driven on certain days and streets where they are allowed to be paraded is to electra-mod them.  Consider:

•  When Britain’s Prince Harry and his bride, Meghan Markle, departed for their wedding reception last year, they drove a 1968 E-type Jaguar roadster that Jaguar Land Rover Classic had converted to electric power.

That’s not a big V8 under the hood of ICON’s Mercury, it’s a Tesla electric motor in a V8 disguise | Larry Edsall photo

•  Later last year, at the SEMA showcase of the automotive aftermarket industry, one of the cars that attracted the most attention was Jonathan Ward’s 1949 Mercury coupe, a favorite of hot rodders and in this case one of the Derelict projects of his ICON resto-mod business. Under the car’s hood was what appeared to be a V8 engine. But what it was really was a Tesla electric powertrain wearing a V8-like disguise. Ward reported that the car could hit 120 mph and had more than a 150-mile driving range.

•  At the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed, spectators cast their votes and awarded the Showstopper of the Festival trophy to an electric-powered Ford Mustang that beat out the Ferrari 488 Pista and the Apollo Intesa Emozione for that honor. 

The Mustang was built up by a British company, Charge Automotive, that specializes electric conversions. “We redefine great classic cars with advanced electric technology while preserving their iconic design,” it says on the company website. “We believe in an emissions-free future while giving ultimate performance to epic auto legends.”

At the moment, such electra-mod efforts are very expensive, but these are early days in this aspect of such vehicle restoration, and as the market grows, as more companies specializing in such conversions launch, and new battery technologies are developed, costs figure to become more reasonable, perhaps someday even comparable to the current resto-mod process.

And consider what Jay Leno, perhaps the country’s best-known car collector, told CNBC this week about driving his Tesla:

“There’s no maintenance. They’re faster than the gas car. So there’s almost no reason to have a gas car unless you’re doing long-haul duty.”

“Steam ran everything from 1800 to about 1911,” he added. “Then internal combustion took over from 1911 to right about now. And I predict that a child born today probably has as much chance of driving in a gas car as people today have of driving a car with a stick shift.” 

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4 Comments

  • Bobby Allison
    August 17, 2019, 2:49 PM

    May all the stupid Politian’s who want electric cars by 2040 find out all the electric grids cannot handle this and may all the planes they fly in have electric motors with 200 mile radiuses. May the two major countries who supply the salts for the lithium batteries raise their prices so no one can afford them.Everyone is jumping on a not to well thought out band wagon that few people can afford.

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  • Brad Farlow
    August 18, 2019, 6:05 AM

    Neil Young tried this with his LincVolt. It is pure virtue signalling. There is an environmental cost to manufacturing things like electric drive trains. Has anyone actually calculated the environmental toll from the driving of collector cars? How does it compare? This will never be more than a toy for rich people to brag on at cocktail parties.

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  • Ryan Corman
    August 18, 2019, 1:55 PM

    Really, is moving the source of pollution from individual autos to mostly coal- or natural gas fired powerplants (operated by corporations just famous for their concerns about the environment and the looming climate catastrophe) the best option?
    No free lunch, folks, no matter what eco rahrahrah is the craze of the day.
    And who gets any thrill from the whine of an electric motor, no matter how fast/quick/efficient? Maybe the same folks who can’t even put their @*$#! phones down to "drive"; not I. Glad I’m pushing 60 and won’t have to endure this brave New World long.

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  • Alan Gaudry
    October 13, 2019, 10:43 AM

    Like it or not ….. electric motors are the future. Economies of scale and innovation in battery tech will drive prices down. As for electricity generation …. this will also improve in its cleanliness with renewables/fusion tech etc etc.
    I too love the old motors but like the yankie boats of the 1970s the internal combustion engine is doomed.

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