HomeFeatured VehiclesRear view: No. 7 - Electrification of collector cars

Rear view: No. 7 – Electrification of collector cars

The next big thing: The electro-mod

So, let’s put this in a perspective that baby boomers will understand. You know baby boomers, they’re the folks who have made the collector car hobby what it is but now are aging out, albeit reluctantly. For years, they’ve fretted that the young whippersnappers coming up behind them — including their own children — don’t and won’t like the cars they’ve collected. 

Yes, we know they’re wrong, but we still need to give them some respect in the limited time they have left. 

So here we go: The Graduate was perhaps the seminal movie for the baby boomer generation. For the moment, forget about seductive Mrs. Robinson and her daughter Elaine and look instead at the scene in which Mr. McGuire tells Ben Braddock that he has one word for him as he considers his future.

“Plastics,” McGuire says.

Were The Graduate being filmed today, instead of in the mid-1960s, McGuire’s word would not be “plastics,” but “electronics.” Or perhaps “batteries.”

Which is to say, to the boomers and those coming up behind them, that whether you like it or not (and we know you don’t), the cars you’ll be driving in the future, and in many cases the almost immediate future, will be propelled by electricity rather than petroleum. 

And in a growing number of cases, those cars powered by electricity will be your cherished collector vehicles.

Several countries already have said they will ban the sale of new petroleum-powered vehicles as soon as 2025. In September, California’s governor issued an executive order seeking to allow only zero-emission vehicles to be sold in America’s largest car market no later than 2035.

During 2020, not only did a growing number of automakers announce plans to electrify their future fleets, but a growing number of aftermarket companies announced products to replace the petrol-powered internal combustion engines in vintage vehicles with battery-powered drivetrains, from plug-and-play units that fit beneath the hood to complete chassis designed to accept classic car sheetmetal and interiors.

Think resto-mod, but with electro rather than resto. 

At the virtual version of the annual SEMA Show, General Motors unveiled its “eCrate” motor, an “electric connect and cruise” setup that replaces the traditional internal combustion engine in collector vehicles with a plug-and-play electric motor and battery system that GM says will be available to customers in the second half of 2021.

Earlier this week, we published a story about Zero Labs Automotive and its electric-powered chassis coming in 2021 for pre-1975 muscle cars, pickup trucks, sports coupes and 4×4 off-roaders. 

Soon we’ll be seeing Ford’s new Mach-e Mustangs on the road, and Superformance and AC Cars plan to produce electric-powered Cobras, British companies are doing Minis and MGB roadsters and luxurious vintage Rolls-Royces with electric powertrains, why, you can even buy a new and electric-powered Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Royals head for their wedding reception in electric-powered vintage Jaguar | Twitter @KensingtonRoyal

It was back in 2018 that we shared this forewarning:

“Someday — and for some I’ll add ‘and sadly in the not-that-distant future’ – automotive historians will look back at the spring of 2018 as the time when the sea change began, and they will see an event that took place in England as the seminal moment.

“The date was Saturday, May 19, and the event that occurred was a bride and groom, though not just any bride and groom, prepared to leave for the drive to their wedding reception.

“The bride was an American actress who was marrying into a royal family. Except this time, it wasn’t Grace Kelly and Monaco’s Prince Rainier but Meghan Markle and England’s Prince Harry. The seminal event from an automotive standpoint came when they left for the reception in a gorgeous — even Enzo Ferrari called it the most beautiful car of all time — E-type Jaguar roadster.

“But this 1968 E-type might best be referred to as an e-type, because instead of the usual 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder petroleum-fueled engine, Jaguar Land Rover Classic had installed a 220kW electric motor fed by a 40kWh lithium-ion battery pack.”

Which brings us back to The Graduate, and if there were a 2020 remake, Ben and Elaine would leave her wedding not riding in the back seat of a bus, but in his now-electric-powered Alfa Romeo Spider.

Year in Review Series

Looking back at the most influential automotive stories and events of 2020.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.



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