(During the month of October, we’re publishing a series of stories on the “futureproofing” of collector cars through the use of electric powertrains, which also are coming to seemingly every automaker’s vehicle lineup. As always, your comments are welcome, and if you have converted a vintage vehicle to electric power, we’d love to share your story with others. Contact us at [email protected].)
Jonathan Ward is well-known and respected in the collector car world for the way he reimagines vintage 4×4 vehicles as he restores them with modern modifications under his Icon brand.
As he explains on the Icon website, his approach combines “a strong commitment to tradition, obsession with modern design, and unrelenting need to achieve performance excellence.” Icon vehicles, he adds, are built “for a journey without boundaries.”
Perhaps it was with breaking boundaries in mind that a client approached Ward about putting an electric powertrain into one of his classic remakes. The result was the Derelict, a well-patinaed 1949 Mercury coupe that drew constant visitors when it debuted in 2018 at the annual SEMA Show.
The car looked like a typical resto-mod and when you looked beneath the hood, there even appeared to be a V8 engine.
But it wasn’t a V8; it was an electric motor disguised as a V8. The car’s conversion to electrical rather than liquid-fueled propulsion was confirmed when you looked in the trunk and saw the electronic control gear mounted there. Icon worked with another California specialist shop, Stealth EV, on the electric powertrain conversion, which used Tesla components and resulted in 470 pound-feet of instant-on torque and 400 horsepower, good for a top speed of 120 mph and range in excess of 150 miles.
While the Icon shop was at it, it added coil-over suspension, electric rack & pinion steering, Brembo brakes, and air conditioning, and the fuel filler was converted to accept electricity instead of gasoline.
It was at that same SEMA Show that Chevrolet unveiled the eCOPO concept, a made-for-drag racing Camaro with an 800-volt, 700-horsepower, 600-pound-feet of torque electric powertrain.
A year later, Chevrolet was back at SEMA with another electric-powered vehicle, a 1962 Chevrolet E-10. Yes, you read that correctly. Instead of a C-10, this was an E-as-in-electric pickup truck powered by a pair of the electric motors from the Chevrolet Bolt.
By using a pair of motors, the truck got 450 horsepower, could sprint to 60 mph in 5 seconds, and provide 250 miles of range.
There was an expectation that a year later, Chevy would be back with an aftermarket plug-and-play production version of this prototype setup. Of course, Covid intervened, but that didn’t stop Chevrolet from doing a vintage 1977 K5 Blazer with what it called a “connect and cruise” electric power system with 200 horsepower, 25 more than the truck’s original V8 engine provided back in the day.
We expect to hear more about the availability of this e-Crate system the first week in November at the 2021 SEMA Show.
And especially so after Ford revealed a few weeks ago that it has a crate-version electric powertrain called the Eluminator being offered this fall. Based on the powerplant in the 2021 Mustang Mach-E GT, the Eluminator power plant will provide 281 horsepower, 317 pound-feet of torque and will weigh only 205 pounds.
If you don’t want to wait for the Chevy or Ford plug-in crate setups, EV West has several kits available, and at prices starting at around $7,600 (sans batteries) for Volkswagens, Toyota MR2s, Porsche 914s and 356s, and for the Factory Five 818 roadster.
EV West and Revolt Systems also have an aftermarket electric conversion kit — more than 500 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque — that uses Tesla components and the Chevy small-block V8 engine mounts and fits into many standard production vehicles and custom/hot rod projects.
Another California-based company, ElectricGT, also has eCrate systems (batteries included) designed to replace 4-, 6- and 8-cylinder petroleum-fueled engines, and another designed for Porsche 911 conversions.
Yet another approach is being taken by Zero-Labs, which has developed a “classic electric platform,” basically an electric-powered chassis designed to accept the body and interior of pre-1975 muscle cars, coupes, SUVs and pickup trucks. The company says its system provides 600 horsepower, independent suspension, 50/50 weight distribution, 235 miles of range and the option of all-wheel drive.
Everrati and Superformance will even do an electrified GT40 for you.
We expect to see all of the above and even more at the 2021 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, where ClassicCars.com will host a panel presentation on the electrification of vintage vehicles.