I had the great pleasure of meeting with James Pauly and his assistant Dan at his semi-rural property on the outskirts of Brisbane. He is a young man of passion and great vision. Surrounded by cars at various stages of conversion we had a great chat about his life and work.
Pauly has tinkered with mechanical things all his life – push bikes, dirt bikes, cars, aeroplanes. He didn’t want to be a full time mechanic – he wanted to stay with the fun stuff.
He used the funds from his day job to fund his hobby – like turning his Gemini van into a go kart. Or turning his Nissan Skyline (the hoon car of choice for many years) into an EV (see photo). He tells me he was inspired by the White Zombie Datsun and the movie “Who killed the electric car?”
With help from small investors and willing mentors, TractionEV went from a hobby to a business in 4 to 5 years.
Pauly now works full time converting classic, much loved cars from petrol to electric and employs two part time assistants and a high school trainee.
When asked what he looked for in an employee he said: “Passion for cars. Any applicant must have built a car – the car is their CV”. Having said that, his assistants have impressive qualifications and experience in the car industry.
I asked him how he measured his success and he showed me the queue of cars waiting for rebuild – plus there are other customers who still have their cars at home. He loves working on Volkswagens. His family have had Beetles for a long time.
The electric Kombi is a full rebuild (with a Tesla drive train and battery from a wrecked Model X) and will cost around $80,000 to complete (see photo). A Beetle can be done for half of that.
His fastest rebuild was a Beetle which took two weeks, full time. Each car is different and requires different levels of expertise and time. But they are receiving attention to detail and a good dose of love.
Pauly actively discourages those who want to convert “A to B” cars. The best candidates for conversion are “cultural icons”, cars that have a club behind them.
And the potential market is huge he said: “Look at the Hot Rod Mod shops.” So far, Pauly and his team have rebuilt 10 cars, with drive trains imported from the US and batteries sourced locally (usually from wrecks).
“Everyone thought I was nuts, but as soon as they go for a ride in the beetle, they were sold.”
I was impressed by Pauly’s passion and ability. The EV disruption is certainly spawning a new generation of entrepreneurs. More power to them (then again, maybe there is enough power in that EV Beetle already!).
David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He owns 50 shares of Tesla.