Owning a classic car is an exercise in emotion: while they can often evoke memories of days gone by, they can equally be a challenge to one’s patience with oil leaks, replacing parts and a lack of mod-cons.
It’s a combination of both these factors that is fueling rising interest in electric car conversions, says Russ Shepherd who works with EVolution’s Electric Car Cafe.
He says that the electric car conversion outfit is experiencing an unprecedented number of inquiries to help convert classic vehicles, and he believes it is the devil in the mod-con detail that is making the difference.
Shepherd says the company is currently converting a number of classic cars and enquiries have doubled from this time last year.
“There’s more interest in conversions month on month compared to last year,” Shepherd tells The Driven. “I think it’s the way that we’re packaging it, and because customers want more theatre in their electric vehicles, and character.”
Converted classic cars are an antidote to the Tesla Model 3 – which despite its ground-breaking innovation, and perhaps even because of it – is so common it was referred to as the “Californian cockroach” (although most are now made in China).
The converted classic car has instead, “got a history and a story, and you don’t get that with a new EV,” says Shepherd. But, he says, “it’s not just about converting to electric – it’s about making them easy to live with that’s key.”
The conversion process has come a long way, he says. While it’s one thing to replace the internal combustion engine with an electric drivetrain, doing only that does not always create a vehicle that is easy to live with.
“The way we do things is we’re not just converting to electric but we’re making them daily drivable,” he says. “We are introducing heated seats and proximity locks, air-con, Apple Carplay, electric power steering and so on.”
“From a safety perspective, we introduce side impact protection bars and improve suspension and introduce modern brakes, so there’s really no excuse to use the classics and they become a really viable alternative to a modern Hyundai or Tesla.”
And it’s not just about wanting to own a piece of converted history. “Invariably the cars that are brought to us have a story behind them. Typically we don’t like to touch the bodywork, but the customers that come to us have a particular affinity for a model,” he says.
He cites the 1992 Range Rover which has been rescued from a Melbourne garage to be given a second life as a daily driver.
“The customer’s father had a Range Rover, and he wants to relive that, but he wants electric,” says Shepherd. Specs for the Range Rover are to be able to drive up to 200km in one go and be able to pull a trailer.
On the Cafe’s to do list alongside the Range Rover is a Delorean – a model of Back To The Future fame – and an MG B Roadster. And then there’s a Subaru Brumby, just one of five that particular customer owns.
Another is a Land Cruiser FJ45, says Shepherd. “That one will have between 400-500km range,” he says adding that the Cafe has already used a complete Tesla write off towards the FJ45 conversion.
Neither does a conversion have to cost the earth. While UK outfit Lunaz is converting a classic Aston Martin that will reportedly set a buyer back a cool $US1 million, the Electric Car Cafe lists it Range Rover at just under $A80,000.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.