Electrifying classics: solution or sacrilege?

The electric revolution has begun. Whether or not you believe in climate change, the automotive industry is quickly moving to displace internal combustion engine cars in favour of electric vehicles (and apparently hydrogen fuel cell but that’s a discussion for another day).

So, what does that mean for those of us with a penchant for classic cars?

Well, that depends on how you justify burning your dinosaur juice. If the raucous sound of a combustion engine is something you can’t live without then continue as you are until legislation gets in the way or you grow a conscience (whichever comes first). If like me, you’re conflicted between your love of classic cars and reducing your carbon footprint there may be a solution: Electric conversion.

Before you come at me with your pitchforks screaming “Sacrilege!”, hear me out. There are some benefits to electrification of your classic car beyond easing your conscience. Whether it’s the poor gas mileage, reliability woes and maintenance costs and being plain uncomfortable – owning a classic car can be a bit of a hassle, especially for ones that stay locked away throughout most of the year. An electrified classic car has the potential to elevate all those issues, allowing you to drive the car more often than not, all while looking cool and guilt free. That’s what recent start-ups like Electric Classic Cars and Lunaz Design are promising, albeit in different flavours which we’ll touch on shortly.

Anyone who owns a classic car (or any car made before the ’90s) will know that the fuel costs are horrendous. As the finite oil supply gradually lessens, the price of fuel is expected to increase, and for many, this will inhibit their ability to drive their classics. The electrification of these cars allows owners to continue driving them well into the future at a fraction of the cost.

Examples of conversions done well

Image source: Jaguar

The decision to electrify your classic car is a huge commitment. What if you convert the car and find that it was a terrible mistake? Well, Jaguar has taken that into consideration. Their Classics division have created the Jaguar E-Type Zero prototype electric car. Based on the 1.5 series E-Type chassis, this car is capable of 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds and 170 miles of real-world range. This gives it enough poke to keep up the pace with more modern cars.

Image Source: Electric Classis Cars

Electric Classic Cars (ECC) do conversions to a wide range of cars including VW Beetles, VW Camper, Fiat 500, 1979 Porsche 911, Range Rover Classic, BMW E9 and even a Ferrari 308. However, they take it to another level by offering a full restoration and adding modern upgrades such as improved brakes, suspension, headlights and even a manual transmission. Their magic source: the Tesla Model S batteries. These are the most advanced batteries in the business with the highest energy densities.

Why you may not want to go Electric

If a classic car is electrified does it cease to be a classic? As someone who appreciates the historical relevance of the inner workings of cars, a piece of me feels that converting classic cars to EV might be somewhat disrespectful to the engineering and craftsmanship that birthed them. In some cases, it might detract from a car that which makes it a classic. A sentimentalist might say that the conversion strips the car of its soul and that all those previously mentioned issues are all a part of its character.

In the case of the aforementioned Jaguar E-Type Zero, it has been engineered to allow the owner to convert it back to a gas guzzler (or give it its soul back depending on how you look at it) with no permanent alterations or damages to the car: a completely reversible process. That kind of reassurance can make the jump a bit easier.

However, engineering a reversible electric conversion doesn’t come without its limitations. The compromise for having that flexibility is an impeded potential for performance, handling and range. This is where Lunaz Design aims to be different. Instead of trying to make a potentially compromised “reversible” electric classic, Lunaz Design focus is aimed towards bringing the best possible daily electric classic car experience with maximum range and performance while also staying true to the cars design ethos. We look forward to seeing their project but for now, we’ll have to whet our imaginations with this tantalising tease:

Image source: Lunaz Design

My Thoughts

The pragmatist and environmentalist part of me is telling me to go all in on electrifying my E30 for all its benefits but the purist part of me feels somewhat sentimental about the rewarding experience of building the engines momentum and all the sensory stimulation that comes with it.

I mean, just look at how RIMAC started out. Image Source: drive-my.com

I have decided that I would prefer to enjoy my car with its fossil drinking engine for a little while longer and then convert it to an EV when running internal combustion engines are no longer worth the hassle. In other words – I am going to have my cake and eat it.

Would you do the same?
Are electric conversions a good idea?
Should classics be left as they are?
Let us know in the comments below.

By Jamil Jafri

Editor at The Mechanists