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Electric Car Conversions Are a Great Solution for Classic Cars With Salvage Titles

Some time ago, I was searching through car auctions and I came across a Ferrari … well, most of what was left of one. The Ferrari’s engine bay had caught on fire — and the intact, albeit scorched, chassis was up for sale. With an asking price of $15,000, it looked like a fool’s bargain. Sure, I thought, the Ferrari is $15k, but what about every piece of bespoke hardware needed to restore it back to specification? This was a few years ago — and while I saved the image for entertainment purposes, there’s a real solution now for classic cars with non-running or salvage titles: convert it to an electric car.

We’re at a time where converting a classic car into an electric car is a viable and stylish way to practice environmental responsibility. There are an increasing number of electric cars on the road today, thanks to mass-market models such as the Chevrolet Bolt and the Nissan Leaf — as well as slightly more upmarket models like BMW’s i3 and Tesla’s Model 3, which have begun to sway those away from conventional internal-combustion vehicles. There’s also an expansive network of public charging stations and electric range has grown, with many commuters only requiring a charge at home or place of work.

Jaguar E-Type Zero

Last summer, Jaguar unveiled the E-Type Zero, a classic 1960s E-Type, easily one of the most beautiful cars ever produced, now updated with an electric powertrain from the I-PACE. The Zero is not just a one-off concept car, as anyone with an extra $400,000 can put one in their own garage. While it’s more expensive than a typical Jaguar E-Type that would fetch $75,000 to $100,000 at auction, the bespoke conversion is a nice mesh of current Jaguar tech with vintage styling. Starting in 2020, Jaguar will only produce hybrid powertrains with a goal of going fully electric by 2026, setting a benchmark for others to follow — with the E-Type Zero as a first of its kind from a major automaker.

Mini Cooper

While Jaguar’s E-Type Zero is an expensive solution, it is far from the only solution. Last year during a Mini event in New York City, I met Moritz Burmester, a young German engineer who was showing off his home-built classic Mini Cooper electric conversion. Burmester took his classic Mini Cooper, removed the engine and added a 10-kWh motor that he mated to the original manual transmission with a belt. With a range of 65 miles and a top speed of 75 mph, his Mini is just as capable as its gas-powered counterpart, and it even boasts more torque than the original 1.3-liter motor. The Mini’s transformation took six months to complete — and while Burmester wouldn’t share the exact cost of his electric conversion, he did say that the parts were inexpensive and the job was not difficult to complete himself.

Mini Cooper

With the Jaguar and the Mini as excellent proofs of concept, I am expecting to see more cars like these on the horizon. While not every classic car should be converted to run on electricity, as some models are far too rare and are more valuable kept as-is, there are many common classics out there that would be excellent candidates for conversion. It’s a well-known fact that classic cars are not environmentally friendly — and for the next generation of progressively eco-conscious gear heads, an electric conversion could be a stylish solution to keep classic cars on the road for years to come.

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  1. Electric power is better than petrol. A petrol engine will ruin the environment, poison your neighbors, leak carcinogenic oil into your well water, fill the atmosphere with toxic waste, and possibly start WWIII in the middle east. The petrol car ceases to have classic status and becomes a reminder of the problems of the 20th century. The car is original, sure, but at what cost to the owner, society, and the world? Electric motors are best for classic cars.

  2. i think its a great idea. the original engines are the reason a lot of these get junked. parts sources dry up, finicky performance, smelly…. i tell you, wives love the quiet, smooth electric performance. and selling the wife on a purchase is an important part of the process.  

  3. Salvage-title classics are good to turn into classic rally and race cars.
    A classic car with an electric powertrain would have none of the charm. 
  4. Petrol power is better than electric. An electric engine will ruin the charm, driving feel, and history of a classic car. The car ceases to have classic status and becomes a regular, boring modern car with classic styling and design. The car is no longer original. Original engines are best for classic cars.

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Sam Keller
Sam Keller
Sam Keller is an Editorial Contributor for Autotrader & Oversteer since 2017. He enjoys covering everything from auto history and classic cars, modern and vintage driving impressions, as well as everyday car news stories. Currently based in Los Angeles, California, Sam can be found on Instagram at @hamptonwhipz where he documents interesting vehicles he encounters on his travels.

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