Hybrids & Electrics

Classic Car Electric Vehicle Conversion Candidates

I’ve written before about how automotive shops are starting to add electric conversion as a new menu item in addition to oil changes and brake work. The business of converting classic cars, or any car really, from an internal combustion drive vehicle to an electric vehicle, is in its infancy, but it exists. So, this leads to the question, what classic cars are good candidates for electric conversion?

A sky-blue Austin-Healey convertible sits on display at a car show.
A classic Austin-Healey | Photo by K. Y. Cheng/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Classic cars are not typically driven as daily drivers. More often than not, they are weekend drivers. They are pulled out for a meandering drive on a nice day, or taken to a local car show. So, the electric range anxiety for a classic car will not be as insurmountable as it would be for a daily driver that is constantly on the go to the grocery store, or to do a school drop-off. That means not as many batteries may be needed to accomplish the weekend hobby duties. Consequently, that opens both small and large classic vehicles to the opportunity of electric conversion. But what classics?

Small, classic, British cars

The MG, Triumph, and Austin-Healey brands are still very much adored by automotive enthusiasts in the United States. Even though the classic brands have not been found on its shores for decades, US fans have been painstakingly searching, restoring them, and even racing them to this day. So, they would be good candidates.

A red Triumph Spitfire convertible has its top down.
1966 Triumph Spitfire Mk2. | Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

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The classic 1970s electric conversion candidates

Some early 1970s cars are starting to gain popularity. The 1970s may technically be an era considered as a classic, but in the mind of many collectors, that time period has not really taken off as the cars of the 1960s yet. So, the 1970s may be prime for snapping up. Also, while many people are concentrating on restoring classics into Concours quality show cars, other owners want something just a little different. So, an electric conversion makes sense. The Ford Mustang II, Chevrolet Vega, and Datsun Z cars come to mind.

1972 Datsun 240Z
1972 Datsun 240Z | Bring a Trailer

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The timeless classics

Then there are the timeless classics. It does not matter from what era these cars are from, or what part of the globe they were manufactured. These cars are novelty cars. Cars that get most everybody’s admiration for their own quirkiness, historical significance, or both are ideal. Of course, I’m speaking of the Porsche 911, Volkswagen Beetle, Volkswagen Bus, and the Chevrolet Corvair.

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Electric conversion is a labor of love

Electric conversion is a labor of love. Regardless of the automotive platform chosen for the conversion, it is going to take time, money, and ingenuity to get a final working product. But, that is true of any restoration as well. However, keep in mind that electric conversions are still pretty new to the automotive industry. So, some electric component manufacturers are going to be better at it than others. Therefore, it is prudent for those considering such a project to do their due diligence in vetting good parts versus bad parts, or already obsolete parts, or maybe even complete swap in kits. Owners need to keep the final product in mind and keep moving toward it.