Remember Gattaca? It was a pretty weird film, but we’ll never forget the cars. There was a Volvo P6, a Citroen DS Cabriolet, Rover P6 and other great classics. And they were all powered by batteries, in the movies at least.
Well now there’s a real cottage industry in making this particular Hollywood fantasy into a reality and we’re starting to see some truly spectacular electric cars based on some of the most iconic petrol-powered machines of years gone by.
In a way, it’s pure conservation. When the Internal Combustion Engine goes the way of the Dodo, and make no mistake it will, these electric cars will be the only way we can enjoy some of the greatest icons in motoring history. Chopping up some of these great cars will send the purists into apoplectic rage, but it’s better than parking them up for the rest of time.
For now, they’re a chaotic blend of bespoke creations with exorbitant and price tags and homebrew kits that have been thrown together on a budget. But we think that reimagined classics are set to become ‘a thing’ and this is just the first wave of retro electric cars that are set to rock you world in the years to come.
1. Electric GT 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS
A fuel leak and subsequent fire pretty much consigned this Ferrari 308 GTS, the Magnum PI car, to an early grave. Then San Diego-based Electric GT got hold of it and it rose again like a Phoenix from the ashes.
The molten V8 made way for a triple electric HPEVS AC51 motor that provided 330lb/ft of torque. Just for reference, that’s twice as much as the original 308 and it also packs 345kW of power, too, which roughly equates to 465bhp. That’s modern Ferrari territory.
That was mated to a 30kWh battery that provides 100 miles of range. The company could have given it more, but it wanted to retain the integrity of the driving experience and keep the conversion as lightweight as possible.
It also comes with a manual gearbox, a Porsche G50 5-speed that was chosen for its slick shift and ability to handle the extra torque.
The 308 GTS is a car from a bygone era, when a man could wear a moustache and Hawaiian shirt and still be considered super cool. An electric power plant has turned this car into a modern day legend and we’d love to see more of them on the road.
2. Renovo Coupe
This might look like the Shelby Daytona that conquered Le Mans in 1964, but there are only half a dozen of those left in the world and they change hands for millions of dollars.
This car is a recreation that has actually been around for more than a decade with a petrol engine. Superformance, in South Africa, makes the chassis and it comes with a genuine Shelby VIN number.
Peter Brock, the genius who penned the original slippery shape that overthrew the dominant Ferrari team at Le Mans, designed the Superformance chassis and helped rework the car for the electric powerplant.
It comes with three battery packs that are spaced out across what is, essentially, a sportscar. That means that the impact of the additional weight is mitigated by optimal placement. It’s still a 3250lb car, and it comes with a 400kW courtesy of two motors, which gives it a 0-60mph time of 3.4s.
The Renovo comes with 1000ft/lb of torque, which is frankly absurd and far more important than the basic power. It’s kind of disappointing that it does just 120mph, so this car will get blown away by a midrange Tesla Model S in a straight line.
But it does look hella cool.
3. Zelectric Motors Volkswagen Beetle
The VW Beetle is one of the greatest cars of all time. It has been with us in 1938 and there are a surprising number of 1950s and 60s cars on the road.
Diego-based Zelectric Motors takes these cars, rips out the paltry air-cooled engine that is often well past its use-by date and replaces it with a trick electric powerplant. CEO David Bernado wasn’t even worried about the environment when he built the first car, he just wanted a Beetle that wouldn’t break down.
The installed a 50kW motor and a 20kWh battery pack that gives the Beetle 100mph top speed and an 80-mile range. That’s nothing in the modern age, but then this is a classic car with classic car brakes and crash protection. Zelectric can go further, if you’re prepared to pay, but they’ll have to start upgrading other parts of the car and the price will skyrocket.
The acceleration, at least, is much improved, thanks to 120lb/ft of torque. Zelectric don’t publish the 0-60mph time, but rest assured it’s a big improvement on the original thanks to all tha torque coming from 0rpm.
High performance sway bars and custom shocks combine with the weight of the battery packto pin the car to the road and enthusiasts will notice a serious improvement over the basic car.
4. Bloodshed Motors Electric ’68 Mustang
Bloodshed Motors is the Fast’n’Loud of the EV world. Mitch Medford and his team in Austin, Texas, will take your classic Mustang, Lincoln or other classic car and give you a one of a kind ‘Lightning Rod’ that you just won’t see anywhere else.
Their most famous creation to date is the Zombie 222 demonstrator that is one of the fastest electric cars in the world. It hits 60mphin 1.79s, does 177mph and does the quarter-mile in 9.89s. Now that car is aimed at the drag strip, but if you want to gut a pristine ‘Eleanor’ and convert it to EV power for the street then Bloodshed Motors will take the job.
You can even buy a shell, a husk of a car, and the team will restore it and modify it to your exacting specification. If you’ve got the cash, Bloodshed Motors will turn your 60s pony car into a modern supercar slayer.
5. EV4U Porsche 911
Price: $23,495 + base car
A classic Porsche 911 is a thing of beauty and the 964 and 993 are revered as landmark cars that changed the course of sportscar history.
Pristine examples are shooting up in value and you’d have to be a borderline psychopath to hack up a perfect car to convert it to an EV. But there are plenty of other examples with broken engines, rusting bodies and more that could be built up into an awesome retro electric rocket.
That’s where EV4U comes in. Based in Shasta Lake, California, this company can give you a basic package, including labor, for less than $24,000. Or you can run rampant, upgrade everything and they’ll give you a total weapon.
The basic pack gives you a 14.6kWh battery pack that’s good for 60 miles of range, a HPEVS-51 that pumps out 50kW and 120lb/ft of torque and will give you roughly the same power as the Zelectrics Motors VW – because it’s the same motor. So, expect a top speed of 100mph and a 0-60mph time that would rival the original car.
6. 1985 Maserati BiTurbo EV conversion
All the way back in 1993, EV enthusiast Martti Nieminen decided to make lemonade out of the total lemon that was his 1985 Maserati BiTurbo, by fitting a battery pack and electric motor where the woefully unreliable internal combustion engine once sat.
He didn’t have the luxury of modern battery packs, so fitted 22 car batteries into a tray. It was basic, it hit 70mph and offered a 40-mile range.
The car sat in mothballs for more than a decade until Martti’s son Henric gave the car to the UK TV show Wheeler Dealers. They took it to EV West and fitted a 36kWh battery pack and a Curtis Dual-AC-34 Brushless 96V motor.
Now the car is quicker, it has a 120-mile range and the TV pair restored the rest of the car to its former glory, too.
It’s a 1980s Maserati that shouldn’t break down. That means it might just be the best 1980s Maserati in the world.
7. GT6 E-DRIVE1
This elegant Triumph TR6 conversion from Estonian company e-Drive Retro was built to prove a point. The company wants to show that it can convert any classic car and provide emissions free motoring.
The company uses advanced scanners to map the car and design the bespoke system to fit into any basic shape. As older cars tend to be lighter, the company sticks with smaller battery packs and the GT6 E-Drive1 comes with a 17.6kWh pack. That gives 70-120 miles of range, depending on your driving.
The 0-60mph time of 8.2s is a vast improvement on the petrol-engined Triumph’s 10s and the whole car weighs in at just over 2000lb. It would be intriguing to see what e-Drive Retro can do with the Mercedes 190 and Alfa Romeo Spider that are next on the agenda.
8. Mitsubishi 3000GT 1000bhp
The name Jason Hughes will ring a bell with keen readers. He’s the hacker that discovered that the Tesla P100D was on the way and that’s just the start of his shenanigans.
In his spare time, Jason is building a 1000bhp Mitsubishi 3000GT with two Tesla motors and two Chevy Bolt battery packs. He’s working on a P90D with Ludicrous Mode to cover the back axle and a smaller powerplant up front.
So this will be a 1000bhp, four-wheel-drive 3000GT. This is not normal and it’s not ready yet. When it comes, it’s going to be brutal and we’re not even going to start with the cost/benefit equation. It’s great and we love it.
Why? Why not is the simplest answer.
9. White Zombie 1972 Datsun
It’s hard to believe that the fastest electric car in the world used to be a 1972 Datsun 1200, but it all added to the subversive flavor when this car became a star.
Named White Zombie, the Datsun smoked some serious machinery on US dragstrips. It could hit 60mph in 1.8s and although the 129mph top speed wasn’t all that impressive, this car was built for the quarter-mile and pure acceleration.
The car was street legal, though, which makes it even crazier.
It was fitted with a dual armature 9-inch series and a 22.7kWh battery pack that was actually a prototype for Navy helicopters. John Wayland built this monster in 1994 and back then the 366kW and 772lb/ft of torque was serious output.
10. Chevy S-10 Smoke Screen
This is another unassuming vehicle that stomped all over the EV speed records. Drag racing icon Dennis Berube, the man behind the record breaking ‘Current Eliminator’ dragster, decided to turn this lumbering truck into a street-legal monster that could do the quarter-mile in 11.083s.
The boxy, unappealing truck came with a 13-inch wound DC motor that blessed this aerodynamic brick of a machine with 225kW of power. That was enough to send it sailing through the 60mph mark in less than three seconds and up to and beyond 120mph.
The game has moved on now, but cars like Smoke Screen laid the foundations for electric sportscars. For that, we will always be eternally grateful and we just love to look back on homebrew conversions like this that challenged the preconceptions and helped EVs gain a foothold.
The fastest street legal electric car is a Chevy S-10 called ‘Smoke Screen’ which was built and is owned by Dennis Berube, who also built the worlds fastest EV dragster ‘Current Eliminator’. The S-10 has a best time of 11.083 @ 120 mph and can accelerate to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds. The s-10 runs a series wound DC motor, in this car a 13 in diameter General Electric unit, running on 400 volts and mounted where the gearbox once was.
So, what’s your favorite?