Currently reading: James Ruppert: better uses for £25k than Teslafying your classic
Swapping an EV powertrain into a heritage motor? Sacrilege, says our used car expert
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5 mins read
21 July 2020

I recently spoke to one of those specialist firms that convert classic cars into EVs, which is basically sacrilege. It was an interesting chat, and it turns out to be good business, especially as prices start at £25,000.

Seems like a waste of a finite resource to me. And although old cars can break down often, that’s a high price to pay for reliability. Also, classics don’t usually do that many miles. If the idea is to electrify them for everyday usability, which is how it was sold to me, we must all be doing something wrong. Either that or we have less money but more common sense than the EV early adopters.

The thing is, £25,000 will buy you the most interesting modes of personal transportation in the world, none of which need a three-pin plug.

I started with Toyota and was going after something sporty but became very distracted by the wonderful FJ Cruiser. Compared with the average uninteresting SUV, this grey import really is a Tonka toy for grown-ups. A specialist had a 2012 example in super-bright orange for £24,750. It was being marketed as an alt-Defender but without the complication and all the retro appeal. Also, Toyota stopped making the FJ Cruiser a couple of years ago.

Then I found myself deep down the Alpina rabbit hole, which contains some of the most stone-cold rarities around. A modest five-figure sum also buys BMWs from the time when BMWs were still truly handsome and desirable. These were the ultimate driving machines and then some.

So I was tempted, especially as a 2000 B10 Touring was on offer for just £10,995. Apparently there were just 12 of these made in right-hand drive. It had done more than 150,000 miles and had been in storage, but there was a ton of history and it was being sold by a dealer, for whom there are obligations. Pretty, practical and a hoot to drive: that’s perfect, surely?

Jaguar doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability, admittedly, but it seems the time has come for the XJS. It looks so ’70s, was at home in the ’80s and lived into the ’90s, and from there much of it survived into the XK, so you can easily get all of the parts, even for the V12.

I was therefore excited to discover a 1986 XJS-C with less than 80,000 miles and plenty of random bills for £12,995. It seemed to be on the button, although I inferred from reading between the lines of the advert that it was a part-exchange, so perhaps it would need some fettling. Not £13,000’s worth, though.

So, before leaping into the brave new world of electrifying classics, consider that there’s so much fun to be had enjoying what’s already out there – sometimes with a V8 or V12.

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Comments
18

bol

21 July 2020

It might not make sense yet for most of us to convert old cars to electric, but the early adopters are funding all the R&D that will enable us to do it better and more cheaply when the time comes. There will be a time in the not too distant future when if you want to use your classic daily - which is great after all - it won't be socially acceptable unless it's converted. 

21 July 2020

Another unprovoked anti EV rant by Mr Ruppert. He really comes across as an old dinosaur.  

Converting classics to EV is still an artisanal pursuit, but will become more common, and people spend i ordinates amounts of money restoring classic vehicles, so suggesting they spend the money doing so on modern alternatives is obtuse. He should check out the EV Ferrari 308 for the benefits of an EV conversion.

21 July 2020

I'd agree in certain circumstances binning a characterful petrol engine would be sacrilege. However, there are lots iconic classic cars with wonderful designs that have basic or humdrum engines where binning the ICE drivetrain would not impact on the enjoyment of it - perhaps the opposite. I'm thinking Citroen DS.

21 July 2020

I cannot agree that electrifying classics is a waste,. Why do people love classics, it's the look , the style, the reminder of youth. There are very few classics where someone buys it cos it's got a great old BMC A series engine, or any other , low bhp , oil dispensing piece of history. Exception agreed though, for the very high cost , hugely expensive to maintain exotics  .

I'd rather see dozens of EV classics used every day, than uninteresting new econobox ICE motors, or an old Alpina every other Bank Holiday . 

Love the FJ though , what a major fail by Toyota not to import in numbers, and plenty of strength to take that Tesla power pack !

21 July 2020
In an ideal world, the postwar era would have been loaded with electric cars, so if you're a fan of electric propulsion (which is a concept that still eludes Ruppert) and a fan of classics, you could just buy an electric classic.

We don't live in that world, though. There was virtually nothing purely electric on sale between 1930 and 2008. Hell, to date there has only ever been *one* mass-produced electric sports car. If you want the style and thrill of a classic, and the responsiveness, thrust, refinement, reliability and lack of toxic fumes of an electric powertrain, conversions are the only option.

Instead of complaining about how enthusiasts choose to spend their money, how about recommending models that are ideal for conversion?

21 July 2020
I personally think it's a great idea, it's surely got to be more environmentally responsible than buying a totally new build EV and has the added bonus of keeping interesting cars on the road. I don't agree with the sacrilege bit at all, irrespective of the engine or classic as it is totally the owners choice, it's no different to the resto mod scene in a lot of ways.
Also it's surely only a matter of time before legislation prevents the use of ice cars meaning only the really rich will be able to use their classics for special events.

Looking at James' innocenti, electrifying it would be great, a far more interesting EV than most others on the road and it'd probably increase its value as legislation changes as opposed to the value of any alternative ice mentioned plummeting at the same time.

I'd love to electrify my na eunos. Be a bit different and I'd have no concerns that I'm going to be legislated off the road or that I am being socially irresponsible pumping out toxic emissions.

bol

21 July 2020
si73 wrote:

I personally think it's a great idea, it's surely got to be more environmentally responsible than buying a totally new build EV and has the added bonus of keeping interesting cars on the road. I don't agree with the sacrilege bit at all, irrespective of the engine or classic as it is totally the owners choice, it's no different to the resto mod scene in a lot of ways. Also it's surely only a matter of time before legislation prevents the use of ice cars meaning only the really rich will be able to use their classics for special events. Looking at James' innocenti, electrifying it would be great, a far more interesting EV than most others on the road and it'd probably increase its value as legislation changes as opposed to the value of any alternative ice mentioned plummeting at the same time. I'd love to electrify my na eunos. Be a bit different and I'd have no concerns that I'm going to be legislated off the road or that I am being socially irresponsible pumping out toxic emissions.

 

Id love to electrify my NA Eunos too. And I intend to when it's economically viable. 200bhp, 200miles range, less than 200kg ballast and £10k is my threshold. 

21 July 2020
bol wrote:

si73 wrote:

I personally think it's a great idea, it's surely got to be more environmentally responsible than buying a totally new build EV and has the added bonus of keeping interesting cars on the road. I don't agree with the sacrilege bit at all, irrespective of the engine or classic as it is totally the owners choice, it's no different to the resto mod scene in a lot of ways. Also it's surely only a matter of time before legislation prevents the use of ice cars meaning only the really rich will be able to use their classics for special events. Looking at James' innocenti, electrifying it would be great, a far more interesting EV than most others on the road and it'd probably increase its value as legislation changes as opposed to the value of any alternative ice mentioned plummeting at the same time. I'd love to electrify my na eunos. Be a bit different and I'd have no concerns that I'm going to be legislated off the road or that I am being socially irresponsible pumping out toxic emissions.

 

Id love to electrify my NA Eunos too. And I intend to when it's economically viable. 200bhp, 200miles range, less than 200kg ballast and £10k is my threshold. 

Still feels like a pipe dream at the mo' though, we could be waiting a while for it to be affordable.

21 July 2020

The 1970's just called - they need their articles back.

21 July 2020

Glad it's not just me thinking this about Mr Ruppert. There isn't anybody reading this article who would be swayed by it, I don't think - but some who would not think of an EV anyway will have their views reinforced by it. Conversions are terrifyingly expensive at the moment (not that my iPace is cheap) but hopefully they will become cheaper. I wish I had kept my first car (a 72 Beetle) to have it converted to EV

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