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Together in electric dreams: classic cars are adapted to modern drivers

Wayne Campbell’s Morris Minor shines black and gleams extremely quietly through the doors of his Glenrothes garage with its classic – if somewhat chubby – lines, the chrome bumper and the shiny exterior mirrors.

The 803cc model was built in a year of gas rationing due to the Suez Crisis when stories of Russian spies swept the nation and the Ecurie Ecosse team took the checkered flag at Le Mans. It’s aged remarkably well since it rolled off the line exactly 65 years ago.

It has been tens of thousands of kilometers since 1956 – but how many is difficult to say, as the mile has only five digits. And yet, as it drives off, there isn’t even the slightest burst of exhaust to be seen pumping in from its rear end.

A classic car on the outside, under the hood, the Morris Minor has undergone an electrifying makeover to bring it up to date for a new, greener age.

After Wayne and son Euan switched the classic car from gasoline to electric battery and increased its top speed from 40 to 70 mph, they are now ripping out the environmentally harmful innards of a 1969 T2 VW campervan.

After all, it will be equipped with a very modern 75 kW Tesla battery and a Tesla drive unit, which will offer a range of up to 250 miles, turning it from a gas eater and emission-intensive to a clean machine.

For some classic car fans, ripping roaring gasoline engines out in favor of deadly deadly electrics is nothing short of sacrilege.

For more and more classic car enthusiasts, however, it is the only option to swap the unreliability of a well-used internal combustion engine for a thoroughly modern under the hood alternative.

Wayne’s Electron Garage in Fife is believed to be the only one of its kind in Scotland currently converting classic vehicles to electric vehicles.

However, a handful of specialized workshops have already sprung up in England and Wales and have turned classic cars like Triumph Stags, Porsche 356 Coupes, E-Jaguars, VW Beetles, RVs and Morgans – and even a DeLorean “Back to the Future”. in fully electric vehicles.

Celebrities have already been in the lead: the singer Ellie Goulding rolled in a VW camper van that had been retrofitted with a Tesla engine and battery until her wedding in 2019, and the Slumdog millionaire actor Dev Patel had his Fiat 500 converted to electric.

While the Duke and Duchess of Sussex drove to their wedding reception in a converted 50-year-old E-Type Jaguar for £ 350,000.

Wayne admits that not everyone is a fan of classics. But the more classics that are rebuilt, the more likely we will see vehicles from bygone days on our roads.

“There are two camps out there,” says Wayne. “They say we shouldn’t do this with a classic vehicle – and there are some cars that we don’t want to touch.

“But there are also many old-timers in garages and barns that don’t turn a wheel from year to year because they are difficult to live with.

“With a lot of older cars, you always need a toolkit when you go out for a drive. You collapse and you are left on the side of the road.

“Electrification gives it a new life and helps it keep going for another 20 or 30 years. You can ride it without having to worry about getting where you want to go. ”

The government’s plans to crack down on low-emission diesel and gasoline cars, as well as the prospect of low-emission zones in city centers, are causing some owners to rethink how they will power their classic car in the future.

The combination of environmentally conscious millennials longing for retro design and older “petrol heads” who try to revisit the cars of their youth and may be reluctant to accept their emissions is less than friendly, but it should also fuel the trend.

The Morris Minor’s engine, fuel tank and various other original components were removed and replaced with an electric motor and 24 kW batteries from a Nissan Leaf that insurers wrote off after an accident.

Putting the new technology in the old car was far from easy as parts were salvaged from other cars and even a motorcycle helped fuse the old with the new.

The mere challenge of squeezing the new components into a tiny engine and trunk space was difficult: In the end, the entire battery would not fit.

This means the range is limited to only about 70 miles – but, Wayne adds, enough for a city car.

At Car Cave Scotland in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, Alan Potts specializes in selling classic cars to enthusiasts – and business is booming.

Few, he thinks, would want to trade the roar of a classic motor for the quiet hum of an electric motor.

“The general consensus among classic cars is that you would ruin your classic car,” he says.

“If you have a Morris Minor or MG Mgb Gt that might be worth £ 5,000-10,000 and then convert it, you’re going to affect the value of the car a little, but not massively.

“However, if you convert an E-Type Jaguar to electric, the value of the car will be significantly reduced.

“And with some old cars like an Aston Martin, the sound they make is everything,” he continues. “To turn on the engine and suddenly there is a hissing noise … it throws a little courage out of the car.”

But electricity is the future: the Scottish government has set a goal of phasing out the need for new gasoline and diesel cars and vans by 2030, reducing emissions by 75% by 2030 and to zero by 2045.

Subsidies have also been introduced to help motorists buy electric vehicles, provide tax breaks for drivers of low-emission vehicles and £ 20.6 million has been invested to support the introduction of electric vehicles.

Even so, Alan says the demand for retro gasoline classics – especially old favorites from the 1970s and 1980s that he imports from South Africa – is growing rapidly.

“There’s a massive demand,” he says. “We change around 20 classic Fords every month. If we had more of certain models, we would postpone even more.

“The most popular are Escort Mark 1 and 2, Capris, Cortinas. Then there is the generation that wants XR3s and XRS turbos, which are very popular.

“People want the car they wanted when they were young – there are a lot of people between the ages of 30 and 40 who buy cars that they remember dad drove.

“In the case of the Ford Granada, the guys always fought them and destroyed them. Now they’re getting nostalgic for those old cars.

“Yes, the emissions are pretty dire for some, but they don’t travel that much,” adds Alan, who sells cars across the UK and often exports to countries as far as Canada, the Czech Republic and even New Zealand Zealand.

“I like old cars,” he adds, “I like to go home with oily hands. If you use an electric motor, you will tear the heart apart from them. “In Glenrothes, the £ 50,000 VW campervan will be converted to electricity. “We had a lot of inquiries, including whether to convert an old Land Rover,” added Wayne.

“People have been taking cars and adapting them for years – it’s no different.

“I think interest in switching from classic cars to electric cars will increase once people become aware of what can be done.”


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