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Retro electric cars

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

Electric cars are getting an old face lift as people convert retro cars to electric engines.

Admire the trendy aesthetic of an old car but fear the dreaded breakdowns that come with an old engine? Well apparently a lot of people feel the same. The retro electric car market is taking off in Australia at the moment with individuals looking to mod old cars.

"'For years, people weren't interested in EV conversions. The change seemed to happen overnight, about 18 months ago', says Russ Shepherd, a director of a Melbourne EV conversion garage.'We kept getting asked and asked and asked'".

Some of the big auto brands are getting involved with announcements of electric versions of some of their classic cars.

Hyundai have released concepts of its 1985 Grandeur luxury sedan, as well as its 1975 Hyundai Pony:

The new design includes modern elements like Hyundai's Parametric Pixel LED headlights, similar to what's found in the Ioniq 5 EV. At the same time retro touches inside the car include burgundy velvet and Napa leather.

The interiors of both concept EVs are updated with technology appropriate for 2021 with a widescreen infotainment dashboard on the Grandeur and steampunk-like Nixie tube display on the Pony.

VW has also recently announced that its iconic Microbus will be reinvented as an electric van called the ID.Buzz. The van has a stubby but sleek and curvy body with a psychedelic aesthetic that maybe harks back to its iconised heritage within the Woodstock era.

There are also electric versions of the Hummer, the Ford F150 pickup and the Jeep Wrangler coming out soon.

But if you want to take a conversion into your own hands what are some things you need to know first?

It's a greener way to move:

Not only are you removing a particularly inefficient engine you're breathing new life into an old car. With rules and regulations coming into effect that might ban the use of certain engines both globally and locally, this will become relevant for more than just the retro cars. Cars will hopefully be upcycled more often than sent to the scrapyard.

A key consideration of conversion viability is weight: A heavy chassis is not very suitable for electric car conversion as it would mean adding additional batteries to power the vehicle. A lot of old iconic Aussie cars are not viable for this reason, whereas Japanese cars like the Datsun are sought after.


It's not a particular cheap pursuit, although as the price of batteries eventually decrease this will become more financially manageable. When talking to the ABC Chris Jones, national secretary of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA), said ""If you want something that goes more than 150km to a charge and maintains a highway speed, you're going to be spending north of $30,000...If you want to do a really good conversion of an old car, you're going to spend as much money as buying a new electric car." It's also worth making sure that you're not ripping out the engine of a rare car.

A 1965 Ford Cortina, Image Source: ABC News

Zara Cooper

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