May 20, 2024

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Classic vehicles could make a comeback as EVs with ‘all the bells and whistles’

If you love the look of older model cars but still want all the bells and whistles of a modern electric vehicle (EV), you might just be able to get your wish.

This month, three electric vehicles were revealed at the SEMA show in Las Vegas — the Hyundai Grandeur, Hyundai Pony and Ford F-100.

Automotive journalist Kay Layne said the throwback models have caught the attention of automotive enthusiasts.

“They are taking a giant leap backwards on these three automobiles,” Layne told CBC Windsor. 

“When you look at the [Hyundai Grandeur], you would think it’s something that you saw in your parents’ photo albums — it’s square, it’s boxy, it looks like it came straight out of an old cop movie.”

“The only difference is it’s got LED lights … Once you look in, you see screens, you’re seeing GPS, everything you would see in a new car today. But on the outside, it looks authentic,” Layne said.

So, even though it might have been an old chug along, now you can have a quick, sweet ride that looks like your grandfather’s car and stand out a little.– Kay Layne, automotive journalist

According to Layne, the joyful thing with these great motors is that “you can drop them into your grandpa’s car that he left behind, you can take out, swap out the gasoline engine, swap in a green motor.”

Layne believes a lot of classic car owners will switch over to electric, adding that people are tired of going out in the shopping mall and looking for a car because it looks exactly like everything else.

“The joyful thing is, it doesn’t run like a 1974 vehicle. You still have Jeeps. You don’t have to crank up the windows like they did in the good old days. You have all the bells and whistles of today, but when you walk out, you’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s my pimp mobile over there.'”

Richard Truett, the engineering and technology reporter for Automotive News in Detroit, said he’s seeing more and more people open to the idea of converting a classic car to an electric powertrain.

But he said for most people, — even automobile enthusiasts — it’s a job that’s beyond their skill set.

This is where the automaker comes in.

“We’re starting to see companies now spring up and design a safe package, I guess you would call it, for the batteries and for the electric motor and the other components,” Truett told CBC Windsor. 

“Companies like General Motors and Ford are already thinking about designing complete packages that you can buy from the dealership that would allow you, or a company that you hire, to do it.”

Automotive journalist Kay Layne believes a lot of classic car owners will switch over to electric. (Canadian Transportation Museum)

Pointing to the switch from carburetors to fuel injection as an example, Truett said he expects to see even more people opting for an electric powertrain for their older cars and trucks.

“When fuel injection replaced carburetors, for a very long time, people did not go anywhere near fuel injection because it was computerized and you needed skills and special equipment to install a new injection system on an old car,” he said. 

“Today, it’s probably easier to install a fuel injection system than it is a carburetor because you buy all the components and you can tune it with your laptop computer and it’s as simple as bolting the system onto the motor. So, high technology does not mean that it will not filter down to the enthusiast car owner someday.”

Lure of the electric powertrain

Truett said he understands the lure of the electric powertrain.

“It’s instant torque. In other words, when you step on the accelerator, you go faster and smoother and quieter, and it’s an incredible feeling,” he said.

“I understand why people would be interested in converting a classic car to electric power, and I do think that in the future, we’re going to see more of that.” 

Truett said a battery pack for a car like a Toyota Prius or a Chevy Bolt is between $10,000 and $15,000.

“It’s very, very expensive. So, prices will have to come down before it becomes widespread,” he said. 

“But will it be part of the future makeup of classic cars? I absolutely think it will be,” Truett added.