San Diego shops turning classic cars into EVs

AC Cobra, BMW M3, Ferrari 308 and VW Beetle have all been electrified

Published: November 5, 2017, 9:30 PM
Updated: November 10, 2017, 6:39 AM

Zelectric VW Beetle EV conversion

Zelectric Volkswagen Beetle

One of the criticisms leveled at electrified vehicles in the past was that they looked funny. Manufacturers often labeled their designs as “futuristic” but many consumers just thought the early hybrid, and then fully electric vehicles, looked strange.

And although some of today’s electrified vehicles still feature radical and polarizing designs, many of today’s hybrids and EVs look like the non-electric versions of their respective models. The idea is to make it harder for consumers to choose the electric version — it looks the same, has pretty much all the same equipment and, in some cases, drives very similarly.

EV West Electric BMW M3

So younger consumers are stepping up and taking a chance, but what about older drivers, especially those who still have memories of classic performance cars? I mean a Tesla Model S may be a fine performer but it’s no AC Cobra, right?

But what if it was?

Several southern California shops are buying up electric parts and components from crashed electric vehicles and using them to convert classic cars to hybrid and electric vehicles. Yup! You can theoretically have an electric AC Cobra or a Volkswagen bus.

Stealth EV Hummer H2 hybrid conversion

Stealth EV was founded in 2015 by Matthew Hauber, based on the business model of another shop he helped co-found in 2010, EV West, which is still doing business also in the San Diego area. One of its latest projects is the creation of an electric AC Cobra, albeit a carbon-fibre bodied replica, fitted with the powertrain from a Model S, and has also converted a Volkswagen Thing.

EV West itself has transformed a scrapped 1978 Ferrari 308 GTE into a refurbished and converted electric car, as well as several “lesser” models, such as a 1995 BMW M3 it raced at the famous Pike’s Peak climb.

Stealth EV Volkswagen Microbus EV conversion

Stealth EV has also collaborated with electric propulsion start-ups such as Goodwin Assist in the conversion of a Hummer H2 to a hybrid powertrain, and with Zelectric Motors in the creation of electric versions of classic Volkswagens — a 1963 Beetle and a Type 2 van.

The companies are also expanding with their own builds, and putting out concepts to showcase the possibilities of electric vehicles, and Zelectric promises on its website to match owners with the right one-of-a-kind electric vehicle, although it is pleased to convert that classic that may be sitting in the garage.