The humble origins of hot rodding date back over half a century, when amateur mechanics turned wrenches on simple and inexpensive old cars with tired motors to breathe new life into them. Today’s featured EV owner, Danny, has the spirit of hot rodding transported to a new millennium, updating old machines with electric drivetrains, and building something wholly new out of them.
Welcome to EV Ownership Stories! Every week, we’ll be posting an interview with an owner of an electric vehicle. We’re here to show that people have been living with EVs for longer than you’d think, in stranger places than you’d imagine. If you’d like to be featured, instructions are at the bottom of the article.
Danny’s two-car electric vehicle garage consists of a 1948 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup and a 1969 VW Karmann Ghia. Clearly, this is not the average electric fleet, and suffice it to say these are converted, not factory vehicles. Danny and his wife did the conversions themselves, first to the truck, and then to the svelte Volkswagen.
The truck was Danny’s second choice for an EV swap due to his love of the platform. (The first choice, a kit-car Cobra he purchased, came with a 351 Windsor and was his introduction to wrenching, so he left that one ICE powered.) He found a clean-bodied but mechanically exhausted ‘48 3100 for sale, and quickly ended up deep into a frame-off restoration. Before the batteries and motors could even be put into the truck, he upgraded the steering, brakes, gave it a new rear end, fully refreshed the interior, and gave it a new wiring harness, among other upgrades.
With those issues addressed, he placed an EV West conversion into the refreshed truck. A pair of HPEVS AC-34 motors power the rear wheels, with a bed full of repurposed Smart car batteries hidden under a wooden floor. It was christened the Electruck, and with an 80-mile range and over 200 lb-ft of torque, it has stats that compete with modern plug-in cars. What modern cars don’t have is its indisputable uniqueness and charisma, not to mention head-turning ability. In Danny’s words “it’s a real conversation piece” at Cars and Coffee, which I could imagine.
The Ghia came into the picture while the truck was out at a shop for rust repair and paint after the electric conversion was completed. The process dragged on for months, and Danny found himself with the itch for another project. The Karmann Ghia has a roof, unlike his Cobra, and EV conversions are doable on them, so it was a perfect choice for him and his wife. They drove the car for six months to try and uncover any glaring mechanical issues, and then they drivetrain-swapped the car in just 10 days. As Danny put it ,“they were very very long days and I would not recommend that kind of timeline to anyone, but we did it! There were a couple of fixes and tweaks in the weeks after, but it’s been a super great car.” His wife now dailies it to work when the weather is nice out.
Both cars use entirely off-the-shelf EV conversion parts with the exception of the batteries in the truck. Danny entirely self-taught for the Electruck conversion from Youtube, though he also has an electrical engineering degree. He admits it gave him an excellent foundation to start from. The Ghia parts were all purchased from a company called EV4U that came with nine hours of instructional videos, which he used to supplement his knowledge. He even used them to fix a few things on the truck after the fact! When I asked him how difficult it was to do, he said it’s not as simple as a yes or a no. “There’s so much info online nowadays it’s a little overwhelming and hard to build a mental framework to fit in all the details. It’s not all that complicated once you’ve actually done it though.”
The only downside of these projects was that as he put it, “now my garage is full and I don’t have room for another project,” I must respond as a millennial with “mood.”
I have long been excited to see old vehicles upgraded with modern hardware that isn’t just another LS pro touring car with those same five-spoke mags, so seeing a pair of electrified classics with such good style is a joy for me, personally. Thank you so much for sharing your fantastic electric collection, Danny! We’d love to hear from more readers about their EVs, modern or classic, factory or otherwise.
What car do you own? (If you owned a car in the past, let us know what years!)
Where do you live with it?
How and where do you charge it?
How was buying it?
How long have you had it?
How has it lived up to your expectations?
A photo of your car
If you want to be interviewed, please let us know an email with an re: EV Ownership Stories to tscott at jalopnik dot com!