Is it sacrilegious to convert the purest of the performance-minded sports cars of the 20th century into an electric vehicle, devoid of the fumes of a catless British motor and mechanical clunks of a four speed manual transmission? Honestly, who cares? It’s 2021. Montero (Call Me By Your Name), widely decried for its provocative and unorthodox portrayals of religion and sexuality, has 69 million views (nice) as I write this. Sacrilege is fun if you’re enjoying yourself, and today’s featured EV owner, Ron Toms, understands this on a core level.
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.
That brings us to the car of this week’s focus, a 1960 Triumph TR3. Toms’ Triumph was a homebrew conversion, just like last week’s Chevy and VW pair, but this one definitely keeps the original sporting appearance even if it chucked out the smoggy original drivetrain.
Toms bought this Triumph as a complete car to be enjoyed as the manufacturer built it. It is British, so it broke down nearly instantly, as that is what the manufacturer intended. Mechanical maladies plagued Toms for months on end. He spent weeks trying to diagnose it, taking it to mechanics that could not sort it, hitting forums for solutions that evaded him, and eventually was prepared to let it sit and collect dust when he decided that electrification could solve his problems. Toms grappled with the sacrilege of the swap, but he came around to it, as he put it in his book (more on that in a bit!):
What’s the use of having such a beautiful car just to take up space in your garage? I bought it to drive, not to be garage candy.
The swap made sense from a power standpoint, too. The Triumph is propelled by a 120-horsepower Netgain Hyper-9 HV giving it a 43 HP gain over the stock ICE motor, with another extra 50 lb-ft of torque thrown in for good measure. He weighed the full drivetrain of the dead OEM Triumph drivetrain and compared it with the new electric setup. They were within 15 pounds of each other. Not a bad tradeoff at all considering it’ll now run for a decade plus without so much as an oil change. At 80 miles of range, it’s plenty for weekly trips to visit his father out in the country. These are much more restive journeys than when they were gas-powered:
It’s therapeutic to make that drive at with the top down, feeling the warm breeze, going 40 mph noiselessly without any exhaust fumes — every TR3 I drove had the smell of exhaust fumes sucking into the cabin - and most importantly, in confidence that I won’t have any breakdowns along the way.
Toms and his 14-year-old son did the swap together as their pandemic project. Toms has a background in engineering and has wired up home solar installations in the past, so it was well within his skill set. As a bonus, his son was going for a Boy Scouts automotive merit badge and is studying robotics. The Triumph promised to be a perfect father-son undertaking!
The project took the two of them six months, working a day or two a week. All told, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 125 hours to go from the dead combustion engine to a functioning EV. The swap was pieced together with components purchased from a smattering of different EV shops, with a 21 kWh battery pack and DC-DC converter (to allow for power on the existing 12V wiring) coming from Electric Car Parts Company. The charger, power gauge, and other accessories coming from Thunderstruck-EV. The project was built around the motor, which Toms chose for the excellent power/weight ratio it offered, and he bought it from Moment Motors in Austin.
Toms used the conversion as a learning experience for both him and his son. He realized that a lot of the resources he planned to rely on — YouTube videos, forum posts, and the like — were outdated already with how fast EV technology has changed. He already had some technical skills, so he decided to put his experiences to use and wrote a self-published book as a basic guide to EV swaps. He plans to update the book yearly as more information and technology develops, and he’ll be undertaking more projects to stay on top of the industry. His next goal, already in sight, is to convert a ‘59 Bug.
For his son, this was his introduction to wrenching, which I think is fantastic. So often we see hand-wringing about future generations picking up the mantle of our hobby, and hearing from a reader about a 14-year-old building an electric sports car with his dad is exactly the kind of story that puts those fears to rest.
This was the kind of story I honestly hoped I would have the chance to write about in these features for two reasons. First, because I genuinely wish for the electrification of classics to become commonplace, and as the last two EV Ownership Stories have shown, it definitely is off to a promising start! Second, I really hope that EVs will be an excellent way for Generation Z — and younger —to immerse themselves in car culture and bring forward a new era of customization and tuning, and Toms and his son are helping usher forward that new epoch of modification. Thank you so much for sharing, Toms, and I’ll be looking forward to your Bug! 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!