Can your Honda Accord go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds? Jim Belosic’s can. Belosic turned a car that he bought as a replica of his high school ride into a rear-wheel-drive Gasser-style electric car using drivetrain bits from a Tesla Model S P85. He calls this roughly 536-horsepower frankencar the Teslonda, and believe it or not, he plans to turn it into a daily driveable car.
Belosic first became enamored with the idea of an electric car through a friend’s Nissan Leaf, of all things. While he said it was the “least impressive electric you can buy,” he saw great potential there to soup it up. It was quiet, smooth and torquey.
He and his friends have been hot rodding cars for years, wrenching on everything from a Delorean to a steam-powered car. Given the rise of electric cars, they figured that it was time to build an EV so their skills wouldn’t become obsolete. Belosic first thought of picking up a salvage Leaf to tinker with, but found salvaged Tesla parts first, which would give him the power he craved right out of the box.
Belosic bought a salvage 414 kW Tesla Model S P85 motor and inverter from HSR Motors, but then they needed to find a car to swap it into. Fortunately, it was right under his nose: a 1981 Honda Accord.
It was a car Jim had bought because it was exactly like his first car from 1996. The first car—as with many of our first cars—had long been destroyed, so he initially bought this one our of nostalgia. He spent five years looking for one with the exact same trim as his old car: a 1981 Accord in Oslo Ivory paint with a five-speed manual transmission. But he wasn’t driving it much anymore and had considered selling it.
As with any car you love, Jim said, “if they’re sitting a while, it hurts.”
Future-proofing the car—in case conventional gasoline fuel ever goes away—sounded like a much better idea. Better yet, the idea of stuffing a Tesla drivetrain into a tiny, lightweight 1980s sedan would cause people to “lose their frickin’ minds.”
Belosic’s Tesla swap shockingly didn’t add a lot of weight to the car. The Accord weighed only 2,350 pounds from the factory, and after the swap—as it sits right now—it was 2,418 lbs. That 2,418 lbs doesn’t include the carpet, which Belosic still needs to reinstall, but does include the backseat and an afghan his grandma knitted for him to cover his original Accord’s backseat, which was in rough shape.
Automakers didn’t think a lot about saving weight in the early 80s, so the components he took out of the Honda were heavier than you might expect. Lighter weight materials like aluminum didn’t become common until later, so the original Californian emissions-choked engine was pretty heavy. The engine, transmission, subframe, rear suspension, gas tank and exhaust of the Honda all had to come out to make way for the swap.
The Honda engine was sold on Facebook, and lives on in an Accord enthusiast’s restoration project. Waste not, etc., you know the drill.
While the Teslonda’s main parts came from the Model S, other parts were often bought based on what fit in a given space and still work with the car. They didn’t plan this build so much as put things together and see what fits. Belosic’s final build sheet has a hilarious variety of donor vehicles as a result.
The heaviest parts went in first. The new motor, inverter and subframe were all from a Model S P85, weighing 528 lbs on their own. A 436-pound battery pack from a Chevrolet Volt went in the engine bay. The battery pack was shipped in from a salvage yard in Texas, and was chosen because it would fit the space relatively well and provide the car with adequate power for what they wanted to do.
What’s fascinating is that the motor isn’t really what determines the horsepower of an EV—the inverter and battery pack do. Any contacts, fuses and cables needed to be rated appropriately for that system. They quickly learned this when the factory fuse for the Chevy Volt battery pack blew, as it was only rated for 300 amps.
As this was his first EV build, Jim limited the output of his electrical system to 1,200 amps and 400 volts out of safety concerns. Whenever he tried adding more power, there would be spikes of power upon launching the car.
The addition of these items didn’t all fit neatly under the Honda at its stock ride height—they added about six inches of height in the front. Gasser-style drag builds from the 1960s inspired Jim to leave his Honda riding high. Also, the idea of an electric Gasser—a contradiction in terms if there ever was one—made him chuckle.
So, the rear came up to meet the front. Belosic’s solution was to chop the rear fenders and fit huge, 305/45 R18-size Mickey Thompson ET Street R street-legal drag tires in the back that evened out the height of the car.
Making the battery pack work for the space was a real challenge as well. The Volt battery pack took up the space where the Accord’s front suspension and steering box would usually go. That was fine because the Model S drivetrain was rear-wheel-drive anyway, thus necessitating a big departure from the Honda’s front-wheel-drive tech. So, Belosic sourced the front steering and suspension parts used on Fords between 1928 and 1941 to make it all fit.
The Ford straight axle and leaf springs took up far less space in the front of the car than the stock Honda parts. The new assembly moved the front suspension further inboard and made the front steering radius a bit tighter. Yet actually turning the car will take some effort. A manual steering box from a Chevrolet Vega was found to mate with the rest of the Teslonda’s front end, and it takes a full five turns to go from lock to lock.
The rear-wheel-drive conversion also involved reinforcing the subframe in the back of the car, else the car might fold in on itself. This rear-wheel-drive conversion was the biggest challenge of the build, as Belosic was dealing with a lot of power that was set to be connected to really cheap, thin metal in the back of the Accord. Honda didn’t send any power to the rear wheels, so there wasn’t much reason to reinforce the rear of the car when it was built.
The car certainly has power now. While there’s room in the software to adjust the throttle to different settings, in its current guise, the car is making around 536 horsepower. Torque notoriously hard to measure for electric drivetrains on, say, a conventional dyno, so Belosic simply noted, “It makes all the torque.”
Strengthening the rear was like building an entire second chassis underneath the car, as Jim wanted it to be safe to do excellent wheelies with all that torque. New metal was welded to the chassis to shore it up.
Belosic said that if he builds another Tesla-powered electric conversion, he’ll probably start off with a car that was already rear-wheel-drive to make this part a lot simpler—but still loves the character of this build.
Adding the drivetrain into the newly shored-up Accord was relatively easy in comparison. Parts for EVs are fairly modular. Only four bolts mount the Tesla subframe to the car.
This allowed the Teslonda to be an insanely fast build. Belosic and his friends started researching the car about two weeks before Christmas, and ordered the battery pack and Model S drivetrain parts over Christmas break. They started cutting into the car the first week of January and had it driving by February 7.
From there, the car received a cornucopia of other parts that made it work. The radiator came from a 500-cc Polaris quad, because it was a good cheap aluminum one that would fit. The water pump came from an Audi S4 because it was designed to keep running after the car shut down to better take care of the hot forced induction S4 engine. The rear assembly from the Tesla included the Model S’s Brembo disc brakes, so Wilwood disc brakes were added on the front axle to complete the system.
Last but not least, a charging port was added where the Accord’s fuel filler used to be, under the filler door. This was one of the trickiest parts to source, as it involved using Google Translate to navigate Chinese websites for auto suppliers that made them.
Using a stock unit from another EV would have been extremely difficult to reverse engineer to work with his car, as they all come programmed to work with various cars’ CAN bus systems out the door. So, he bought an un-branded Chinese version called a “TC Charger.” There were no instructions, but they made it work.
Inside the car, it all looks relatively normal. Jim’s coworker Mike Mathews made a retro-style dashboard for the car using an HSR Motors-supplied CAN bus controller. There, they can get motor temperature, inverter ROM, power, throttle input and other vital car data.
From here, Belosic needs to finish out the interior a bit to make it daily driveable. There’s no heater, so he added heated seats. He also has the air conditioner from a Nissan Leaf. It’s down to adding in the little comfort and luxury items like the interior carpet, and making sure the seatbelts and windows work.
When the weather gets warmer, he also wants to do some shakedown wheelies and go test it at a drag strip. He’s not quite sure what the range is just yet as a result, but expects to get 60 to 70 miles out of one charge given the fact that the Volt battery pack gets around 40 to 50 miles per charge in the heavier Volt.
Overall, Belosic said that jumping from tinkering with more conventionally-powered vehicles to electrics was a pretty steep learning curve, but he believes that much of the aversion to tinkering with EVs is probably due to their unfamiliarity. It’s still relatively new technology, and as we get more used to electric cars, they will become less scary to work with.
The battery pack in particular was an item they approached with care. The first couple times they went to attach it, someone else was standing ready with a broom to swat anyone who got shocked and went down. Luckily, Belosic said he only got shocked by the system once, and it really wasn’t that bad.
At the end of the day, his EV build has the same primary issue as any other build in history. “Every time you fix something, there’s a new problem,” Belosic said.
Putting the effort into making his humble Accord utterly insane made Belosic fall in love with it all over again. It went from being just another car where the nostalgia wore off to a creation all his own with the electric conversion.
“Once more car guys experience get to experience what it’s like to drive an electric, they’ll be stoked,” said Belosic.
Even the most hardcore EV-hater would have a hard time saying that this over 500 horsepower build isn’t an improvement over the stock Accord engine, which only made about 40 to 50 horsepower with all the extra California-mandated emissions equipment.
This won’t be his last electric build, either. Next up, he’d like to build a full-size version of an RC10 radio control car. That’s our kind of toy, for sure.
You can see more of the Teslonda build in progress on Belosic’s Instagram here.
We’re featuring the coolest project cars from across the internet on Build of the Week. What insane build have you been wrenching on lately? Drop me a line at stef dot schrader at jalopnik dot com with “Build of the Week” somewhere in the subject line if you’d like to be featured here.