Classic cars transcend generations and interests have an enduring style. Just mention Jaguar to an enthusiast and the sleek E Type with its long, curvy hood and narrow waist will no doubt come to mind. Even Enzo Ferrari himself called this car the most beautiful car ever made.
Mustang lovers will picture a first-generation, maybe a Mach I or Boss 302, while the word Mopar, Chrysler’s performance division, brings to mind any number of muscle cars from Chargers to ‘Cudas to the original winged Daytona or Superbird.
To the Porsche aficionado, a 356 or 911 are the only worthy examples.
And how can you not think of a basic roadster when someone mentions an MG?
Some of these vehicles are growing long in years and fewer in number as time goes by. Some have lost favorability with successive generations, while others are becoming too rare, priceless or difficult to maintain.
The elephant in the room is the future of fuel. No, it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but there may come a day in the future that gasoline goes the way of steam power. Already, in Europe, several major cities are banning internal combustion engine-powered vehicles.
I’m not here to debate whether a law that draconian is fair or sensible, but the automotive landscape is undeniably changing.
What will become of these classic cars? Is a static display or becoming a museum piece their future? And what of their investment value and the very worth of such an item that can no longer be used as intended?
Some of the most precious and collectible vehicles can reach well into the six- and seven-figure range at the hands of a good auctioneer and a carefully recorded pedigree.
One might be hard-pressed to raise their paddle for such an item that can never be fully enjoyed, save for their aesthetic contribution to automotive culture.
Fear not, enthusiasts, great minds and skilled craftsmen are already hard at work crafting the future power for cars of the past. Automotive purists should stop reading now and instead spend their time contemplating the ideal setting for a life-sized diorama that will show off their favorite vintage auto.
For the rest, electric power is clearing the way for these sinuous sports cars to continue prowling the pavement.
I know what you’re thinking, it’s blasphemy! Even the open-minded might take offense at such a Frankenstein approach. It’s akin to putting the heart of a pussycat in the body of a lion.
Or is it?
Modern electric motors weigh a fraction of their internal combustion cousins, and the torque and horsepower are off the charts by comparison.
Batteries are heavy, it’s true, and they can’t go quite as far or as long as a tank of gas. Yet, on the positive side (that’s a battery pun), batteries can be distributed throughout the vehicle; they can sit low in the frame to keep the center of gravity down; and they can be replaced easily.
Modern batteries and fast-charging systems have come a long way and when applied to classic cars that generally stay closer to home, those limitations aren’t as concerning.
Jaguar Classic division in Coventry, England, broke into the factory classic car arena with their E-Type Reborn, a fully restored and upgraded vintage Series 1 E-Type, fresh from Jaguar themselves.
Available in limited numbers as resources allow, these classic Jaguars are now available as fully electric vehicles known as the E-Type Zero.
Utilizing components from their new, fully electric I-Pace, the EV powertrain takes up the same space as the original straight-six gas engine and transmission.
The installation is fully reversible, so the value of the original vehicle remains unaltered.
Aston Martin is offering a similar conversion to customers' cars and their first unveiling, a vintage 1970 DB6 Volante, also boasts a fully reversible retrofit using a powertrain “cassette” that bolts to factory engine and transmission mounts.
Parts from Aston Martin’s Rapide E electric sedan are utilized, and power and range, like that the E-Type Zero, is around 300 hp and 170 miles between fast charges.
The only change to the car is the addition of a small screen installed discreetly to monitor the motor and batteries. This is different from Jaguar’s modern interpretation of the original E-Type interior.
A new British engineering firm, Lunaz Design, was formed to take classic EV conversions to the next level.
With a background in Formula 1 racing and automotive performance modifications, engineers work with a range of classic European cars like Rolls-Royce, Jaguar and Ferrari.
The cars are stripped, weighed and 3-D scanned so an electric drivetrain and batteries can be custom-fitted, preserving the vehicle’s handling and performance heritage.
These vehicles are completely modernized with current safety and comfort features like LED lighting, regenerative braking, ABS, appropriate gauges, climate control and infotainment systems.
These conversions aren’t cheap, and the starting price of a Lunaz is $430,000, though it’s unclear if that includes the cost of the car itself.
Jaguar’s E-Type Reborn starts at $355,000 before the EV conversion, so it seems the cost of entry into the classic electric car market isn’t for the faint of heart (or thin of wallet).
So far, Europe is on the forefront of the classic EV market and, considering they’re at the tip of the global spear for clean energy and looming bans on internal combustion engines in some cities, it seems logical.
Whether this will actually offer a second chance for a classic car remains to be seen.
Purists will lament the loss of the visceral overall experience of driving a true classic.
The removal of the sound and smell of an original engine and gearbox is impossible to replace.
Others, like Jaguar management, see it as “future-proofing.”
Eric and Michelle Meltzer own and operate Fryeburg Motors, a licensed, full-service automotive sales and service facility at 299 Main St. in Fryeburg, Maine. More than a business, cars are a passion, and they appreciate anything that drives, rides, floats or flies.