Conversion shops are the bespoke tailors of the EV world – maverick motorheads who craft custom creations for the wealthiest of car lovers. The California company Electric GT has created a “crate motor” that’s designed to make it easier for professional converters or even ambitious home mechanics to electrify vintage ICE vehicles.

New York Times reporter Lawrence Ulrich drove a vintage Fiat 124 Spider conversion equipped with one of the company’s powertrains. The e-Spider packs 120 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque. It makes 60 mph in about 7 seconds – 3 seconds better than the gas version’s best. A 25 kWh battery pack mounted in the trunk delivers a 75-85 mile driving range. For larger vehicles, Electric GT can provide packs with up to 100 kWh of capacity (the company salvages batteries from low-mileage Teslas).

“The idea is to take something old and mix it with something new, with good design and engineering behind it,” co-founder Brock Winberg told the Times. “A lot of guys go out in a classic car that’s 40 or 50 years old, but it’s a one-way trip – they get a ride home with AAA,” added his partner Eric Hutchison. “This is for enthusiasts who love their cars but want something reliable that’s good for a weekend drive.”

Electric GT’s system is for those who love to drive. It’s designed exclusively for manual-transmission cars. A self-contained “black box” includes a motor and its control unit, and is designed to be installed under a vehicle’s hood. One quaint touch: the system is designed to resemble a vintage V-8 engine, with faux cylinder heads and orange sparkplug cables.

Electric GT told the Times that even a skillful hobbyist should be able to electrify a vehicle in only 40 to 50 hours, equipped with a basic set of tools, an engine hoist and the company’s manual. The plug-and-play components are designed for safety and simplicity. “We’re taking out all the brain work of having to be an expert in battery safety or electrical management,” Mr. Hutchison said. “You can treat it like a normal engine swap.”

Electric GT’s crate motor is sure to make conversions easier and cheaper, but they remain the domain of wealthy car lovers. System prices start at $32,500 and can exceed $80,000. Converting a classic is usually a project for someone who wants to keep a beloved old car alive, Hutchison said. “It’s the guy who says: ‘I already own three Teslas. Now, how do I get my classic Jaguar electrified?’”

Source: New York Times