Electrifying The Icons At The Classic Motor Show

After a two-year hiatus the UK’s biggest indoor event, the Classic Motor Show was back — only something had changed.

The NEC Classic Motor Show is an event I always look forward to; this year particularly so. It’s not rammed full of companies trying to flog you stuff: it’s about the love of owning older cars and more importantly for me, what you can do with them. And this year the mantra seemed to be, what you can do with them is anything and everything.

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Usually banished to the darker corners of the show like a naughty child, the modified classic crowd were at the forefront. As someone who welcomes the sight of an SAAB B235R-swapped Triumph Dolomite, that made me very happy indeed.

There was a definite and welcome shift to include more modern classics, too like this pristine Peugeot 106 Rallye that looked like it hadn’t needed the services of a welding torch (unlike Ben’s) and this awesome, ex-Dutch Touring Car Championship Renault 21 Turbo.

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Maybe it’s their increased profile in the wider car community over the last couple of years thanks to some high-profile restomod builds (Retropower, we’re looking at you) or perhaps the show organisers wanted to mix things up a bit, either way, it was definitely a very good thing.

I mean, who wouldn’t make a beeline for this Series 2 Ford Escort RS Turbo — just look at it. Momo Arrows, Morette twin-headlamp conversion, leather interior, and an engine bay full of stainless steel and polished alloy – it could have come straight from Ultimate Fast Car, circa 1998.

To EV Or Not To EV

But this year there was an elephant in the halls at the Classic Motor Show, and we’re not talking about a certain pandemic – the electric motor-converted classics (or e-classics) had silently muscled their way in, spearheaded by the organiser’s own Our Friends Electric showcase.

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Regardless of your view on them, e-classics (can we come up with a better name, already?) are here to stay, and if the examples on display were anything to go by, they’ve very quickly slotted into the modified classics scene.

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This Tesla Model S-powered ’73 Beetle built by Electric Classic Cars has been out setting records and hitting headlines his summer thanks to its 600hp and well-sorted chassis, which means it’ll hit 60mph in 2.5 seconds — and go round corners. And it’s fully-road legal.

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Also built by Electric Classic Cars (in collaboration with 9ev), this Porsche 911 dressed to look like a ’73 RS features a Tesla motor in place of the air-cooled original with the battery pack and charging system mounted on top.

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Up front is a second battery pack for a more balanced chassis – the extra weight gained overridden by the increased power of the uprated Model S motor.

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And like all good modified classics, it’s the details that make the build.

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Shut the bonnet of this ’67 Mini and it looks like a nicely-restored Mk1. But again, a Tesla motor powers this Cooper S replica with 100hp in road tune, but a selectable track mode for an instant 300hp.

You’d think being so small, a Mini would be a nightmare to covert to electric, with little space to mount the battery packs and charging system. But the subframe-based chassis means that the electric motor and 33kWh battery pack can all be neatly mounted onto the front subframe in the engine bay with minimal mods to the body shell.

A neat touch is the tank for the battery’s cooling system mounted in the place where the original radiator once was.

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The Mini 7 Racing Club has been running several hugely-successful race series for the pocket-sized wonder since 1966, but this build could take the club in a whole new direction. With the one-piece front end removed you can see how neatly everything mounts onto the (modified) front subframe.

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The 120kW (160hp) electric motor and reduction box are compact enough to sit nice and low so even with the extra weight of the batteries (the builders, EcoClassics claim the car weighs about the same as a later road car), it should still handle like a classic Mini.

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Sadly, the Mini Se7en e-class isn’t a thing — yet — but the Mini, which is a test and development mule, will be out racing next year on selected events in the Mini 7 Club’s Libre class.

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If all this is feeling a bit out of reach for you then check out this ’58 DKW 3=6. When the original three-cylinder two-stroke motor packed up not long after owner Paul Bird of Odd Autos bought it, he decided to set himself and challenge and convert it to electric propulsion using the running gear from a written-off 2011 Nissan Leaf.

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The Leaf’s 80kW (107hp) electric motor bolts up the the original gearbox using an adaptor plate, with Paul using the Nissan batteries and inverter, along with an aftermarket charging system sourced from the US. The DKW now has almost three times its original output, and as a nod to its more modern power source, was repainted in contemporary Audi RS colours (DKW’s parent company, Auto Union, eventually became Audi).

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Taking the electric versus ICE debate out of the discussion, what Paul has done isn’t so different from the rest of us. He wanted a more powerful and reliable method of propulsion, so he removed the original engine and bolted in a more modern one — sound familiar? The fact that he was able to retain the rest of the running gear makes this swap all the more impressive — it’s truly bolt-in power

For anyone looking to tackle an electric conversion in their home garage, I reckon this is the way to go. Retaining the original transmission cuts the build costs down drastically, and means minimal fabrication is required.

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The UK’s heading deep into the winter months now, and for car enthusiasts that means one thing: maximum time spent in the garage or workshop. I’m already looking forward to what will emerge in the spring, whether battery-powered or not…

Simon Woolley
Instagram: fireproof_simon

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Great stuff. Honestly, I think the bolt in electric conversion thing's a great idea for a lot of British classics. Nobody whose ever driven an MGB would miss that engine and I bet an electric mini's loads of fun. On the other hand, that triumph dolly looks amazing...


British car can't leak if it's electric


On the inside it can...


Yeah, they'll still let the rain in. I had a triumph spitfire that leaked rainwater onto the driver's seat. In winter you'd be sat on a block of solid ice that melted as you drove.


Yep, bolt-in is definitely the way to go - anything to get rid of that B-Series engine!


I would love to convert my Mini to electric.


I like the term electo- modding :)


Good call!


EV conversions could be the future of vintage and classic cars as well they work together very well
However there could be better alternatives in the future say synthetic fuel and hydrogen fuel cell but it all comes down to preference


Some fantastic cars! That Dolomite looks amazing ..

However, unfortunately some have had their souls removed .... homunculi if you will. These electric-swapped classics are shadows of what they were .... I've driven some and a silent BMW 2002 or Porsche 911 is very disconcerting, it just feels wrong.

It's like trying to convince the audience that your blow up doll is ACTUALLY your "real" girlfriend.


wow great simile, buddy. that's totally what that's like.


I might be living in a fantasy world but I’d say Singer have had a big impact on this scene. They established once and for all that modifying classics was acceptable, and do it right and you won’t be throwing all of your money away - modify a Classic it it won’t automatically de-value it and could in fact make it far more valuable. I imagine that electrifying them will be an extension of this, although I’m not convince that it’ll be the best solution long term.


I'm in love with the orange 3 window panel wagon in the gallery. Does anyone know what it is? It reminds me of a Morris Oxford a little.


It's a heavily reworked Hillman Husky. This one has been on the UK scene for years and regularly gets updated


Thanks! Never heard of Hillman. They are a lot of cool old and new cars we never got them on this side of the pond.


"Retaining the original transmission cuts the build costs down drastically, and means minimal fabrication is required."
But it's also a risk since a 50 years old gearbox might not be quite up to the punch of the electric motor up front.


True, but there are ways around that using software.


Oh that e beetle needs a feature