EV Dreams: Electrifying A Porsche 356

A couple of weeks ago, I brought you a feature on Abbot Cars, a specialist workshop in South Africa maintaining and restoring classic Porsches. Tim Abbot’s story was a great one to tell, but it’s not the only one playing out at the family facility in Gauteng, Johannesburg.

AbbotEvolution is the brainchild of Tim’s brother Anthony, and it’s come about after a three-decade-long engineering career including a 12-year stint in Formula 1.

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Anthony’s fascination with engineering began at a very young age, so no one in the Porsche-loving Abbot family was surprised when schooling led to a mechanical engineering degree at Witwatersrand University. But instead of going straight into the automotive field after graduation, Anthony initially pursued a career in banking and e-commerce, which eventually resulted in the co-founding of two software companies.

His automotive roots did come calling though, first with consultancy work for the McLaren F1 team in 2005, and then in 2007 with a full-time role at Red Bull Racing where Anthony developed high-end software for simulators and team/driver communications. He remained with RBR until 2013, before moving over to Mercedes F1 to work on similar projects for the next five years.

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After an amazing F1 career, Anthony recently returned to South Africa to unite his lifetime of experience, passion for engineering, Porsche, and emerging technologies with a company he’s named AbbotEvolution. Its focus: to bring classic cars into the modern era through non-invasive modular electric conversions.

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Anthony’s prototype project is a Porsche 356A nicknamed the e56, which is being built in collaboration with his brother Tim. Given the family affinity for all things Porsche, it was only natural that AbbotEvolution started there, however, converting a 356 into an environmentally-friendly, daily-drivable classic car was never going to be easy.

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There were two main challenges that Anthony and Tim needed to work through. First, the 356’s rear suspension would need to be replaced outright. Second, and most importantly, the conversion needed to be completed without compromising the original integrity of the classic – something easier said than done when you’re infusing modern technology.

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All the EV components chosen for the build are well considered ones. First and foremost, they needed to fit into existing spaces inside the car in a non-invasive way. That means no metal being cut; we’re talking about an original 356A after all. For example, the lithium batteries will fit into a hidden compartment under the front hood, ensuring the look is as factory as it possibly can be.

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The modifications also needed to be totally reversible, so essentially Anthony has designed a bolt-in kit that does not damage the car in any way, thereby preserving its value.

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As you’d expect from someone with Anthony’s background and experience, before a single tool was swung in the EV conversion, it was all was mapped out in CAD software. Every last detail, no matter how minute, has been taken into consideration.

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Anthony does every bit of work that he can himself, ensuring that everything is up to the standard you’d expect of an ex-F1 engineer.

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He’s also thinking further ahead, designing a display stand that any engine removed for a EV conversion can be mounted in. This way, owners can keep their original engines safe and show them off at the same time.

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Currently, Anthony’s workspace is located on the same property as Tim’s, making it really easy for the brothers to bounce ideas off each other and share their skillsets.

AbbotEvolution isn’t only working on EV conversions either. Anthony is applying his talents to other high-tech pursuits, including engine manifold design and aerodynamics. He’s heavily involved in the 3D printing/additive manufacturing of unique parts, both for electric cars and some of Tim’s projects.

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During these uncertain times, Anthony’s also leveraging his close connections with the Mercedes F1 team to critically evaluate ventilators in collaboration with Wits University and the South African government.

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AbbotEvolution seeks to raise the bar for EV conversions to classic cars, and I think they’re off to a really good start. The e56 project is currently undergoing road-testing, and you can bet I’ll be heading back to see Anthony and Tim for a drive and a more detailed look when the time comes. I’m especially interested in how well it performs, but I’m sure that I won’t be disappointed in that respect.

Anthony already has his sights set on the next AbbotEvolution build, which will likely take the form of a Type 2 Volkswagen, better known as a Bus. Taking these classic air-cooled icons and bringing them into the future is something I can’t wait to see more of.

Stefan Kotzé
Instagram: stefankotzephoto



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Dat hood though... Wow

Matthew Adam Berman

Awesome stuff! I love seeing these types of projects, the definition of mating modern technologies with old school motoring! Also even more amazed this is being done in SA!! Proud!


Thanks for the compliments. Yup we have some world class innovative engineers down here on the southern tip of Africa. Ironically, the Electric powertrain is also very old in principle so we are really mixing it up!


Thank you! If you around Joburg area we will be more than happy to give you a closer look!

Matthew Adam Berman

I'm based in Cape Town but will definitely take you up on that next time I'm your side of the country.


Congratulations on making a great and perfectly engineered car boring, unreliable and soul-less. The most ridiculous thing being that stand to display the original engine instead of using it... Makes me cringe as much as those old factories turned into museums and attractions for tourists that like to dwell into how great the past was instead of trying to preserve things. Hopefully that trendy thing of butcherring classic cars into cheap EV for the sake of publicity will stop soon. What's next, self-driving classic car? "You can now enjoy owning a classic car and not have to drive it!". Leave it to cheap plastic boxes like the Renault Zoe or Nissan Leaf or Teslas, and leave the classic cars alone.


Call him and tell him: " you can"t do that with your own car, i'm a random dude and the internet, and i know what's right".


I agree it’s taking the soul out of the car, but to say we butchering it is a bit extreme. The conversion is completely reversible using all existing mounting points of the original engine and the build is at foremost a complete nut and bolt restoration in accordance to the intention of what Porsche intended. The only thing different is the electric engine. The combustion engine and fuel tank is not being tossed aside, but rather restored as well and is fully functional. All you have to do is take the electric conversion kit out and install it and the car will function as it was intended. This project is merely an exercise in bringing combustion cars into the future and possibly preserving them for future generations to enjoy. We Abbot’s still love and will always love combustion engines cars and we not giving up on them we are just doing the investigation of an electric conversion and seeing what is possible. This may not be the future of classic cars, but it would be silly to not investigate the possibility of it.


Mate, I wouldn't worry about a malcontent like TWB up there - he betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of engineering. If we followed his way of doing things, we would never have had cars in the first place because they were soulless contraptions that couldn't mimic the connection between a horse and rider, never mind getting to the point where we can improve upon the reliability, performance and environmental impact of an old vehicle all at the same time with conversions like the one you are carrying out here.


"This may not be the future of classic cars, but it would be silly to not investigate the possibility of it."

or, in layman's terms: "if I can make a quick buck hacking up a classic car via internet hype, sign me up!"


I realised how great this is going to be the last time I took my dad’s convertible D out and it ate it’s fan belt and had to be towed, right after it leaked it’s petrol into the oil because the fuel tap was not turned off. Nostalgia for a rosy past is sometimes misplaced. What we are trying and succeeding in doing is maintaining the timeless
Character of the car in perfect harmony with the original intent. It will remain ‘driving in its purest form’!


Seeing electric cars with rose tinted glasses isn't better. Don't believe you'll be trouble-free by adding chinese-made electronics and plastics into cars that worked perfectly without it for 60 years. As for maintenance, forget about doing it yourself in your garage and be ready for it to be expensive. Add to that low autonomy and overall instability of lithium batteries and you are most likely to be towed now than before (how will all of this age afer a few years of use anyways? Will people accept to have to replace essential and expensive components regularly because they don't last as much as their iphones?). Not to mention legal and insurrance issues into most countries, where it's simply impossible to legally register and drive a car like that. Feels like it's only creating more issues where there was no problems, not denying the amount of work and research put into this work, but it's not bringing anything interesting imo. If you maintain a 356 like it should be and pay proper attention to it you'll drive it for decades. There's a reason why Porsches are known to be the most reliable sport cars (the fan belt on an air-cooled engine should be checked before every drive).


That's it. I'm off to buy a horse... :)


I guess refusing to see issues is an easy way to fix them ;) Anyways as these cars will be refused the MOT, legal registeration and insurrance in most countries, most of these problems are solved by themselves indeed.


You call it butcher, they call it hotrodding. Potatoe potato


Don't hold back TWB, tell us how you really feel.


About you being off-topic to try to get attention? Not much ;)


good news in my mind more petrol left for us with real cars to use, also just reminded me I must pay my milkman's bill this week.


Good on you for making it 100% reversible.

Which begs the question how long does a swap take?


We reckon we can do it in under a day.


This is brilliant! Very good and interesting work.
I'm a petrolhead through and through and although at the moment with vey little interest on EV for myself, I recognize their benefits and savings and try to keep with the trend. I can see this sort of conversion being useful if you use your classic car to commute regularly (once a week, Summer, etc) into town centres where shortly petrol/diesel are to be banned at some point or facing high cost in fees and taxes.
Now, next stage is, keep the ICE powertrain and install a compact but powerful enough E motor that is able to drive the car in full EV mode up to 30mph. So I can commute and when leaving work out of town I can drive the wheels off the thing on my way Home ;)


It's interesting that, as long as electric cars have been around (100 years), it feels like we are still at the forefront of the development and acceptance of them as a true day-to-day transportation. Kudos to people like Anthony for leading the "charge."


No soul. Removing a Classic's engine is a bit like giving someone the dementor's kiss. I'm the furthest thing from a nostalgic older gentleman, but just can't get behind this attempt at a movement.

Now that being said. I love the hardwork, ingenuity, and problem solving. Would love to see more of his work applied to those mentioned manifolds and aero bits.

Mid mount runner

Lets stop encouraging this kind of rubbish. Classic cars are objects of history to be celebrated. You don't see people buying oil paintings and recolouring them with printer ink do you?


You seem to be confusing art with an automobile here, and I get why because they're a beautiful car to look at, but they're hardly super rare. If someone laid their hands on a P3/4 or a 356 with pedigree race history then I'd be right with you. But this is a run of the mill 356 as far as I can see. And if it's a fully reversible conversion I see no harm in somebody exploring this option

Just my 2 cents worth though


this hit the nail right on the head.


That poor 356. Electric power is for appliances, not cars.


I really like the idea of mixing old with new.

This is a really cool concept

You guys really make the car community roll.



Thanks!. Watch this space; more goodness to come!


Excellent. Reliability, conscience, future-proofing and nerd appeal. All good by me. I balance my 8mpg V8 heavy right footprint with two retro EVs - both engines also stored for the next owner if required. Whats the thinking behind the need for the full bolt in cage? Both my EV motor units bolt up directly to their VW transmissions therefore retaining the original (but lowered) suspension geometry.



First of all, Porsche is the greatest marque in automotive history! I bleed Porsche! Secondly, F1 is the greatest type of racing in history! Been an F1 fan for 20 years. Thirdly, you worked with AMG Petronas team. And Lewis is THE MAN! Which means you should be knighted! I saw Lewis' car in the 2nd picture. Is that at headquarters in Britain? Tell Lewis I am his BIGGEST fan and the team is AMAZING! Strangely, a few years ago I had a really cool kid on my school bus and his dad is a VP at Ferrari. Too bad they can not beat us!(ha ha) Be glad when F1 starts up. Stay well!

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

I don't get the hate on EVs. I mean, I am not a fan, but I still have hope for the tech to be developed. It's not like the ICE was perfect from the day it was conceived.


Some people really have D*** up theire A** or something? I mean, come on guys? Bashing on people who have a lot better education compaierd to most of the people responding? Lets be honest: Anthony Abott isn't cutting up any car, like say a gentleman named Nakai-san does? He makes a kitt that is totally reversable, without people having to come up with anything. In essence a turn key package. Whats wrong with that? Let alone that an electric car can travel anywhere? Over here a couple of larger city's won't allow older cars in anymore, because of their stock engines. Off course I don't agree with those rules, but they are still there anyway. This conversion would circumvent them, as long as the car is also registered as such (which is still a hassle).

But the most important thing is history itself. People who are crying this is blasphemi really don't know anything: Try looking up someone called Ferdinant Porsche. Most people might know him as the founder of Porsche? He started his carreer at Jakob Lohner & Co. When you look into that company chances are you'll find the Lohner-Porsche. Guess what that was power by? 2 or 4 hub mounted electric motors. Just saying to all the idiots out there crying about this post....

I say to each his own: My opinion is that I like combustion engines a lot. Then again, it's what I specialised on in F1. That being said: Electric and/or hydrogen is the future, Wheter we like it or not. And its not really the case with electric cars that they brake down more often. The only mark that applies to is an American one: Tesla.

As far as I can understand this hasn't near the amount of connectivity and therefore not nearly the amount of trouble associated with it? In essence its "basiccaly" (without looking down upon it in any way shape or form) "just" a drivetrain shape. In other words: All of the pro's of an electrical car, without a the shit that comes along with (connectivity, bluetooth, wifi, your own koi-fish in the dash, an digital dash, etc.) . No harm in that at all....

What bothers me the most though is that people have a need to say what other should and shouldn't do to a car. And in case of retarded mods that actually ruin the functioning of a car I can agree on that. But on something like this?

I all honesty I think this is a great idea. Even if non electric cars are outlawed you could still drive your 356. And converting it won't hurt the value from an investment standpoint. I can only applaud that and welcome that.

Engineers want to stay busy. It's just how our minds work. Care to take a guess who actually contributed more? Someone who leaves a nasty comment on the internet who also doesn;t have a clue? Or someone like Anthony Abbot? I know where my vote goes ....

@Anthony Abbot: Keep up the good work!


The future. This guy is playing in a different league.


The E=356 seems soulful to me. Try looking at some large diameter pancake motors they have a nice vibe to them, laid flat they might be just right for a VW Bus. Also try matching the throttle programming to various classic engines. I guess Im kind of hard on my engines, I think of them as wear items that should be changed out, so more swap options is always good. The best place for an original classic engine is on a display stand waiting for a vintage race day.


The chassis looks perfect except for the drivetrain,i don’t have nothing with an electric engine no matter how much faster it could go with it
I don’t have to sum up why,because TWB already mentioned .
I follow alot of projects and if i needed to choose between this or for instance the Rod Emory 356 rsr then my choice would be an easy one,the sound of that gives me goosebumbs
A good excample is the F1,when they started with the newer engines the interest dropped so the following year they done something to it to create more noise,real petrolheads you can never convince to use electric engines,even though that they are the future.
I went to a carshow in Connecticut visiting a friend of mine in the States with my family and those powerfull v8 dragsters were so impressive i will never forget,so for me this is a no go


You're all arguing about the ethics of electrifying classics and I'm just staring at how unbelievably BAD the welds are on that rear subframe...


Awesome work Anthony. I am all for it.


Very good and interesting work. I like the new-old stuff like this, especially if its for daily driving this classic. It’s a shame we can’t legally do this in my country, because it will help to put old cars on the road again ! (and it’s just an engine swap. I don’t see this being worse than a V8 in a miata or a RB in a 240Z)