Electric powered classics - What Do You Reckon? 457

By: Glenn Torrens

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After half a lifetime of driving fast modified VWs, Glenn Torrens steers one with even more zap

A couple of summers ago, after attending Street Machine’s Drag Challenge event in Victoria, I drove home to NSW via the scenic route. By cruising through Gippsland and bouncing off the coast up the Snowy River valley, I arrived at the lovely high country town of Jindabyne.

There were a couple of reasons for my Snowy trek: Driving home through the mountains is more fun than being bored on the Hume Highway, again, plus I’d arranged to have a quick steer of an electric-powered 1960s VW Beetle.

I reckon most regular readers of Unique Cars will know I’m a Beetle nut. I own a few and have had a terrific time racing my two bright yellow ones: My nowsold hill-climb car was a trophy car in the NSW Championship, ran a high-13 at the drags and – by borrowing the same high-performance 1916cc motor - my salt-lake G/PRO Bug is a regular at Australian Speed Week. More recently, I’ve screwed together another fun street Bug (that I’ve written about recently in Our Cars) to cruise around in.

To be able to have a steer of an electric-converted Beetle was something I was looking forward to.

And what a sweetie it was! It had probably 50 per cent more zoom than any showroom-stock VW Bug. This particular Bug rode a little low – it didn’t steer or cruise as well as my road cars – but it showed the performance and potential of an electric retro-fit.

There are other zappy VWs – and other electric classics – on Australian roads. I know of several other electric Bugs and there’s an electric DeLorean getting around. The engineering students at the Southern Cross University have just converted a Kombi Camper to electric at its Lismore NSW campus, too.

The company responsible for the Bug I drove, EV Torque, has also built a terrific VW Kombi. It is powered by an ex-Tesla motor featuring about five times the standard VW power.

VW Beetles and Kombis of the 1950s, 60s and 70s are perfect candidates for electric conversions. Being originally air-cooled and with a compact driveline, they are easy to convert. Plus they are enduringly popular with incredible spare parts availability.

Now, I’m not going to get all hippy on you all – in fact, as important as I regard it, I’m not going to even mention environment right now – but I reckon there is a whole new scene of fast fun to be had with cool classic cars fitted with electrics. For similar reasons as old VWs, our classic Holdens and Falcons would be a good base for conversion because of their popularity and luggage (battery) capacity.

Holden or Ford? Take your pick! Can you imagine the chrome bumper grumpers’ reaction to a tyre-hazing electric-powered Falcon GT or Holden GTS ‘tribute’?


From Unique Cars #457, Sep 2021

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