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Wall Street Journal: "The Future of Classic Porsches and Jaguars? Electrification"


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Posted (edited)

Hate to say it, but I suspect this is in the future for our hobby, or at least a decent-sized part of it.   (I'd guess it's the environmental problems that lead to this more than the repair costs and difficulties of keeping cars on the road.  But who knows.)   And don't shoot me, I'm only the messenger!  :)

 

Long article in the Wall Street Journal, and it may be behind a paywall, but the beginning of it is below.

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-future-of-classic-porsches-and-jaguars-electrification-11622865601

 

The Future of Classic Porsches and Jaguars? Electrification

Owners of vintage sports cars and hot rods are giving them a second life by installing recycled Tesla powertrains. Dan Neil gets the lowdown on EV conversions.

 
IT WAS A quiet day at Moment Motor Company, an electric-vehicle conversion garage in Austin, Texas, when founder Marc Davis said he heard “squealing.” He knew it wasn’t a fan belt. Christy Butler had arrived with her family to inspect the car of her dreams: an ivory-white ’67 Mercedes-Benz 250 SL with the “pagoda” top. After months of searching for her ideal car, Mr. Davis had found one whose engine he could replace with powerful electric motors, inverters and batteries. Since the work would take several months, he suggested Ms. Butler drive the roadster around for the weekend, pre-surgery.

“She called me on Monday to tell me how much she loved it,” Mr. Davis said, “and in the next breath how she could not wait for me to get it out of her garage. It reeked of gasoline and was dripping oil on the floor. It’s hard to start. It’s got two chokes, an old four-speed transmission. So what happens? Her passion, her dream of the car fades away.”

“When she gets it back,” Mr. Davis said, “she can just press the pedal and go.”

Gasoline-to-EV conversions are not new. I met a JPL scientist in Pasadena, Calif., who had done the same to his MG British sports car in 1965, using lead-acid batteries. Facebook and the website EValbum.com document decades of such projects, from mild to wild, mowers to dragsters, by over-functioning DIY Quixotes.

What is new is everything else, in bulk, starting with the cargo ships of automotive-grade lithium battery packs, high-torque motors, inverters, battery-management systems and controllers now readily available to privateers—much of it being exported from China, the spindrift from that country’s tidal wave of electrification.

 

 

 

 

Edited by 1935Packard (see edit history)
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The Wall Street Journal has been better than

many newspapers, but don't take something

a newspaper says for granted.  The writer likely

knows little about antique cars, and just because

he is trying to predict the future doesn't mean

his article is worth discussing or worrying about.

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8 minutes ago, John_S_in_Penna said:

The Wall Street Journal has been better than

many newspapers, but don't take something

a newspaper says for granted.  The writer likely

knows little about antique cars, and just because

he is trying to predict the future doesn't mean

his article is worth discussing or worrying about.

Dan Neil is the WSJ auto writer and is pretty informed about cars. But, he’s also a bit of an EV fanboi. I’d expect him to have an enthusiastic take on this topic. Since he’s really more of an opinion columnist then a reporter, it’s his job to give his perspective.

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Electric cars in general are still a very niche market item. They fit well into some peoples lives , but still have both technical limitations and a cost handicap.

I think that electric conversions of vintage cars is in all probability even more of a very narrow niche than even general purpose electrics.

If it's your thing and you have the thick packet of greenbacks needed to make it happen, well it's a free country.

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My hunch is gas-powered "antiques and classics" will be around for a very long time.  Lots of people still ride and drive horses.  

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One perspective is that it is just another variation on resto-modding; an electric motor instead of a SBC.  Updating powerplants in old cars has been around since the end of WW2, but it hasn't resulted in the demise of the preservation and authentic restoration hobby yet.

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7 hours ago, mike6024 said:

no shifting, no engine sound. you don't downshift going into a corner.

Looking at new car sales, I think you will find the average person considers shifting, engine sounds and needing to downshift for corners as bugs rather than features.

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Electrification is going to become an increasingly important preservation option for those who street drive older cars. And less than 25 years from now, the early Teslas will have the status of full classics and design milestones. 

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For new construction - especially for heavy haul trucks.... if GVW remains constant ( think road and bridge design requirements) what is the weight impact increase? That batteries, motors and inverters increase? Will vehicles net increase? Then load changes. 

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Posted (edited)

I read an article about a place converting old VW Beetles into electric vehicles.   Sounded interesting, but the cost was probably more than putting a Porsche driveline in my 66 Bug.   I think I'll keep it all VW.   It's the most appreciated car I've ever owned.  (Had it for 31 years)  EVERYBODY has a VW story to tell me when I'm out enjoying it as transportation.  Unfirtunatley, like 1932 Fords, most of them are heavily modified now.

Went to a VW show a few years ago with 100 VW's and only 5 of us were stock.  

Edited by Paul Dobbin
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I can't imagine anyone who is a serious antique car buff would do this.  First of all, I believe the cost to convert is going to be prohibitive. In the example above, it says the work will take several months (and that equates to labor).  Secondly, most cars of any value have to have their original running gear (engine, trans., axles, etc.) or the value goes down significantly.  Think about all of the cars that are de-valued because they don't have "matching numbers".  I can't imagine someone who owns a valuable antique car would ruin it (and its value) by substituting an electric motor for its original engine and drivetrain.  Plus, for me, a big part of the experience of owning / driving an antique car is having its original equipment. 

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Agree completely . If you just have to have a electric P car for example start with something like an Intermeccanica or other good but modern replica. 

That way no real O.E.M. cars or parts are harmed in the quest for some " personal vision ".

 

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How many people reading this can completely  rewire a conventional "Collector Car"? How many of those people want to convert the same car to electrical power? Did we get a count of twelve hands in the audience? 

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24 minutes ago, modela28 said:

I can't imagine anyone who is a serious antique car buff would do this.  First of all, I believe the cost to convert is going to be prohibitive. In the example above, it says the work will take several months (and that equates to labor).  Secondly, most cars of any value have to have their original running gear (engine, trans., axles, etc.) or the value goes down significantly.  Think about all of the cars that are de-valued because they don't have "matching numbers".  I can't imagine someone who owns a valuable antique car would ruin it (and its value) by substituting an electric motor for its original engine and drivetrain.  Plus, for me, a big part of the experience of owning / driving an antique car is having its original equipment. 

I too much prefer driving an antique car that has its original drivetrain.

 

But . . . when I visit the local “cars and coffee” I see very few older/antique cars with original drivetrains. Nearly all have been “updated” with newer running gear. In many (most?) cases it looks like far more money was spent on replacing the drivetrain than it would have cost to rebuild/renew the original.

 

So it is quite easy for me to imagine someone “who owns a valuable antique car would ruin it (and its value) by substituting an electric motor for its original engine and drivetrain” as I see it happens all the time but with a SBC instead of an electric motor.

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Posted (edited)

Mixed feelings on this.  Interestingly J. B. Straubel, who later became V.P. at Tesla, first did an EV conversion of a Porsche 944 in the 1990s.  I've often wondered if his 944 had a bad engine due to the cam or balance shaft belt snapping.  (The 944 has an interference engine.  So proper belt maintenance is critical.)

 

I recently met a fellow who has been working on his 914 EV conversion for the past 10 years.  While it is quite driveable, I'm not sure he'll ever be finished with it.  Amusingly, the heater for the cabin and windshield defrosting is a pair of electric hair dryers wired in series.  No air conditioning - unless you remove the roof.  No PS or (I think) PB either.  When he originally built it, he used Pb deep cycle batteries.  But later converted to Lithium iron-phosphate (LiFePO).

Edited by wws944 (see edit history)
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15 hours ago, Erska said:

My hunch is gas-powered "antiques and classics" will be around for a very long time.  Lots of people still ride and drive horses.  

 

I've read that there are more horses in the U.S. now than there were in 1900.

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12 hours ago, mike6024 said:

no shifting, no engine sound. you don't downshift going into a corner.

 

 

About as exciting as your refrigerator or washing machine.

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Imagine someone replacing that wonderful 4 cylinder in a model A with a V8.  Who would ever do something that ridiculous?  How many Little Deuce coupes were made “better”?  People do what they want to do whether is stuffing a Cadillac engine in a model A, making a pickup from a Duesenburg or whatever floats their boat.  I like originally too.  The fellow I bought my 1937 Dodge pickup from had added his own styling touches like a 49 Plymouth bumper on the front, some fancy chrome side mirrors, full wheel covers and so on.  After I got rid of that stuff and worked hard to return it to as original as possible.  After I did that I went back to show him how it looked.  I could immediately tell he was disappointed that I had ruined all his personalization of the truck.  He thought his changes were better looking.  To each his own.

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Posted (edited)

 It doesn't matter if we are talking about electrification or hot rods because they are all modified cars. When we start talking about modified cars it brings us out of the intent of the General Section of the forum and it's rules.

 Please don't shoot me I didn't write the rules. 

Edited by Pfeil (see edit history)
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1 hour ago, Pfeil said:

 It doesn't matter if we are talking about electrification or hot rods because they are all modified cars. When we start talking about modified cars it brings us out of the intent of the General Section of the forum and it's rules.

 Please don't shoot me I didn't write the rules. 

I think it highlights some of the issues with what people called “restored” automobiles.  Some folks want genuine original, others are ok with lightly modification from stock and others want old time looks but modern go under the hood.  I personally like stock or as close to stock as possible but I can’t fault others who are not as much concerned.  It’s their money.  What I don’t like is calling a restomod a restored car, rebuilt ok but not restored.

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The article referenced Porsches and Jaguars in the title as if those "classics" would be ripe for electrification.  I know very little about either marque, but know enough that if it is not a matching numbers car, the value will  be affected dramatically.  Once you convert it, it will be very undesirable for avid collectors of those vehicles.  I think the cost will be so high (motor, batteries, etc.) that I can't imagine this would be a serious consideration for many collectors.  If you are talking about really expensive cars (which could include Porsches), I can't believe anybody in their right mind would destroy a car in this fashion.

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I like brass era cars. But almost any I could possibly afford are too small in the front seat area. Especially the majority of touring cars I have tried to sit in. People were on average a fair bit smaller than my 6'2" height. So a speedster ends up being a practical solution. I can't afford any of the larger factory built speedsters. But a speedster conversion is in theory at least possible. People have been building them since the teens.  But they are in fact modified cars. Could even be called the street rods of the pre 1925 era. Even the majority of race cars in the brass era were in fact just stock production cars with almost everything stripped off but the radiator , hood, firewall and a simple bucket seat and fuel tank. A hot rod if there ever was one, but cars of this type seem to be AACA approved.  Where is the line drawn ?

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6 hours ago, 1912Staver said:

I like brass era cars. But almost any I could possibly afford are too small in the front seat area. Especially the majority of touring cars I have tried to sit in. People were on average a fair bit smaller than my 6'2" height. So a speedster ends up being a practical solution. I can't afford any of the larger factory built speedsters. But a speedster conversion is in theory at least possible. People have been building them since the teens.  But they are in fact modified cars. Could even be called the street rods of the pre 1925 era. Even the majority of race cars in the brass era were in fact just stock production cars with almost everything stripped off but the radiator , hood, firewall and a simple bucket seat and fuel tank. A hot rod if there ever was one, but cars of this type seem to be AACA approved.  Where is the line drawn ?

I also like brass cars, too.  They are my favorite antique cars.  I think what you are referring to is period correct modifications.  I  think there is a huge difference between that and putting a modern power plant into a 100+ year old car.  

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Electrification is going to become an increasingly important preservation option for those who street drive older cars. And less than 25 years from now, the early Teslas will have the status of full classics and design milestones. 

 
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9 minutes ago, 1912Staver said:

Hard to describe a very profound modification as "preservation ". 

Seems to me like the same level of 'preservation' as putting a SBC into a Ford.

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1 hour ago, Tmann said:

Electrification is going to become an increasingly important preservation option for those who street drive older cars. And less than 25 years from now, the early Teslas will have the status of full classics and design milestones. 

 

I'm not yet convinced of that.  First of all, the problem with the electric car today is the same problem that has been here for 120 years - the batteries do not provide the same ability to drive the distances that gasoline cars provide.  Many Americans are not ready to give up the independence that their gasoline car provides.  In fact, I think some of the car companies may be getting ahead of the public on this with their plans to no longer produce gas cars in a few years.  I guess only time will tell.  

 

 

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I can't imagine this discussion, on this forum, getting much real traction (no pun intended). Speaking for those of us who don't particularly like our cars significantly altered, anyway, about an EV retrofit is academic at best. This is just another restomod discussion. IMO a discussion like this only highlights how many folks here dislike the whole concept of EV. I'm not one of the EV haters, it has it's place. 

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The problem when you put "modern" technology in to an old car  is that time marches on and the "modern" technology becomes old or unsupported.    You are almost always better off with keeping it as close to original as possible if your goal is to keep it running and have as wide a support net as possible.

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1 minute ago, alsancle said:

The problem when you put "modern" technology in to an old car  is that time marches on and the "modern" technology becomes old or unsupported.    You are almost always better off with keeping it as close to original as possible if your goal is to keep it running and have as wide a support net as possible.

 

I think that's going to be the #1 problem with modern cars as collectables or cars retrofitted with "modern" hardware. If my 1912 Wonderwagon needs a carburetor or a distributor, technically and with enough money, I can have one made to make the car operational again. But if all this great "modern" technology that's retrofitted into vintage cars is obsolete, what happens? If I need a black box to run the fuel injection or manage an electric motor controller, who is going to write me 4 million lines of code to do it? All these guys with their fuel-injected LS motors will eventually run into problems as the microchips simply degrade over time, never mind the software inside no longer being supported or even technically viable. It's like trying to find a computer to run a 10-inch floppy disc using Fortran. Even if the data is viable, is the hardware?

 

When the microchips go bad, what then? In 50 years, today's great cars may be collectable, but how many will be operational? I think that will be THE dividing line between an actual collectable and everything else: does it run? Adding modern components to an old car to make it more contemporary or easier to use or faster or whatever only delays the obsolescence and might even accelerate it. Ironically, it may also doom the car completely when those "upgraded" parts give up the ghost and cannot be replicated by any normal means, unlike the original components.

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Posted (edited)

Not strictly old car related, but I know first hand about aging , becoming obsolete electronics. The Ship I worked on full time for the last decade before I retired 2 1/2 years ago { and part time for the decade previous as well } was a perfect example of the concept. It was truly " state of the art " when first constructed in 1992. A very heavily automated engine room , and secondary systems all over the ship. But by the time it was 10 years old, electronic failures started showing up more and more frequently. At first it was just a matter of having ample parts back up and the crew learning the troubleshooting procedures needed to keep it functioning . But eventually the problems became serious enough that Factory electronics tech's { mostly European based } would have to come over to solve the larger problems. Especially if the central control computers were involved. And bit by bit the various components were no longer available as a spare part, usually a specialist contractor would have to repair as best possible. 

 It finally got to the point that the entire system was replaced in one massive 8 month long upgrade. And many millions spent. The ship itself was about at the mid life point. But the electronics were nothing but about 25 Million $ of E - waste.

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

I heard this on the news, and find it incredible. The "chip shortage" is hurting production. But some cars have many chips and the way the cost adds makes it seems they should be used minimally.

Electronics are responsible for 40 percent of a new car's total cost, according to a Deloitte analysis. That's up from 18 percent in 2000. Computing technology has also fundamentally altered the processes of automotive design, engineering, and manufacturing.

 

cost of electronics in a car

 

Considering the fast development of auto electronics and intelligence, automotive electronics has
become the fastest growing segment of auto parts with an increasing demand on safety and security,
telecommunications, environmental protection and energy-saving. More and more OEMs have begun to
adopt electronic systems and have integrated semiconductor circuits in vehicles. Automotive electronics
has become a major differentiated indicator for vehicles. A major feature of the development of
automotive safety is active safety while active safety technology development is mainly represented by
electronics control with reliability as a top priority. Mobile Internet technology has further promoted the
development of automotive intelligent interconnected applications, which can be combined with vehicle
safety through a combination of big data to improve reliability. As connected vehicles involve different
aspects of the industry chain, various parties are seeking more benefits. Realising how to make a
tradeoff regarding the interests of all parties is an important prerequisite to promoting the development
of Connected Vehicles. No matter in which sub-segment, improving products and the cost performance
of the technology from the perspective of consumers is imperative for making a quick win in the market.

Edited by mike6024 (see edit history)
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