The switchover to fully electric mobility has been relatively slow, but it is picking up momentum. President Biden is on a mission to achieve 50% EV sales by 2030, but EV adoption goes far beyond new car sales. The classic car community is also involved in a big way.
But all of these restomods have one problem in common. You can’t lift the hood and blow people away with a beautifully detailed engine. A battery box isn’t sexy, nor is an electric motor. But now, you can get an electric motor hidden neatly within an iconic internal combustion engine’s casing
Webb Motorworks claims a 0-60-mph time of 3-5 seconds, depending on the car’s weight. The range is between 135-250 miles depending on the size of the battery pack and it can be charged back up within 5-8 hours at home, which is acceptable considering most hot rods are hobby cars. You’ll definitely still need a Tesla Model S for the daily grind.
The cost is between $50,000 to $70,000, and four shells are currently available. You can get a small block in V8 or V12 configuration, a Hemi, a big block, or a flathead, also available in V8 and V12. You can also add some color to the engine. The options are red, blue, purple, orange, teal, or black.
Webb Motorworks took its products to SEMA this week, where it alreadreceived three awards.
“This is the worst idea I’ve ever seen executed on this car.”
“Look, they turned Project X into a golf cart.”
That last comment about the golf cart seemed to offer some insight. It stemmed from the belief floating around early in the week that the ‘57’s new drivetrain only offered one-hundred-some-odd horsepower–that wouldn’t be enough to excite anyone when mounted to a vehicle that likely weighed around 4,000 lbs with the battery packs. Without the performance, enthusiasts aren’t interested. Clean air and efficient transport might be benefits they’d look for in a commuter, but not in a hot rod. So, even when it became clear that the motor was actually good for about 340 hp, attitudes weren’t swayed much. That’s on par with a garden-variety mild performance small-block these days–no need for alternate propulsion to achieve that.
Again, it is that potential for rapid acceleration that has made the electric motor option at least mildly palatable for many enthusiasts, if not intriguing. While electric cars have existed for nearly as long as cars themselves, for most of its history, the automobile has been motivated by combustion engines, and the electric variations that cropped up sporadically through the years usually seemed like compromised oddities. As such, the tried and true combustion engine had remained essentially unchallenged from a performance standpoint.
But something changed in the 1990s, when General Motors created a concept electric car it called the Impact. It was designed from the ground up to be electric, rather than using an electric drivetrain in a modified existing car. The experiment was interesting enough to garner the attention of the California Air Resources Board, which then mandated that major auto manufacturers produce zero emissions vehicles as a stipulation of continuing to sell conventional combustion engine vehicles in California. General Motors released the EV1, the production electric car that was based heavily on the Impact, and consumers in Southern California and Arizona were allowed to lease the new cars.
It was only a matter of when, not if. Not even COVID-19 and the annual SEMA Show moving to a virtual event could delay the inevitable dawn of the electric crate motor. While the 1977 K5 Blazer-E is a one-off concept build, it previews some form of future package that GM Performance Parts will sell to convert any project vehicle to electric propulsion.
We saw this coming, of course, with the eCOPO Camaro in 2018 and the E-10 pickup from last year (yes, everything needs an “e” in the name to signify electrification, sigh). While those offer some sort of wow factor, with 9-second quarter-mile times for the Camaro and around 450 horsepower in the pickup, the Blazer-E is a little more, well, everyday. It uses the electric motor from the Bolt EV, putting out 200 hp and 266 pound-feet of torque.
Before you bemoan this as some form of weak sauce, consider that the stock engine that Chevy yanked out of the Blazer made a mere 175 hp. More significant is that, while the Blazer-E is a concept, the parts will soon be real. Chevy has already moved to train dealers and shops to be certified installers for the “eCrate” system, starting with Lingenfelter Performance Engineering. And the modularity touted with the E-10 pickup remains; multiple motors and inverters can be stacked in series for more power and torque.
Before the days of the automatic gearbox, the petrol-electric transmission enjoyed a certain vogue, particularly as it was invented in the era of the non-synchromesh or ‘crash’ gearbox. However although the petrol-electric was easy to use, it was also expensive to build, bulky and heavy, which made it more suitable for commercial vehicles (such as the Tilling- Stevens) than for the private car.
There were one or two notable exceptions to this general rule, however, and one of the more ingenious electric transmissions was conceived just before World War 1 by Ray M. Owen of the Baker, Rauch & Lang company of Cleveland, Ohio, who were renowned for their Baker and Raulang battery electric cars.
The Entz Transmission
Owen adapted the Entz transmission, which was designed for use in the new generation of oil-engined battleships (such as the 1919 New Mexico), for automotive use, and began production of a luxury car with this form of drive in 1914. Under its original name of Owen Magnetic, the ‘Car of a Thousand Speeds’ was not very successful, but by 1920 J. L. Crown had taken over the design rights, and was producing cars in a factory at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Starting in the late Sixties, Seattle City Light began an electric vehicle program to try to get the city and the city’s residents to switch from their internal combustion vehicles. According to Seattle.govand KUOW, the city started with the Electruc above in 1968, moved on to an electric Gremlin in 1973, and then, in 1976, went with the scratchbuilt RT1, part of a larger electrification plan.
As national concern began to develop about fossil fuels, pollution, and other environmental issues, Seattle City Light (SCL) began some early experimentation with electric vehicles. In 1968, SCL introduced the Electruc, which was an experimental electric-powered utility truck. A sign painted on the truck read, “Your bright new future is all electric!”
Research and development continued in the 1970s. City Light photos from 1973 show a prototype electric car made from a modified AMC Gremlin. The car was powered by 24 rechargeable six-volt batteries and could run for about 50 miles at highway speeds before needing to be recharged. SCL developed an “Electro Park” charging station for the vehicle.
Then in 1976, City Light designed another prototype electric vehicle, the RT1, which could travel up to 75 miles on one charge of its eight six-volt batteries. The four-passenger car was only seven feet long and five feet wide, and took up one-fifth the parking space of a typical car from that period. The vehicle was created with funding from SCL’s Research and Development budget.
The RT1 was conceptualized as part of a downtown restricted transportation zone from which most internal combustion vehicles would be barred. City Light envisioned this zone, full of electric cars like the RT1, as nearly eliminating transportation pollution in the urban core.
Item no. 78726, Seattle Municipal Archives
Electro Park charging station, 1973
Item no. 181159, Seattle Municipal Archives
RT1 electric car prototype, 1976
Item no. 175218, Seattle Municipal Archives
The police department in Fremont, Calif., the same Fremont where the Tesla factory is, just bought a used Tesla Model S 85 to replace a retiring Dodge Charger. The car has been fitted with all the standard cop-spec accessories and will soon go on duty as part of a pilot program to see if a Tesla is up to the task of police work
The Detroit Electric (1907–1939) produced by the Anderson Electric Car Company in Detroit, Michigan. The company built 13,000 electric cars from 1907 to 1939.
The Revs Institute in Naples, Florida — with its extensive archives and more than 100 historically significant vehicles in the Collier Collection — chronicles the automobile with pictures, words and wheels. So it may surprise some that it has only just now acquired its first electric car.
In keeping with the institute’s mission, this one predates the Tesla and the Chevrolet Bolt by a ways — about a century. The car is a 1917 Detroit Electric, built in Detroit by the Anderson Electric Car Company (later the Detroit Electric Car Company). Anderson is generally considered to be the most successful of the first wave of electric car manufacturers.