Since April 4, 2020, legislation has allowed the conversion of a classic car to electric motorization. Faced with the enthusiasm for this type of modification, we imagined the ten old ones that could receive an emission-free engine.
Now legalized in France, the retrofit has opened up a new path for vintage cars. Behind this Anglicism hides an entirely electric conversion of a used car, and more generally of one of the glories of the past, which allows to give them a second youth. The goal is to retire their aging mechanics, shunned by a handful of thinking heads because they are considered polluting.
Now accepted by many drivers, the retrofit movement is gaining ground: because in addition to the independent entities that have emerged, some historic manufacturers themselves offer old electrified ones. As often, the switch to electric is accompanied by a technical and cosmetic update inherited from the world of restomod. In all cases, certain technical rules must be respected in France: the power of the approved electrical mechanics must not be greater than that of the heat engine it replaces, while the total weight of the car must not increase beyond 20%, just like the front / rear distribution which must remain below 10%. The ease of installation is therefore quite relative, but it is even easier to open an idyllic bubble and imagine, without regulatory or budgetary constraints, the ten old ultimate retrofits.
10 – Chevrolet El Camino
The Chevrolet El Camino is one of the most iconic utility vehicles in the land of pickups. And if other similar proposals saw the light of day before him, Chevrolet pushed the potentiometers even further in the 70s: the Chevrolet Chevelle station wagon which serves as a base could receive the V8 454 ci, a 7.4-liter Big Block of 250 hp. While electric pick-ups are starting to cross swords across the Atlantic, the El Camino could well receive an electric motor. Its chassis would allow it to carry all the paraphernalia of the Chevrolet Bolt, as officially proposed by the manufacturer. But we can easily imagine the presence of two electric motors rather than one, for a total of 400 hp powered by a 60 kWh battery.
9 – Alpine A110
Released from oblivion by the parent company Renault, Alpine will go electric with a new range. The heresy already pointing the tip of its nose, the original Berlinette could be one of the privileged bases to receive an electric motor. The motor could drive the rear wheels while the battery could get lodged in the trunk at the front. The capacity would very logically be conditioned by the space in the compartment. The advantage: weight gain would be controlled while the new weight distribution would allow a front axle a little better nailed to the ground.
8 – Mercedes G-Class
Launched in 1975 under the name Geländewagen, the Mercedes G-Class is one of the last dinosaurs in today’s automotive landscape. Over the years, the rustic 4 × 4 has abandoned muddy terrain for the asphalt of upscale neighborhoods. But its large heat engines, the most popular, are no longer required in these concrete areas. To continue his reign, pending the official version, the G-Class can convert to electric. This is also the choice of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who trusted Kreisel for the conversion. And its separate chassis might even appeal to the company Zero Labs, which has made it their specialty.
7 – Peugeot 205 GTI
The Toyota Yaris GR is one of the last thermal GTIs before the arrival of a new generation of hybrid or electric bomblets. The Peugeot 205 GTI, the most famous of this almost extinct species, was to be included in this ranking. The reason: its false descendant, the Peugeot e-208, has the same technical sheet. The 130 hp XU9JA flirts with the 136 hp for 260 Nm of torque of the electric city car. With an increase in weight, but still lower than the 1,450 kg of the e-208, the Peugeot 205 GTI could present very interesting performances, while preserving its living rear end. A characteristic, it, disappeared forever.
6 – Lamborghini Countach
How not to mention one of Marcello Gandini’s creations in this Top 10 of the old ones to electrify? With its profile that resembles fighter aviation, the Countach could perfectly lend itself to the game of retrofitting and give some style lesson to the incipient electric supercars. However, there is no question of electrifying just any Countach. Let’s not be overly heretical and leave the pure and rare LP400 alone, in favor of an LP 5000 S Quattrovalvole, ready to give up its V12 Bizzarrini. To perfect the copy, it should necessarily have the optional rear spoiler.
5 – Renault Twingo
Electric city cars are undoubtedly more relevant than SUVs and crossovers. Especially in the city, where their more measured weight and their size feel comfortable. A true icon of the segment, the first generation of Renault Twingo could well lend itself to the electric game. This would allow the most modest incomes to be able to continue to tread the streets of big cities at a lower cost, with much more charm and space on board than a Citroën Ami for example.
4 – Fiat Multipla
If you miss the bulging looks of the 90s / early 2000s, how not to think of the Fiat Multipla. Still misunderstood, the Multipla has much more than a physique unfairly qualified as unsightly: with just 5 cm more than a Toyota Yaris in length, it achieves the feat of offering six seats and a living space that belongs to that of large minivans. Its secret: a C1 Sandwich chassis widened by 7.3 cm compared to that of a Fiat Brava. The result is remarkable road holding despite a high center of gravity. With a battery in the floor, stored in the 2.66 meters of wheelbase, the suspended masses would be better balanced and the behavior would be further improved. And to better underline his new vocation, prefer him a green suit, as on the concept of 1996.
3 – DeLorean DMC-12
What could be better than an electric drive for the most futuristic car of the past? Icon in pop culture, the stainless steel coupe could abandon its V6 PRV in favor of an electric unit. There is no lack of space in the engine bay but, for more realism, nothing prevents you from running the wires of the electrical system over the body. By pushing a step further in the world of restomod, the DMC-12 could even receive avant-garde on-board technologies.
2 – Citroën DS
The majestic sedan of the Chevron brand is one of the great representatives of “French” luxury. Still on wheels today, the Citroën DS is one of our favorite bases for retrofitting. And for good reason: the silent operation of the mechanics associated with the comfort of the hydraulic suspension go hand in hand. Two ultimate luxury characteristics, among other chic touches. Just ask Rolls-Royce to be sure. Also, the line of the goddess of Flaminio Bertoni will only be magnified. If possible, choose a DS 23 Pallas, whose 115 hp will easily be transformed into electric power.
1 – Lancia Stratos Zero Concept
Difficult to access the Stratos Zero to offer it an electric motor, since this is only a unique concept. But bathing in the Wedge Design spirit of the 70s, Bertone’s style study is one of the machines with the most futuristic look, in which an electrical mechanism would have its place: by culminating at 84 cm from the ground, its teardrop shape teaches lessons in aerodynamics, a key element for electrical efficiency. If his style breathes the 70s, he could easily fit into a dystopian Cyberpunk universe, where fossil fuel is only a distant memory. To link the plumage to the ramage, we can imagine the presence of the solid engine of a Tesla Model S Performance, which goes well beyond the too timid V4 of 115 ch of origin.