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An Electric Classic Cars electric conversion turned this vintage Beamer into a Tesla-powered supercar (Electric Classic Cars/Mercury PR)

For true petrol enthusiasts, the problem with going electric has often been the reluctance to give up style and performance for environmental reasons. But for Richard Morgan, founder of Britain’s first classic car conversion company, Electric Classic Cars, there is no longer any reason to make that choice.

“People can’t stop talking about the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, and they’re great, of course. But really, in terms of performance, handling, weight… everything is better with electric cars now. I don’t see why classic car owners wouldn’t change.

You might think that, well, Morgan would have say that – given that his business is in electric makeovers. A classic car enthusiast himself, Morgan gave up his engineering job in 2016 to set up the UK’s first conversion company, Electric Classic Cars, in Powys, Wales.

It is now part of a series of “retro to electro” companies that are bringing 20th century cars into the 21st century. Appealing to classic car enthusiasts with the promise of increased handling, range and power in their vintage vehicles, simply by adding a modern electric motor.

An Electric Classic Cars electric conversion turned this vintage Beamer into a Tesla-powered supercar (Electric Classic Cars/Mercury PR)

An Electric Classic Cars electric conversion turned this vintage Beamer into a Tesla-powered supercar (Electric Classic Cars/Mercury PR)

For example, when this BMW E9 CSL (illustrated top) rolled off the production line in the early 1970s, it had a peak power of 178hp and 255Nm of torque. Add in a supply of big Tesla motors and you get up to 330kW, 450hp, torque of 470 nm and 0-60 in four seconds.

Until recently, the vintage electric car was definitely a toy for the famous and the mega-rich. Morgan’s conversions aren’t exactly cheap, starting at £25,000 – but judging by the four Ferrari Testarossas lined up in his workshop at the moment, that’s no problem for his clientele.

Luckily, other companies are also starting to cater to cheaper tastes. Matthew Quitter founded London Electric Cars in 2017 to build affordable electric urban classic cars – and started with the classic Mini, fitted with a Nissan Leaf engine and transmission. A 20kWh battery split between the boot and under the rear seat costs around £1 to charge for 70 miles, or 14 average length journeys around London.

The focus is increasingly on ease of conversion rather than just high-end bespoke services, which also reduces costs. Electrogenic founder Steve Drummond developed an electrification system that included an optional gearbox and conversion kit. Have it installed by your local mechanic and away you go.

Worthy Farm in Glastonbury was used as the proving ground for the Electrogenic facility. Its four converted Land Rover Defenders have proven to have power and torque comparable to the original diesel engines, while being the ultimate in dirt-hugging recycled machines.

One of the electric classic cars

One of Electrogenic’s “plug and play” electric classic cars (Electrogenic)

For Morgan, industry competition is welcome. A shared recognition in the future of the classic auto industry, which he says can be as stuck in the past as its vehicles.

“Electric vehicles are obviously better and the one thing everyone talks about is the sound of the engine,” sighs Morgan. “But it’s like when jets first started flying, with passengers complaining that they missed the sound of the propellers and asking that it be artificially channeled into the cabin.”

He’s right: when you can give your 20th century car a 21st century makeover, why wouldn’t you?

Find out more about our electric car campaign at: standard.co.uk/plugitin

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