What’s most impressive is the smooth, progressive power and the way the main controls retain the stock car’s weight and ease of use. The brakes, for example, are terrific, with a tiny bit of battery generation, but not at the expense of initial feel or bite.
The ride is pretty good, but there is a bit of rear end bounce. Kinghorn says a set of height-adjustable Bilstein suspension units allowed for a better stance, though a set of adjustable shocks would do wonders with the overly fiery suspension rebound.
There’s quite a bit of body roll and you navigate it along the road rather than point and squirt but that’s what the car was like when it was on petrol so the electric conversion doesn’t really have much exchange.
Charging is via a 6.6kW Type One port salvaged from the first-gen Leaf; the entrance to the cap lives under the old fuel filler door. It limits the car to charging 7.4 kW on a domestic wallbox. A full recharge would therefore take about six hours.
Kinghorn says a Type 2 or even a fast charging slot could be fitted on the other side, which would allow access to 11kW street chargers (which would reduce a full recharge to less than four hours) and 50kW DC fast chargers, which would provide an 80% charge in less than an hour.
That would make more practical sense, but battery life (or lack thereof) isn’t what would deter most 1980s sedan owners from switching to battery power. The big downside is the cost. The Donor Bluebird cost £4,000 and didn’t require much work to keep it as a lively reminder of Nissan’s early UK manufacturing days, but conversion costs, which start at £25,000, were probably closer to £35,000 by the time it was delivered. I’m glad they did, but the economy just doesn’t hold up.
There’s a lot of buzz around these electric “resto-mods” right now, as wealthy corporations and owners, backed by impressionable journalists, seek to make their classic cars more environmentally acceptable. Undoubtedly, as an advertising vehicle for Nissan UK, linking the Bluebird to the current Leaf, this Newbird will have been worth the significant investment as it faces a second life (or should it be the third?) performing guided tours of the Tyne and Wear factory. .
But I’ve also heard of rare and valuable pre- and post-WWII historic cars cut up and converted to electric drive, where in fact the original petrol engine and gearbox are an integral part of the identity and charm of the vehicle.
So is this an appropriate response to climate change? Is it part of the fashionable movement to tear up (and tear down) things that offend our sensibilities? And in a world where there are only around 140,000 pre-1970 cars known to the DVLA, most of which have very low mileage and support a sizable industry in the UK, a more appropriate answer wouldn’t be it not offset the carbon dioxide they produce them or even run them with electronic fuels?
A greenwashed classic or a valuable update of an underrated representative? Only you can decide. As it stands, I’m glad they built the Newbird, and the engineering is truly impressive, but it certainly raises more questions than it answers.
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