A master mechanic proves that classic and electric are a perfect match
“Even though we’ve made it electric, it’s really important to us to keep the character of the classic car intact,” says Richard ‘Moggy’ Morgan, the mechanic behind the hit TV show Vintage Voltage.
The programme, which returned this week for its second series, follows Moggy and his team of electric car experts as they convert and restore classic cars to electric power.
Filmed at Electric Classic Cars in Newtown, Vintage Voltage shows the process of outfitting well-known classic automobiles with 21st century power and technology. With some of the cars over 50 years old, the team has to overcome many hurdles, including trying to retain the look and appeal of the original – a challenge Moggy is well aware of.
“After you work on a car, when you sit in it and drive it, it still has to feel like a classic car,” he explains. “No touchscreens on the dash or anything flashy like that – you want the nice chrome dials with the bezels.
“In some cars we even keep the gearbox so you can still change gears, but we just replaced the motor with an electric motor.”
Moggy has a team of 15 people in his workshop, including office staff, mechanics, fabricators and electric vehicle technicians. In each episode of the all-new series, the team oversees a classic car’s dramatic transformation, from the last gas-powered rev to the first turn of the high-tech electric motor.
Car owners want more power, more performance but with less cost to their pocket and to the planet – so the solution is electric.
“We’re going to subtly incorporate 21st century technology to address some of the aspects of owning and driving a classic car,” says Moggy. “These aspects can often detract from the enjoyment of owning a classic car.
“Reliability, for example. Imagine trying to start an MG Midget, which I’m driving right now, on a winter morning, it can be a nightmare.
“By installing an electric drivetrain we remove these issues – but never at the expense of the character of the car as it will still feel like a classic car. Above all, it will drive smoother, make a little less noise and smell a little less too. You’ll end up with a classic car that starts every time and feels even better than before.
Classic cars are in Moggy’s DNA. He has owned, restored and raced various classics since he was 17 years old. He also comes for rally training, having competed in the British Historic Rally Championship for over seven years. But working in the fuel efficiency industry for 20 years, helping some of the world’s biggest organizations reduce their carbon emissions, his ambition is to make classic cars more reliable and greener to drive than ever before.
Moggy is a self-proclaimed “ex petrolhead”, having made the switch to electric six years ago.
He was both a mechanic and a driver as he spent his weekends with his friends building, tuning and racing rally cars.
He explains: “I have a background in racing engines, rallying and basically making cars go faster.
“I realized how many thousands of hours of labor you put into building an engine and then how many hundreds of hours you put through the equipment to keep it alive. Oil changes, fuel changes filter, tune-ups, belt changes – there’s so much maintenance involved in keeping classic or high performance car engines alive and running well, and even then you’ll be driving and hearing a clicking noise or a vibration – which is stressful.
“One of the reasons I went electric was basically because I first drove an electric car, a Tesla, in Belgium many years ago. I put my foot down and I couldn’t believe this big executive sedan was faster than most 911s I’d driven.
“I quickly realized that these things have better acceleration than any petrol car. They have instant torque and at the same time there is no shifting to worry about.
“For all you gasoline enthusiasts who love V8s and fast cars, drive an electric and you’ll be blown away by the performance.”
The new season of Vintage Voltage features classic cars including a Porsche 911, DeLorean, Mini, Land Rover and VW Camper Van. Each project is unique, so the team will have to deal with tricky restoration issues and complex design and engineering challenges while having to deliver a stunning engine, within budget, for the customer.
“There are challenges in every build we do,” says Moggy. ““If you take the Mini for example, the challenge was with the packaging. Where the hell are you going to put a motor, let alone batteries, on such a small car?
“Then there is the Delorean, an iconic car, but with a fairly poor engine and transmission. We were able to solve this problem by installing a modern transmission.
“Engineers love challenges. Engineers love to complain about problems, but where would we be without problems to solve? The team came up with a brilliantly innovative solution to the problems we faced.
Asked about his favorite car from the series, Moggy opted for the Porsche 911, which is the focus of the first episode.
“We had the opportunity to almost recreate the iconic 1973 Porsche 911 RS – which for me was one of the first supercars,” he says.
“Having the opportunity to recreate it and basically improve aspects, was a big responsibility but a privilege at the same time.
“How can you improve on perfection? Well, the weight of a 911 is in the back, so let’s balance the weight distribution with some batteries up front, which will improve handling. The 2.7-liter engine is a nice one, but not powerful by modern standards, so let’s put in a Tesla motor to increase the power margin.
“Each car we built in season two has its own story – all 10 are very special cars with a personal attachment.”
Electric vehicles had a record year for sales in 2021. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), carmakers sold 190,000 battery electric cars across the UK last year, representing 11.6% of total sales.
Despite even more disruption to global supply chains, sales fell by 108,000 in 2020, when battery-powered cars accounted for just 6.6% of new cars purchased in the country.
Moggy thinks the tide has turned and more and more people are considering buying a new electric car.
He says, “In any industry, there’s always skepticism and doubts about new technology coming along.
“With electric vehicles, early adopters took the leap and realized it made sense. They realized that electric vehicles require very little maintenance and cost less to run – the cost of electricity per compared to petrol and diesel is enormous.
“The average man on the street started to notice that more and more people were buying electricity and loving it.
“The reservations they had, either from reading half an article or from the guy in the pub who thought he was an expert, were starting to fade. Because they were talking to people who owned an electric car, so it’s a domino effect.
In 2020, as part of the country’s green transport future and net zero goal, the UK government announced plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, although some hybrid cars are suspended until 2035.
“It’s important to note that the big automakers are producing electric cars,” says Moggy. “A few years ago, a quirky company called Tesla made them”
“Now the Vauxhalls, Fords and Hondas of the world are all making electric cars. It makes people more confident about buying electric and they are more likely to take a test drive from a manufacturer than they know better.
“People are realizing that it’s not the government pushing people to use electric cars – it’s actually better technology.”
The new season of Vintage Voltage premiered on Quest on Thursday, January 27 and is available to stream on Discovery+