How EV Technology Brings Hot Rodding into the 21st Century
Earth Day is April 22, and its usual message – take care of our planet – has been given added urgency due to the challenges highlighted in the latest IPCC report. This year, Ars takes a look at the technologies we normally cover, from cars to chip manufacturing, and finds out how we can boost their sustainability and minimize their impact on the climate.
The term “restomod” began to gain traction in the 1990s. As muscle car enthusiasts sought ways to improve the performance and reliability of their vintage machines, a cottage industry of people adapting components from the powertrain and chassis of recent models quickly began to emerge. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a restored late-’60s Mustang or Camaro on the road that hasn’t been modified with some sort of modern technology, whether it’s a computer-controlled fuel injection, an updated brake and suspension system, or even a modern V8 engine.
For some, it might be sacrilege. For others, it’s just a matter of moving with the times.
Over the past decade, a similar trend in restomodding has begun to develop around electric vehicle technology, although the initial focus has been less on tire melting and more on pragmatism and technical curiosity. .
“I got involved in restomodding in 2009, and it was a weird time because it was right after the recession,” said Michael Bream of EV West, an electric vehicle conversion shop in San Marcos, Calif. . “I had read an article about the Roadster that Tesla was developing, and as a computer engineer and hot-rodder, I was quite enamored with the technology involved. I wanted to see what was possible with the electrical performance.”
“But while I was researching, I found myself a little deterred,” Bream told Ars. “I was calling these stores that worked with the technology to talk about power and continuous service and things like that, but all they wanted to talk about was how much money I was going to save by sticking it to the OPEC. At the end of the day, nobody in the performance business really cares about gasoline costing five or six dollars a gallon.”
With the development of electric vehicles still representing a rounding error in the budgets of most major automakers at the time, Bream also encountered significant difficulties in finding components on the aftermarket, but he said the situation had changed considerably over the ensuing years.
“Not only in terms of what’s available for the transmission and the batteries, but also a lot of other things that early-day builders just had to put up with. Back then, there weren’t well-developed systems to add power brakes, for example,” Bream said. “The solution was to install a vacuum pump to mimic the operation of a combustion engine, and we also used belt-driven hydraulic pumps for the management support. But now, thanks to cars like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt, and the electric vehicles that Tesla produces, purpose-built solutions [like electrically driven hydraulic pumps] were developed at the OE [original equipment] level. It helped a lot to refine the EV experience. It has also brought higher quality parts at lower costs, which in turn has brought greater accessibility to the EV restomod market. »
And the equipment manufacturers notice it. At last year’s Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show, a massive convention for aftermarket performance suppliers held annually in Las Vegas, Ford showed off the F-100 Eluminator concept, a built unique custom that uses powertrain components from the automaker. Mustang Mach-E GT production EV in a vintage F-Series pickup. It’s the latest entry in a succession of performance-focused electric vehicle builds from the automaker, which include the all-electric Mustang dragster Cobra Jet 1400 and Mach-E 1400 drift car prototypes.
“I think this is just the beginning,” said Mark Wilson, Ford’s vehicle customization business operations manager. “If you look at the life cycle of ICE [internal combustion engine] long-term products, there seems to be an end date on the horizon – a point at which they will be phased out. And when that happens, it’s only a matter of time before existing ICE products become obsolete, so to speak.”
“And for products where the engine isn’t really the focal point of the vehicle, that’s going to take on greater importance,” Wilson said. cool, but the straight-six engine that originally powered it is less so. So in a case like this, swapping the powertrain is potentially less detrimental to the value, nostalgia and overall desirability of the vehicle.”
And the Eluminator concept isn’t just lip service – the two electric traction motors that drive the F-100’s front and rear wheels (which account for a total system output of 480 horsepower and 634 lb-ft of torque) are now available for purchase by the general public through Ford Performance.