Classic fix: Heritage cars reborn with new electric powertrains

Retrofitting electric powertrains in ICE vehicles will ensure the vehicles are cleaner and help prolong the life of classic cars and prevent them from being scrapped.

By Chandan B Mallik calendar 06 Jan 2024 Views icon2605 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Classic fix: Heritage cars reborn with new electric powertrains

If one is familiar with British automotive heritage, then there are venerable names that are permanently etched in the minds of auto aficionados. Among the most celebrated and revered cars in British automotive history include Range Rovers from the Classic Era (1969 to 1994), Bentley Continental S1, S2 and S3s, Jaguar XK120, 140 and 150s (in both coupe, drophead coupe and OTS body-styles), Rolls-Royce Silver Clouds, Phantoms and most recently, Aston Martin DB6s.

Most of these cherished vehicles are powered by ICE powertrains that were built much before the legislative mandates of various stages of emissions and fuel consumption controls were brought in by the local authorities in countries like the UK. This fact has a profound effect on the owners who wish not to part with their prized cars but enjoy them without feeling guilty about the environment. Seizing this opportunity, UK-based Lunaz launched its Upcycled Electric Vehicle (UEV) programme a few years ago. The idea of converting an existing ICE vehicle and upgrading it to run on electric power only, is gaining traction from the market and has even impressed celebrity UK-footballer David Beckham, who has joined the Barclay, Reuben and Dellal families in investing in the rapidly growing vehicle electrification companies like Lunaz.

Going by the Carbon Neutral commitments, by 2030, many western countries will see internal combustion engine (ICE) bans in major markets come into effect. Yet, more than two billion conventionally powered vehicles will continue to exist and hence the idea of re-manufacturing, upcycling and electrification is being promoted actively that can prevent a large proportion of these vehicles from being scrapped. This approach is in line with the principles of the rapidly emerging circular economy.

In just a few years, Lunaz has become the world’s leading maker of restored, re-mastered and electrified classic cars. The company, which builds its vehicles in a state-of-the-art facility in Silverstone, England will also increase production capacity to 110 restored, re-engineered and electrified vehicles every year. This represents a 50 percent increase in total build-slots versus 2020. Lunaz announced in December 2020, the establishment of Britain's largest re-manufacturing and electrification facility adjacent to its current home opposite the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit. This will take the company’s total production space to 1,30,000 sq/ft over two sites, making it the largest employer and manufacturer, in Silverstone's famous Technology Cluster.

How it is done

It’s not just a simple matter of taking out the ICE powertrain and shoehorning an electric motor, battery pack and battery management system. The actual process of conversion starts with an exhaustive inspection of the vehicle. Each corner of the car is weighed to understand the original weight distribution to the gram.

This information is used by the engineers to determine the chassis setup, powertrain and suspension packaging. The internal combustion engine and related systems are then removed before the chassis is prepared for re-engineering and electrification.

In many cases, the project car is 3D scanned, enabling the engineers to create detailed CAD models. The electric powertrain for these projects are custom engineered to suit the vehicle’s requirements.

UK-based Lunaz, which specialises in ICE to EV conversions of high-end classic cars has developed a modular technical approach, meaning the powertrain can be adapted to the exact requirements and characteristics of various brands and their models.

After the hardware has been installed, software engineers then programme its powertrain to meet the dynamic requirements of each project.

That’s not all. After the powertrain conversion work is completed, the car heads towards the traditional coachbuilding and restoration departments. Here, the car is stripped down to a bare metal shell and body defects or repairs are done by metal workers manually before the surface finish process begins.

Lunaz says prices start at GBP 2,90,000 plus local taxes for restored, re-engineered and electrified Range Rover Classics. Bentley Continentals and Rolls-Royce Silver Clouds start at GBP 3,50,000 plus local taxes, Jaguar XKs start at GBP 3,75,000 plus local taxes, Rolls-Royce Phantom Vs start at GBP 5,50,000 plus local taxes, while Aston Martin DB6s begin at GBP 9,50,000 plus taxes.

This article was first published in Autocar Professional's December 15, 2023 issue.




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