Welham vs Coleman: Are classic EVs the future?

Watch a battle to the death and vote in the poll at the end!

43w ago

The idea of a classic car being converted into an EV is a huge debate in this day and age. Many people have been doing it right under our noses. Some people view it as sacrilege, and others see it as a progression into the future.

I am one of those people who see it as a progression into the future and a big leap in the way we view and drive cars, but John Coleman disagrees...

In this debaticle, John and I will aim to fight things out using nothing but words and the occasional Aussie insult and Dacia low-blow to win the argument. It will more-or-less be a bit like the PMQ's on a Wednesday afternoon but more civilised.

Welham's side (for classic EVs):

So, why am I, Ben Welham - lover of slow, cheap and underpowered old cars, willing to be the classic EV conversion evangelist in this debate?

Well, I never used to like EVs, in fact I hated them. It took me a couple of years to come to terms with them and now I very much love them, in fact I would own one. However, this debate isn't about that, it is about converting classic cars into EVs.

Now, I have no idea what John is going to say about this but I assume it'll be something along the lines of...'I hate EV converted classic cars because it ruins heritage and I like the smell of oil, plus I am going to have to add charging ports onto all my model Rolls Royces.'

While many people will agree with him, I don't. I think the art of taking something old and updating it is absolutely fine. Yes, some people are taking uber-rare cars and making them EVs but barely anyone is doing that. The ones I have seen are mostly Land Rover Defenders which they made millions of, the same goes for EV Volkswagen Beetles and Porsche 911s. They made millions upon millions of them.

Okay, so they only made a few thousand Ferrari 308s and I have seen a couple of EV converted ones, but who cares. It's something different and something which is saving the planet (to an extent) every time they are used.

On top of that, being able to drive, say, a Defender in the centre of London and not producing any TDI fumes and noise pollution is a wonderful thing. Yes, you don't get great range but realistically, how often is someone taking a classic more than 150/200 miles at a time anyway?

Coleman's side (against classic EVs)

My position is conservative, not reactionary –EV conversion is no more, and thus no worse, than an engine swap. EV-swapped classics are a genre just like hot rods; clearly not original but there’s space for it in the scene.

It’s the prevailing rhetoric and reasoning I despise, and of course, Welham can’t help but tap into it: “the art of taking something old and updating it is absolutely fine”, for instance. “It's something different and something which is saving the planet (to an extent) every time they are used.” The attitude is: we’re future-proofing classics. We’re making them more environmentally friendly. We’re making them relevant.

Firstly, we’re making them relevant to 2020. Presumably when EV tech has improved much further in 5, 10 years’ time, we’ll have to molest the classic car again and “update” it.

Second – and this is my point - why are we trying to make classic cars relevant? They’re engineering and art from another era – of which the powertrain is just one part. The car’s still unsafe if you crash, the front moniker is still going to fillet a pedestrian, and it’s still not going to corner like a Corolla. If you want that convenient, comfortable, noiseless, TDI fume-free, latest-regulation-satisfying motoring experience, we have relevant cars. We make them every day. And when they cease to be relevant, we update them.

At best, this relevancy argument reveals the attitude that the current era is so important, so ultimate, we must reach into the past and bring that up to speed too. At worst, it shows the desire to pose, not actually appreciate a classic car and what it represents.

So yes, I’d admire a classic EV restoration at a car show. Without foolishly assuming I’m witnessing the future of classic cars.

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Comments (102)

  • Mr. Coleman. His point about engineering and technology from another era is spot on. Time to move on. Leave the past where it belongs. This is why we have museums. I love classic cars. Let them be classics. Want an EV then go buy one. Have both if you wish but don't destroy one and turn it into another. And yes, they will still be unsafe. Let it be, man. Let it be.

      9 months ago
  • Right... First of all, whenever you modify something to do a job it wasn't designed to do - that becomes a compromise. Second, as my good friend and colleague would say, modifying cars is 'casual' inserting a 'many kilowatts' motor and backpack full of mobile phone batteries into a car is modifying it. So restomod classic EV's are casual. Now as much as I loathe all EVs, I accept they are increasingly positioning themselves as an inevitable stain upon the automotive horizon. They are coming and some of them will be good. But I'm sure the best ones will be the ones that have been designed to be EVs at their inception. The only caveat is that one day, it might be impossible to purchase fuel or anything similar to run our cars on. When that day comes, then maybe restomod classic EV's will make sense, because cars are designed to be driven and a classic sat in a nice garage never able to move becomes an ornament. They may sit in those garages now, not being driven by choice - but as soon as it is no longer a CHOICE not to drive them, that changes things.

      9 months ago
  • TBH I agree with both of you you have a point about it being engineering and art from another era for us to enjoy in this modern era of different styles but..

    I also agree with that these cars should be preserved in this manner so that the future can enjoy it too.

    There are also conversion companies that will do both they'll restore your gas engine but also install the electric conversion so as to give you that feel from an older era but easily switch into the electric mode for the "convenient, comfortable, noiseless, TDI fume-free, latest-regulation-satisfying motoring experience" with no Carbon emissions (again to an extent).

      9 months ago
  • Wow, the same question I brought up in a poll I did yesterday 🤣🤣.

    Anyways, about classic cars being electrified, I have to agree with John here.

    I know that's a sin to agree with Coleman, but classic cars are what the name suggests. They're classic and should remain that way.

    It's sorta like a piece in a museum, if you see a 1860s wooden boat that was used during some sort of war battle, you don't go sticking metal over it, do ya?

    No, we keep it preserved and the same for all generations to remember it by, to get a more physical impact on what history and time it was back then.

    The same should be for classics, they should be preserved pieces of museum art, to be intact for future generations to learn from of what our time was like.

    Not modernized.

      9 months ago
  • Poll: Are classic EVs the future? @tribe

      9 months ago