A 60’s British Sports Car–Electrified!
Most electric vehicles (EVs) are familiar hatchbacks, like the Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Bolt EV, or sedans like the Tesla Model 3. They come with digital screens that tell you what the car is doing and how efficiently it’s performing. They have heated seats and steering wheels, climate control, Apple CarPlay and so much more.
But what if you want something really different? You may be on your own. Vijay Lakshman has built his own EV—a 1967 MGB GT with an all-electric powertrain.
With all the possible old cars to convert, why did he pick this one?
“I was looking for a simple car, without any complicated electronics,” said the software developer. “My friend suggested building something really different, and I found this fine old British hatchback.”
The car looks completely normal to the eye. It’s resprayed in an attractive Ferrari Red. It isn’t wearing its original wire wheels, but the gold-colored Panasport racing wheels look appropriate—and save about five pounds at each corner.
Finding Power to Transplant
To power his project, Vijay obtained two 2013 Nissan Leaf batteries and placed parts of them in the rear compartment and under the hood. He ordered a brand-new High Performance motor—it’s not out of an existing EV—that sits below the batteries up front. There’s a tiny 12-volt battery under the hood, too, and a converter from 120 to 12 volts to run it. The small battery charges whenever the car is on—not just when it’s moving.
Twin chargers in back allow the car to drink juice from a charger at a 6.6 kWh rate, much like many modern EVs. A standard J-1772 charge port sits by the rear bumper, and inside the cargo hold there’s a cable that can plug into a 240-volt wall socket if necessary.
This project was a labor of love, taking 3 to 4 hours three workweek evenings a week and full days on the weekdays for about a year. If you want to follow the process and see details of this project, check out his blog. But the result is compelling. It delivers electric car efficiency without a hint of the 21st century in it.
Donations from All Over
Vijay took me for a ride on city streets and a long loop of freeway. The car accelerates quickly, although it’s not neck-snapping, all while the four-speed transmission, donated from a Datsun 240-Z, whines audibly. A multi-speed transmission in an EV isn’t really necessary, and Vijay uses mainly 2nd and 3rd gears. Using the Z’s gearbox saved about 50 pounds. Vijay opted for an electronic clutch, so your left foot isn’t put to work. There is regenerative braking, which varies depending on what gear you’re in.
The ride is firm but not too harsh, and handling, from the passenger’s seat, feels stable and controlled. It’s certainly not a quiet experience, but this is a half-century-old British sports car, right?
The MGB GT carries 30 kilowatt-hours worth of battery, so range is about 100 miles on the freeway. Range probably isn’t an issue, since this low-slung two-seater wouldn’t likely be your choice for a cross-country jaunt (nor would the gasoline version), but it serves nicely for in-town trips and commuting.
The interior sports a custom aftermarket Nardi steering wheel and a later generation radio with larger door speakers (leading to using shorter billet-style window cranks). The modern seats are from a Mazda Miata, complete with the built-in headrest speakers. But overall, you’re still looking at an old car with an upright windshield—and you can see a fender from where you’re sitting inside.
Vijay sometimes is given a hard time at chargers, before folks see him plug the car in. Who’d think that this old 1960’s classic is a 21st-century EV underneath? It’s the first time I’ve seen white California carpool lane access stickers on a 1967 vehicle. Vijay says it was hard to get them—he had to take the car to the California DMV to get certified as an electric vehicle. Apparently, they aren’t issuing them to conversions anymore.
The car is really something different and I’m glad he gave me a ride in it.