High-Tech meets vintage…
In a small lab in Southern California, a dedicated group is breathing a new and different life into vintage cars. Not just restored, these cars are totally electrified, and when they sent me an email about their latest project, this 1973 Porsche 911S, I had to have a look for myself.
Zelectric is the brainchild of award-winning designer-producers David Benardo and Bonnie Rodgers, partners in life and business since 1986.
A simple concept, bring in (or let them find one for you) a 1958-1966 investment grade VW Beetle, Microbus, VW Thing, and Zelectric zaps in a 100% electric powertrain. You select some modifications and desired upgrades, and Zelectric hands you back a totally unique machine.
Zelectric carefully removed the engine, gas tank, and other stock systems of this vintage 911 to accommodate the new electric drivetrain components, retaining both the value and heritage of the air-cooled coupe. Why this might seem heresy to the Porsche faithful —no cuts or welds means no 911s were harmed in the creation.
From the outside, the car appears to be a completely stock example of the 911S and it’s only when you start poking around that you start to appreciate this conversion.
Open up the left front fender gas tank filler flap and the plug for charging is hidden underneath. Pop the front trunk and that’s where you find the battery. And peek into the rear engine bay and you will now find the charging gear, and it’s surgically neat installation.
Commissioned by a Zelectric client who purchased this Porsche specifically for electrification, I wasn’t allowed to drive the just completed project, but from the passengers seat the experience was incredible.
Scooting around town with just the sound of tires on asphalt, the steep hills of the California coast are flatten by the huge torque from the 54 kWh Tesla battery pack.
Just like the original, the electric Porsche still hangs its tail out around corners, as it scrambles for traction. But you now never have to leave 3rd gear, though an occasional drop down to 2nd changes quick performance into serious grunt.
Retained is the standard 5-speed gearbox and the tach and speedo function just like the original. Sharp eyes may spot the little gauge on the far left. No longer a gas gauge, it now monitors battery performance and charge.
180-mile range on the highway and a 150 mile-per-hour top speed, what’s not to like? The batteries top up in 8 to 9 hours, and the packs have an expected lifespan of 12 to 15 years.
Singer Porsche and Icon Motors have been thinking outside the “wheelbase” for a while and now Zelectric joins those Southern California shops in the construction of unique vehicles.
David is frank about the couple’s reasoning for electrifying vintage machines; “…this isn’t about saving the environment and it’s not about building a better car… it’s about building something different, something perhaps more fun, something certainly unique for a special type of client.
As interesting as electric cars are, something has always been missing and, from my viewpoint, Zelectric appears to have found it.
By the way, they are now starting to electrify Fiats, as well.
Thanks to David Benardo, CEO of Zelectric for a fabulous ride!