Restore or Electrify? Saving Classic Cars for the Future
How can classic cars be preserved for the future? From ground-up restoration to electrification, here’s how the experts are saving superb automobiles
With Bentley announcing that it would be launching an electric model in 2025 and switching to a fully electric line-up by 2030, clearly it’s time for owners of petrol-driven classic cars to think about what they can do to preserve their beloved vehicles for the future.
Future emissions legislation aside, there are some good economic arguments for going electric. Day-to-day running costs and long-term maintenance expenses for EVs (electric vehicles) are lower than those of petrol or diesel vehicles, and range and performance are improving constantly. But some pundits doubt whether EVs will ever reach ‘classic’ status. So which is the best route to follow?
Hawk Classics of Northfleet in Kent clearly believes in the restoration option. Acutely aware that some classic cars are now suffering the effects of outdated manufacturing techniques, they are prepared to go to amazing lengths to not only restore a classic to its original condition, but also to make sure it is a road-going prospect for years to come, not just a museum piece.
Leading a small team of passionate engineers, Tony Hawk restores icons of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s to concours standards with precision and passion, blending in modern touches and discreet technical improvements.
A typical project is the 1961 Jaguar Mk2 3.8 Manual (seen top of page), which Tony describes as “not simply a rebuild or a common-or-garden restoration, it’s a rejuvenation of a 1960’s icon, a renovation of all that is classic, with touches of modernisation – there isn’t a nut, bolt, bearing, gasket or bush that hasn’t been restored or replaced.”
Work begins with a fierce-sounding ‘acid dipping’. To eliminate rust, the shell is stripped and dipped in acid which penetrates every part of the chassis, removing, dirt, paint, filler and rust. The result is pure metal, ready for extensive water-resistant seam welding, grinding down, panel replacement and fabrication of new panels, leaving a beautiful, clean, solid shell, “Almost a shame to cover with paint and parts!” says Tony Hawk.
A second acid dipping is followed by an electrophoretic coating to provide corrosion protection, then repainting, in this case a multi-coat respray in period Jaguar Cornish Grey, then undersealing of the chassis.
Each piece of the Mk2’s signature chrome from the grille to window winders had to be stripped, coated and re-chromed, then it was on to the interior; an exercise in sumptuous hand-crafting with traditional upholstery skills and restoration of the walnut dashboard panelling by specialist craftsmen. Every element, from carpets, headlining, visors and door cards to every piece of interior trim was restored, along with all the gauges and dials. The result is if anything finished to a higher quality than when this beautiful car rolled off of the production line.
The same attention was applied to the engine, a complete re-build with hardening of valve seats to permit use of unleaded petrol, along with new pumps, rings and bearings, restoration of the gearbox and sub-frames, and complete electrical rewiring.
Modern touches includes electronic ignition, new alternator and starter motor, improved brakes, an aluminium radiator, improved water pump and upgraded audio, with JL audio amplifiers and a RetroAudio head unit compatible with the car’s original look and feel.
To finish off the look of the car, the stock steel wheels were replaced with period wire wheels and traditional ‘knock off’ hubs.
Finished price, to you, sir? A very reasonable £75,000. As Tony Hawk puts it, with the classic car booming, this beauty will now be “not only a pleasure to own, but a worthwhile investment.”
This is just one of Hawk Classics’ notable projects, along with, recently, a 1977 Corvette Stingray C3, a 1974 Jensen Interceptor and a 1985 Daimler Double Six. But what if you want to take the restoration idea a bit further, and convert a classic to electric power?
There are good arguments for doing this; firstly it’s been proposed that by 2030 sales of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK will be stopped, and of hybrids by 2035. This won’t initially affect used cars, including classics, but the government has set a target for the nation to be emitting virtually zero carbon by 2050, so it’s difficult to say when restrictions might be placed on driving internal combustion engine vehicles.
Classic car enthusiasts may already have fallen foul of charges for driving their vehicles in areas like London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone or Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone. The government’s aim to reduce the number of petrol and diesel-powered vehicles on UK roads is sure to mean a steady increase in similar charges.
And of course, there is a sound economic argument for going electric. The price of a new electric vehicle may be similar to most comparable petrol or diesel cars, but the cost of running one is significantly lower, from tax incentives and special government grants to enhanced fuel efficiency, lower cost of electricity, and reduced maintenance requirements.
Fully electric cars generally have only three main components powering the vehicle; the on-board charger, inverter and motor. This minimises wear and tear on the car and puts little stress on the motor, with fewer moving parts susceptible to damage. The result should be that you’ll rarely have to have your EV serviced and the running and repair costs should be minimal.
This is not to mention the environmental advantages of running your car on an emission-free electric motor, and taking all those petrol tankers off the road.
But how does this apply to classic cars? It’s a challenge, but they can be fitted with electric engines. It’s no small task as it can involve fabrication of new motor mounts, adding strengthening to the chassis to take the extra weight of the batteries, upgrading suspension and other components to take into account the altered weight distribution, and modifying brakes to facilitate regenerative braking and cope with extra power.
Everrati (formerly ionic) is at the forefront of iconic reconceptions, with projects such as a Mercedes-Benz SL ‘Pagoda’ and a Porsche 911 Carrera 964 Targa already completed.
While Everrati’s aim is to lower a car’s environmental impact, the job also entails fully refurbishing bodywork and customising interiors, in fact reconceiving the vehicle as a state-of-the-art electric car.
Each Everrati car is a bespoke creation for its owner to enjoy into the future. Dials and console components are based on original styling and compassionately designed to be in keeping with the original interior décor. Each Everrati car is equipped with brand-new custom designed battery packs complete with advanced battery management, advanced temperature control, and regenerative braking. Power units are OEM-grade electric motors and, where appropriate, a custom single-speed gearbox is installed developed by Everrati’s engineering team. Performance is also vastly improved.
Everrati’s Justin Lunny says: “We breathe new life into these glorious icons; fully refurbishing bodywork, customising interiors, and converting the vehicle into a state-of-the-art electric car” – though the process is reversible, and Everrati can even preserve your old engine in a Perspex coffee-table!
It’s great to know that classics like these will have a future – though dedicated petrolheads may take some time to get used to the discreet hum of electric power, rather than the throaty roar of the internal combustion engine.
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