When people started hot rodding vehicles there wasn’t a precedent to base anything on, you just built what you wanted based on your skill set. Casey Loter took that same approach when he built his Tesla-powered 1958 Chevy Apache at Electric 51 Speed Shop. The truck that Loter has built represents all the ideas that hot rodding is based on today.
Loter has built cars on the side as a hobby for many years. Loter planned to build the Apache with a traditional driveline until he let his mind wander and start to get creative.
“I’ve always loved working on trucks. There’s something satisfying about taking something old, making it run again, and getting it back on the road. I didn’t start this project with any grand plan per se. One day I was underneath the truck and was thinking about what engine combination I wanted to use. Then it hit me, why not make this thing electric” Loter says.
So, when Loter got to the point of the build where he had to decide on an engine, he started to look around for Tesla motors online. Loter found some companies that were selling both motors and controllers, but they weren’t cheap. Ultimately, the availability of the motors helped Loter make the choice to take the plunge into the EV conversion universe.
“I had never driven, ridden in, or even sat in an electric vehicle before I decided to electrify this truck. I knew the combination could make plenty of horsepower, it was a matter of getting it in the truck. It took about seven months to complete the EV conversion. Now, it wasn’t bad getting the motor in the truck with the suspension, but the battery boxes and other mounts were a challenge,” Lotor explains.
Loter found his 1958 Apache in the desert and knew he had to save the truck from certain doom. The truck uses a large drive motor from a Tesla Model S and is powered by a 48-kilowatt-hour battery pack. This combination generates an impressive 550 horsepower and gobs of instant torque. The truck has a custom air ride suspension that Loter built himself after some frame modifications. Loter can get about 120 miles of range out of the truck under normal conditions, and about 80 if he’s having fun.
Loter noted that it might sound like a challenge to build something like this, but it’s actually easier than what most people would think. A decent amount of fabrication is involved with this type of build, but if you don’t have the skills to complete the work, you could always farm it out. Loter also stated that the wiring isn’t that bad either. The majority of the wiring is 12-volt service, and the wiring for the control and motor isn’t difficult either. Just like any other wiring project, you just need to take your time when completing the installation.
When you’ve never taken a ride in an EV, or spent much time around them, you’re not sure what types of sounds you’ll hear. Loter was pleasantly surprised at what his Apache sounded like after he got everything wired up and turned it on.
“I didn’t know what to expect when it came to what noises it would make. The first time I had it up on jack stands testing it I was blown away, it sounded like a jet engine. It’s the coolest noise I’ve ever heard. You can really hear it through the open bed when I drive it. It’s a lot of fun to drive, it makes you feel like a kid again,” Loter says.
To Loter, this type of build represents a modern take on hot rodding. People are building things that have never been built before, and using new technology to make it happen. When you stop and think about it, you’re just cramming some new tech into an old vehicle just like gearheads have been doing for decades.
“When you sit in one of these old trucks you feel what it once was and you’re transported to a different time. Little does your imagination know that hidden in the chassis are 400 volts of lithium-ion batteries powering a rear-mounted Tesla motor that’s cranking out over 500 horsepower and a ton of torque. Inside the truck feels the same, but once you hit the accelerator all bets are off, there’s nothing like the feel of a Tesla motor. The torque shoves you back in the seat and you can’t help but smile,” Loter states.
According to Loter, the truck has been positively received. The majority of people who take a look at the Apache are surprised to see all the EV gear in the bed. There are those who simply look at the truck and say “nope” as they walk away. Most people seem to appreciate the fabrication work and engineering that he’s put into the truck.
It’s cool to see people like Casey Loter embracing new technology and finding a way to combine it with classic steel. While his Apache might not be for everyone, you have to respect the amount of work it takes to create a ride like this. Make sure you check out the entire video from ConvertingEV where Loter talks about the build.