Like it or not, we are witnessing hot rod history.
Imagine the first time someone swapped a small block Chevy into a Ford, or the first time someone chopped a deuce coupes roof, channeled a body, Frenched a taillight, or louvered a trunk.
How about the first time someone supercharged anything, or discovered alternative fuels? Or the first time someone used a trans brake or made a hit with nitrous… hell anything to make their cars faster or lighter for the first time…
Well, with the advent of the electric vehicle and automakers producing E-crate motors we are beginning to see a new phenomenon in hot rodding – the EV swap.
The Rise Of The EV Swap
Now, bear with us for a moment, and refrain from smashing your keyboard or smartphone in half… we contend that perhaps it is with that same intrepid nature that the folks leading the way with EV swaps look at hot rodding.
We’d go as far as to say they’re brave. Especially when it seems that every gasoline huffing gear head is ready to jump down their throats at the thought of anything besides an internal combustion engine between the frame rails of a hot rod, muscle car, or otherwise.
Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not exactly singing the praises of electric vehicles just yet, but we’d be foolish to not notice the fact that we’ve got front row seats to the show. We’re watching automotive history unfold. Not since we made the transition from horse and buggy to the automobile has there been such a major development in the automotive space.
Now, we’re not here to talk about if that is a good or bad thing, and we won’t touch on the massive government overreach we’re witnessing as all of this is being forced on the American public. All we are here to do is simply comment on the fact that hot rodders will always find a way, and we love that.
So, to show our appreciation for those bold enough to go against the grain and actually embrace something so unpopular with traditional car people, we’ve hunted up a few of our favorite EV swapped cars.
And if you don’t like it…well, tough nuts. Start your own magazine.
Mopar aficionados are already quite finicky when it comes to restoration accuracy, so this electric-swapped Plymouth is sure to ruffle a few feathers. Still, we quite like it.
While the owner opted for a Tesla powerplant, gasp!, we don’t miss the typical HEMI swap – there are thousands of those out there already, and we love them too. This one just happens to be one-of-a-kind, which gives it a unique flavor that’s hard to dislike.
Plus, the owner, Kevin Erickson has done a fantastic job with the ’72 Plymouth Satellite that he’s dubbed Project Electrolite.
Built at home in his garage, Kevin took ownership of the big body Mopar a few years ago and quickly got to work. Luckily for us, he’s documented the entirety of the transformation on his YouTube channel, here.
While it is a home build, Kevin put some high-level fabrication skills to work, using everything from old-school cardboard templates to the latest CAD tech to build Electrolite.
The car now sports a complete Tesla Model S rear subframe, including the motor which reportedly makes around 600 horsepower when switched into Ludicrous mode – no relation to the rapper/actor of the same name. Along with the motor, he also swapped over the regenerative brakes, axles, and inverter.
If the wild drivetrain swap wasn’t enough to turn heads, Kevin also overhauled and reengineered the entire suspension system. Since the new battery and motor system took up so much room, Erickson had no choice but to create a unique, adjustable cantilever suspension system that now resides in the trunk.
The power source for electric vehicles is always a point of interest, and Kevin got creative when it came time to locate his own. A few of the battery cells are located in the rear compartment along with the motor, but the majority of the car’s 16 battery cells are located in the previous engine compartment under the Satellites long hood.
Underneath the batteries is the car’s AlterKtion K Member which is mated to Gerst suspension components, rack and pinion steering, and electronically controlled brakes.
For the vintage flavor melded with modern tech, the big Plymouth rides on a set of American Racing Wheels wrapped in 285 treadwidth rubber out back and 275 in front.
Kevin did a fantastic job with his Satellite, and whether you love or hate the swap, you’ve got to respect the amount of work involved in a project like this.
If you haven’t heard of the crew at Salvage To Savage, you’re missing out. They create all kinds of great content on their YouTube channel. They’ve cranked out videos on everything from a twin-turbo LSX-powered Chevelle to saving the patina on a ’76 G10 boogie van. Although, one build is of particular concern to us given the article at hand – The AWD Twin Tesla Swapped 1985 Squarebody C10.
The Florida-based Salvage To Savage team debuted the radical widebody Squarebody at SEMA 2021 after a lengthy and arduous build process which has been fully documented on the team’s YouTube channel. Give them a follow – they’re hilarious. In the first episode of the build series, they argue over what should go in the truck instead of the electric powerplant, but the owner, Mikey Rolls, explains why they elected to stray from the tried and true combination of a bagged chassis and LSX engine.
“Our original plan for this truck was pretty simple – throw a nice LS motor in it with a Porterbilt chassis with bags.” But Tim Moceri, the video’s host explains, “That’s so boring! The real reason we wanted to do something with EV is that all the OEs are going EV, and everyone is talking about EV. I love it! We want to do something different, and we don’t skirt away from what is new.”
Tim continues, “One of the most heated debates on the internet is whether electric cars are going to take over and gasoline is going to completely go away. So instead of being naysayers, we decided to build an electric vehicle ourselves.”
And that’s just what they did. The crew decided to take things a step further than most others who have tackled a similar swap. They made their C10 all-wheel-drive by installing not one, but two Tesla Model S large drive motors. The team originally planned on using the factory frame, but because of the motor’s unconventional shape, they had to call an audible. Fortunately for them, the wheelbase on the Chevy is actually very similar to that of a Model S. To accompany the front and rear-mounted Tesla motors, they installed a complete Tesla battery pack.
But the fun didn’t stop at a simple drivetrain swap, the crew 3D scanned the whole truck to achieve the radical look they were after. They used the technology to develop a custom widebody kit for the truck, and the rest is history. The crew debuted the truck with Toyo at SEMA 2021, but they are still making new developments. Check them out, here.
By now, we’re sure you’re noticing a theme – Tesla powerplants. That’s not to say we’re major Tesla fans or anything, but it makes sense given the fact that the cars have been around for some time now, and they boast some of the best performance numbers in the EV market.
Now that we’ve seen a Mopar and GM offering sporting the electric guts, let’s have a look at a Ford. Even though the “Mustang” Mach-E is out pounding the pavement in full force nowadays, the folks at AEM actually beat them to the punch.
You all know the company AEM – famous for making all sorts of aftermarket gauges and accouterments for our beloved hot rods. Well, they took their knowledge of everything electronic and focused it on the age of EVs.
In this video, Nate Stewart, AEM’s EV performance applications engineer, walks us through one of their most exciting endeavors – the Testang. The Testang started life as a 2007 Ford Mustang GT, and like the other examples listed above, it’s been swapped with a Tesla large drive unit. AEM developed an inverter control board for the Tesla large drive unit to facilitate the pseudo merger of Tesla and Mustang.
The team started by hunting for a test mule and Tesla parts. Interestingly enough, they happened upon the ’07 ‘Stang which had already been swapped and it turned out to be a great starting point for AEM to work with. The EV hobbyist who tackled the swap saved them a lot of time, energy, and resources.
Although, that didn’t stop the team at AEM from developing another new product to accommodate the whole thing and they even changed out the drive units to the other options from Tesla.
The other product they developed is the vcu 200 – it controls driving, contactor control, charging, ems management, battery management, thermal management, running of pumps, fans, and accessories like climate control. The VCU was necessary because it manages all the driver inputs, like connecting the gas pedal to torque request, and it provides a keypad that houses the park, reverse, neutral, and drive buttons along with some other optional buttons.
Is This The New Norm?
While you can see it takes little more than a motor, inverter, batteries, a bunch of chargers, and some interesting new products from a company like AEM to accomplish these kinds of swaps, it’s our opinion that we are likely still a ways off before we see EV swaps like these becoming commonplace.
Mainly because there are still questions up in the air regarding the viability of electric vehicles in general. Things like infrastructure, raw materials and the ethics behind sourcing those materials, whether it’s really “going green” or not, the blatant attack on the “dependence on oil”, and lawmakers, politicians, and manufacturers inundating the American public and world with the electrification of everything. You can place blame on any number of groups for this, but one thing is for certain, the pressure we’re seeing put on the automakers to supply the public with EVs has prompted a huge shift in their strategies and those who learn early will likely reap the benefits later on.
However, some experts estimate it will take more than a decade before we see enough technicians support the amount of EVs those same lawmakers and manufacturers want on the road. Let alone, before we start seeing them hot-rodded, swapped, or modified en mass.
Take, for example, the history of hot rodding itself. In post-war America, millions of GI’s came home with easily transferrable skills and an itch for adrenaline. Naturally, those thrill-seekers got to wrenching on their rides and the next thing you know, they’re racing their stripped-down jalopy’s down dry lake beds.
Right now, we are witnessing the infancy of this EV movement, and we lack those same individuals who have the skills and desire to modify these vehicles and or retrofit classic vehicles with their technology. But there are a few leading the way…we shared our favorites with you.
So, let us know how you feel about the builds above and the EV swap movement in general. Drop a comment in the comment section below – tell us if you love it, hate it, want to tackle it yourself, or if you want to see more content around EV swaps in general.
-Vinny Costa, Editor – Street Muscle Magazine