Driving a Classic for The Environment

With environmental climate change on everyone's lips as a topic of debate, 2019 is set to be the most significant year of environmental education. Ever since the ozone layer debate in the 1980s made news headlines and became a subject of conscience. A whopping 8.5 million people tuned in to watch Sir David Attenborough explore the impact of urban development on the natural world in last Sunday's Planet Earth II aired on the BBC channel.

We take a look at a subject which classic car owners are passionate about, "Driving a classic car for the environment". The word hybrid and electric would be the fastest response on the subject, but this article is not a debate, clearly driving an old car has an advantage in that it already exists - it has been made and the tooling and construction is complete, and therefore modifying and restoring them makes logical sense - even if put to a scientist. 

Ferrari 250GT California Barnfind in France

The subject of old cars might evoke a majority bias in people's opinions, as they view them only for avid enthusiasts or the upper classes, but the truth is, there are a vast amount of older cars on the market, covered in dust, neglected by their current or former owners and are awaiting a new home, like an abandoned puppy who has outgrown its novelty factor. We consider ourselves as somewhat experts on the subject, having owned and driven old cars and restoring survivors. 

Historical Barnfind Cars discovered

There is also another level of environmental classic car ownership we will shine a light on, a totally new concept which involves taking an old classic car and replacing the combustion engine with an electric engine. The concept is so new, we don't think there is even a name for it - other than EV, (Electric Vehicle) but we have found plenty of people doing it. 

The Standard "Old Car" Comparison

So the first concept to cover is the standard "old car" ownership versus new. This would entail the ownership of an old car which has not been modified or changed in any way. Opinions aside, we have done some research into this subject to ensure what we are saying is actually a scientifically proven thing.

Having reviewed many websites our most reliable source was the Telegraph Newspaper. The paper had actually produced a well researched article on the subject of old vs new. We didn't want to start a debate about the subject but if the question is how environmentally green is it driving an old car, then you have to actually compare it against driving a new car. So in the Telegraph article we take one simple example which was presented by an expert on the subject, Mike Berners-Lee, one of Britain’s leading thinkers on sustainability and global warming, who believes driving an old car could be far more environmentally friendly than previously estimated. 

Jeep CJ dashboard Vintage

The example the Telegraph presents is a Mitsubishi Outlander, with a cost of £33,249, with production just over 23 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. So despite its emissions of just 44g/km, five years with this car will still result in 26.7 tonnes’ carbon dioxide equivalent. But the Telegraph compares buying a 10-year-old Mitsubishi Shogun Sport – a larger car by comparison, with a gas-guzzling 3.0-litre V6 engine – but you’d still only produce 19.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide in five years.

So with cars far older than these examples, the evidence is clear. Most classic cars are also driven less, purely because of reliability and overall convenience. But if you are living in a city and commuting by public transport, it then really poses a big plus, rather than against for the argument. 

Givenchy Advert featuring old pickup truck

Another plus factor of an older car is the cool factor. Fashion has always embraced old style cars as they speak to an audience by their individualism. Old cars, especially classics, have character and style, as displayed in the Givenchy fashion campaign. Even old badly painted pickups are cool.

Tommy Hilfiger custom Jeep Wagoner in store window in Zurich

When it comes to the height of fashion, classic cars have played a big role in music videos, retail displays and even fragrance commercials, a sense of style which can only be achieved through the individualism that old cars deliver.

Johnny Depp, Dior Sauvage fragrance commercial

Johnny Depp, Dior Sauvage fragrance commercial

The EV Classic Car (Electric Vehicle)

Most people are familiar with the new range of electric cars in the marketplace, an explosion of these cars is now imminent due to some quite extraordinary factors and how they affect car ownership as we know it today. If we take a quite simple example or comparison - your tv screen at home simply requires the press of the on button and it's working and you think nothing about it. However, if your tv requires fossil fuel to run, pistons, moving parts, alternator to charge its own battery to power its spark plugs, a radiator to cool the engine and water pumps to circulate the cooler water - you can imagine your daily viewing would not be as simple as pressing the green button on the remote control. And not to forget, rushing down to the gas station to fill your jerry can when the tv runs out of petrol. It doesn't matter what the fuel powered engine is, the moment it is converted to electric it's 99% more simple and reliable. This simplicity has revolutionised motoring's future overnight. Why then, was this not adopted years ago? The simple answer is that the battery life and battery development was not advanced enough to provide the power source to run an electric motor for a vehicle.

Porsche 911 EV dashboard displaying EV detail

For the EV Classic Car, the USA has stormed way ahead of every other country. The category we are looking at for the classic "EV" car is based on mostly sportscars - partly because it is not going to make much sense to put all that work in to convert a cheap old car, and also there are advantages based on electric motors being extremely powerful, so a sportscar of the 70s or 80s is set up better for running such a powertrain. Also, there are other aspects including handling, tyres, brakes, transmission, weight, as well as the balance of the car. Take for example the 1980s Porsche 911, such an ideal choice for conversion that many 911's have already been converted in the USA. Although the 911 was an excellent handling car, it was rear heavy with that air cooled flat 6 cylinder engine hanging out the back which made it particularly tail happy in the wet or when turbos were present. By replacing the existing engine with electric batteries, you can distribute the weight more evenly around the car, or have more weight distribution further forward, that makes the car closer to a mid-engine configuration.

Porsche 911 EV displaying where the engine used to be now replaced with batteries and electric motor

Most recently documented was a California based company called Electric GT partnered with engineers at EV West to convert a 1979 Ferrari 308GTS into a fully electric car. This was seen as rather revolutionary owing to the fact that it was a classic Ferrari. What started out was an original fire damaged Ferrari 308GTS which was fully restored, before replacing the standard 308 engine with an all electric motor. What is even more significant was the original transmission, including gearbox and clutch would remain in the car so it literally drives the same as it did before.

Ferrari 308GTS with Electric Motor on display

The most significant aspect of what has been achieved in this conversion is the costly pain that has been removed in it's upkeep and ownership. The ferrari 308GTS can now be driven daily, with hardly any requirement for costly maintenance, unlike petrol driven engines. The only cost of maintenance, being tyres and brake pads. This is simply mind boggling when you consider the maintenance cost on even running a classic Ferrari with low mileage.

Ferrari 308GTS EV at speed

And best of all is the performance, it has twice the acceleration as the old 308GTS when it first came off the production line. With no fuel required, you can drive the car all day long with the biggest smile on your face. Even die hard petrol heads are shaking their heads in dismay, and forming a queue to acquire one at the same time. 

Ferrari 308GTS displaying its new Electric Motor

There has been an estimated 3,000 existing fossil fuel cars that have been converted so far in the world to electric, so the bug is set to bite in a huge way in the next 5 years. Evenmore so, is the possibility of buying cheaper models and then spending the majority of the money converting them to full electric. This could well sway the public from buying new and expensive electric cars, given the cost savings.

Honda V8 engine Coffee Table

If you're wondering what to do with your old fossil burning engine when you have converted your classic into an EV then you can always impress your friends with our choice, which is a coffee table.