Would you fit an expensive electric motor in a classic car?

What’s most impressive is the gentle, progressive power delivery and the way the major controls retain the original car’s weighting and ease of use. The brakes, for example, are terrific, with a tiny bit of battery generation, but not at the cost of feel or initial bite.

The ride is pretty good, but there’s a bit of bounce at the rear end. Kinghorn says a set of height-adjustable Bilstein suspension units has allowed a better stance, although a set of adjustable dampers would work wonders with the over-eager suspension rebound.

There’s a fair bit of body roll and you sail it along the road rather than point and squirt, but that’s what the car was like when petrol-driven, so the electric conversion hasn’t really changed much.

Recharging is via a 6.6kW Type One port salvaged from the first-generation Leaf; the plug inlet lives under the old petrol filler flap. It restricts the car to a 7.4kW recharge on a home wallbox. A full recharge would therefore take about six hours.

Kinghorn says a Type 2 or even a fast-charge slot could be fitted on the other side, which would allow access to 11kW street chargers (which would reduce a full recharge to under four hours) and 50kW DC fast chargers, which would provide an 80 per cent charge in less than an hour.

That would make more practical sense, but the battery range (or lack thereof) isn’t what would deter most 1980s saloon owners making the conversion to battery power. The big drawback is cost. The donor Bluebird cost £4,000 and didn’t require a huge amount of work to keep it as a spirited reminder of Nissan’s early manufacturing days in the UK, but the conversion costs, which start at £25,000, were probably nearer £35,000 by the time it was delivered. I’m glad they did it, but the economics simply don’t stack up.

There is a big noise around these electric “resto-mods” at the moment, as wealthy companies and owners, supported by impressionable journalists, seek to make their classic cars more environmentally acceptable. Undoubtedly, as a publicity vehicle for Nissan UK, linking the Bluebird with the current Leaf, this Newbird will have been worth the significant investment as it faces a second life (or should that be third?) performing visitor tours of the Tyne and Wear factory.

But I’ve also heard of rare and precious pre-and post-Second World War historic cars being cut up and converted to electric propulsion, where in fact the original petrol engine and gearbox are part and parcel of the vehicle’s identity and charm.

So, is this an appropriate response to climate change? Is it part of the fashionable movement to tear up (and down) things that offend our sensibilities? And in a world where there are only about 140,000 pre-1970 cars known to the DVLA, most of which do very low mileages and support a fairly substantial industry in the UK, wouldn’t a more appropriate response be to offset the carbon dioxide they produce or even run them on e-fuels?

An expensively greenwashed classic, or a valuable updating of an unsung repmobile? Only you can decide. As it stands, I’m glad they built the Newbird, and the engineering is really impressive, but it sure generates more questions than it answers.


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