Are zero-emission EV collector cars the latest rage, or are they here to stay?


Car owner David Benardo and I are scooting around San Marcos, north of San Diego, in his lovingly resto-modded 1958 Volkswagen Beetle. It’s been lowered and raked slightly, like any good Southern California custom, and it’s been upgraded with gas shocks, an adjustable suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. Needless to say, no Beetle ever came out of the factory in Wolfsburg with such luminous paint and impeccable panel gaps, not to mention pristine leather seats and a seemingly virgin wicker parcel tray. But the vague steering, lumpy ride, and primitive mechanical feel seem properly archaic, and there’s nothing to suggest that I’m not driving a car from a bygone era.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/02/05/zero-emission-ev-collector-cars


If it keeps the car on the road, I understand and I am for the conversions. I considered this for my RX-7, but EV conversions are too pricey to be done correctly at this time. We will see where we are in 15 years.


I find that this type of conversion, under the idea of going “zero emissions”, is like poking oneself in the eye. It generates much more emissions than one would think. Classic cars are driven sparingly, on average, so they are far from being a nuisance to the environment. In my opinion, a classic EV conversion makes the car lose all its value. A bit like gold-plating a Lamborghini: it might mean the world to the owner, and I respect that, but I just don’t see the point. If I want to whiz around in an EV, I’ll just hop into one of those soulless shared vehicles, that we have in town. A big part of owning a classic, is hearing the engine burble, and tinkering about on the weekend. Go EV, and it loses all purpose. But that’s just me.


Like others, I think the technology is quite cool. All one has to do is look at the Tesla guy on YouTube who consistently beats cars with big blocks and blowers at the track. Electric power is impressive. The cost of upgrading is a lot to chew on, especially for budget-minded folks. Spare money is a wonderful thing and if you can do it, be my guest. But, and a big “but” at that, like the previous poster said, part of the magic of owning a classic, hot rod, antique, or what have you, is the tinkering, the busted knuckles and the smile on your face when you fix something and go for a ride. If it’s a V8, it’s the low growl. If it’s a straight six, it’s the smooth torque. If it’s a four, it’s the scream at rev line. That can’t be replaced by any electric motor. It certainly is a viable form of “hot rodding” or upgrading and something to be admired. But for me, I’ll stick with those mechanical calliopes and contraptions that I love so much, leaks and all.


Mcevoy, do some research and you’ll find that even if you’re consuming 100% coal-generated electricity, an EV comes out ahead of any gasser emissions-wise, and in EVery other environmental metric as well. Rotary Rich, you’re welcome to test drive my electric ‘83 RX7 any time- there’s no rotary like an electric motor!

Hagerty, thank you for insuring my electric Karmann Ghia since 2004, and for those who look at the prices in this story, just remember that the sky’s the limit in any hobby if you hire out all the work. I built my first hot-rod EV with salvage components, including Air Force surplus ni-cad batteries, for less than many would spend on an engine rebuild, but that version only had 410 hp…


Whether it is electric, whatever Toyota ends up doing with hydrogen, or some other non-petrol source of power --it just has to be the cheapest way to go fast and it will be commonplace among the hot rod/racer crowd.

Not that long ago nearly every street rod in a magazine had small block chevy power after all (aside from the most brand-loyal-insistent). And while the LS engines are everywhere, it doesn’t feel as uniform as looking back on those late 80s car magazines. No different than flatheads becoming unwanted in the 50s.

I don’t think electric will wipe away internal combustion, even if electric becomes all some believe it can. It’s different enough that a group of diehards running powerplants from the first 100 years of petrol will linger for a long time.

The biggest thing to watch is being legislated to have to change out the petrol.


The title is a bit strange - there isn’t anything “collector” about throwing an electric motor into an old car that isn’t already commanding a premium, in fact that represents the opposite effect. Nobody does something so horrid to anything already collectible, and as discussed on this site ad nauseum, the collector market is already in deep trouble.

And no, Teslas will not be collectible no matter how fast they are at the drag strip, even when Elon Musk finally runs out of stock-pumping publicity stunt tricks and the company finally goes under (and yes, it will eventually go under).

Electric vehicles aren’t dead, but they haven’t really arrived yet either. Once battery technology catches up with petrol in terms of range and cold weather performance, then we’ll see, but for now it’s a curiosity. In the meantime, environmental posturing aside, the last cold snap proved it’s better to be using gasoline no matter where your electricity comes from.


The main reason you see these conversions done on the classic VW archetype is that the bolt pattern for those manual transmissions often times matches directly up to the most common electric motors used for this type of thing.

I have seen their web site, and they do good quality work. However, here in the Midwest, we usually save money by doing the conversion itself.

Was originally drawn to this article thinking the title meant something more along the lines of what another commenter alluded to-will current-era “Green” cars become classics in the future?

Yes, a bonus to converting your VW is no longer dealing with oil leaks. A further bonus for converting your ride to an EV is better parking spots (if your local community is that fast-forward in thinking.)

The interesting thing, is that in the infancy of the automobile era, they expected electric vehicles to be where the technology would go. The plentiful amount of gasoline, and perhaps, not a clear understanding of air pollution lead to the internal combustion engine’s dominance of that market. Many in the “EV” crowd today wonder what a 100 years of battery advances would have done if the gasoline internal combustion engine never got off of the ground.

I would miss the Fweem, if I converted my bug. As far as values go, you wouldn’t be recouping any of this cost (mentioned by the article if you pay a Profe$$ional to do the conversion) at auction for you no longer have a numbers-matching ride.

The reason to do this to your ride besides oil stains, is more of a daily driver kind of thing, for now, I would guess. The reason to pay somebody this much money to do this perhaps has more to do with conspicuous consumption rather than improving collectability value (which is different from daily driver value, or regular value as whole, to be sure.)

In the future, when gasoline reserves are empty, or highly regulated, as we see the future of the road being more regulated (with self-driving cars around the corner) perhaps a conversion to EV will be more of a necessity rather than an oddity or eco luxury.

Here in Indiana, they’ve recently changed the tax laws regarding EVs and Hybrids reflecting the state’s inability to recoup lost gasoline taxes from these vehicles. That’s right, now they are paying $150 per annum to keep running their rides. However, there’s nothing stopping me from converting my bug to EV and skipping out on this $150 per annum figure because the bug didn’t ship from the factory as an EV or a hybrid vehicle.

Sure, $150 doesn’t sound like much compared to the cost of salon-style ev conversions. But, comparing it to a DIY-conversion, there may be a break-even point between doing it that way rather than buying a manufactured tesla, prius, hybrid, or other ev style vehicle and being on the hook for that additional $150 per annum.

As far as collectability of EVs and hybrids go, here’s where I am with that:

A Tesla roadster (especially if the company goes belly up) would be collectible.

I’ve always had a fondness in my heart for the 1st gen Toyota prius, that was a sedan style body (like the Echo) instead of a hatchback style body.

Actually, the Chevy Volt is now ending it’s production run, and any astute classic car collector will tell you a limited production run does have an impact on value years down the road.

Just my thoughts on this…