EV conversions of classics are not uncommon these days, but they’re hardly ever performed at home, as a one-man job. This one is: a 1934 Austin 7 in Cheadle Hulme, near Manchester, UK, now beats with an electric heart after an 84-year-old was done with it.
David Wallis is a retired lecturer with a background in electrical engineering, which probably explains how he was able to do the conversion at his own workshop at home. That said, the project was not an easy one, he tells British publication the Daily Mail (photos of Wallis and his newly-converted Austin are also available at the link).
He bought the Austin 7 last year, for £12,000, which is approximately $16,700 at the current exchange rate. He liked the condition the vintage car was in, but at the time, he had no plans for the conversion. The Austin 7, produced between 1923 and 1939 in some 290,000 examples, is often described as a “big car in miniature” and was meant to do what the Ford Model T aimed for in America: make the automobile accessible to more people. It’s not surprising then that the Austin proved as successful in the UK as the Model T did in the U.S.
Wallis says that driving the Austin as it was did not “excite him,” so he decided on converting it to an EV. Aside from the challenge that he had to complete the project while caring for his ailing wife, there was the fact that he didn’t want to do any modification to the bodywork, and that included drilling new holes. In fact, he kept everything else on the car original.
Six months later, he was done: the Austin now packs a 10 kw motor (shipped in from China) and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack that gives it a two-hour runtime on a full charge. Top speed is 40 mph (64.3 kph), but seeing how this is an open-top vehicle, Wallis would probably not want it to go any faster.
The only downside to the conversion, Wallis says, is the fact that the car now sounds like a “sewing machine.” In what we assume is an instance of the infamous British dry humor, Wallis says he uses a speaker connected to his phone, to play the sounds of a Ferrari or a Bugatti whenever he takes his Austin for a drive.