As the Vintage Voltage 2 series begins in Quest, we talk to Richard Morgan of Electric Classic Cars about this season’s projects and why modern technology is good for vintage cars.
Deep in the heart of Wales lies a nondescript industrial unit where classic cars tumble to the sound of flat racket and screeching V8s and appear accompanied by only the faint hum of an electric motor as they head into the hills.
The workshop is the base for electric classic cars and the setting for the Quest documentary series Vintage Voltage, which sees a team of 21st century engineers transform fossil fuel cars of the past into the electric cars of the future.
At the heart of both is ECC founder Richard “Moggy” Morgan, whose mission to breathe new life into his own classics explodes into an all-consuming business turning everything from Beetles and bubble cars to Ferraris and Range Rovers.
With the second series of Vintage Voltage now airing every Thursday and interest in electric vehicles at an all-time high, we caught up with Richard to find out what got him started, why he’s convinced that electric is the future of many classic cars and hear his highlights and weaknesses for the upcoming series.
Now occupying a 12,000-square-foot workshop with 15 employees, six years ago ECC was in a home garage with only three employees and one car — Richard’s own.
“Having owned classic cars from the age of 16, and being a classic rally driver, I wanted to improve one of my cars so I could use it as a daily driver,” he explains.
“This means making it very reliable, reducing maintenance and increasing power to be able to keep up with modern traffic. Converting it to electricity seemed to be the obvious choice.”
Richard believes that this is also why so many other people have come to him to convert their own cars in recent years, despite the undoubted cost of such a project.
On average, an ECC conversion costs around £70,000, but as the popularity of the show and Richard’s two-year waiting list show, there is a lot of interest and demand for the electric classics.
So what does that mean that owners of these rare machines are often willing to give up their gasoline-powered heart for an electric approach?
For a start, there’s reliability that many older, moody engine cars don’t provide.
“It always starts with the classic converted car,” Richard says. “There is less maintenance, less noise and no pollution.
“In addition to being more reliable, you get better performance and a more enjoyable drive as a result.”
And Richard is not convinced by those who worry that the classic car’s electrification is robbing it of its character, noting that there is already a huge market for heavily updated restomods that do away with many of the original features.
Naysayers may say it’s not classic because it doesn’t have the smell of gasoline or the noise but our customers tend to bring cars where the engines aren’t special – say, in a 911 we just turned the engine numbers up – or they may have an engine that doesn’t work. We often encounter Our client projects have an engine problem and work is needed on the vehicle.
“Doing a restomod in classic cars is already a common thing to do. Classic car owners are already swapping out classic engines for resto engines for more power and performance. In some cases, the original parts and engines are no longer available. Converting classics to electric cars can be a logical step To give these cars a new lease of life.
“We’re not trying to replace classical combustion-powered engines, but rather to expand the classical universe.”
Among the models given a new lease on life in this Vintage Voltage series are everything from the original Mini dating back to the 190s to the rare BMW “Batmobile” 3.0 CSi and the classic 2-Series Land Rover. His rule of avoiding the most modern cars to complete a special project.
“One of my favorite cars in the series was the DeLorean,” he says.
“I really enjoyed it because the base car was so bad. To get this great end result was a huge success and we were able to make the car worthy of what it should be.”
Turning the famous on-screen time machine into the “world’s coolest passenger car” for client Leighton required a lot of work, not only on the drivetrain but also on the chassis and interior of the tired sports car of the ’80s. But the hours of work paid off, and in addition to restoring the car and replacing the diminutive 130-hp DMC-12 with a 300-horsepower engine from a Tesla source to give it performance to match its looks, the team found time to fit the power function with the engine. Theft of the gull wing doors.
If the Tesla-powered Delorean was Richard’s highlight, the tiny little Mini, which now packs 10 times the power of the original gasoline engine, has caused some of the series’ biggest problems.
“The Mini is a good example of the difficulties we are having in trying new battery technology,” he explains. “In this project, we had to compress a 400V system into a small car. Likewise, we found the same challenges when working with something so small when converting an Isetta. The challenges of getting this done meant we looked at many different battery technologies before settling on one that worked.”
The high-performance Porsche 911 presented similar problems, requiring custom components to support the rear-mounted engine and transmit its power to the wheels, as well as some millimeter-precision fittings to mount all the batteries and other components without damaging the vehicle’s appearance or handling.
“It’s always a challenge to bring new technology into old vehicles,” Richard says.
But the unique challenges posed by each new project are a welcome challenge to Moggy’s team of engineers and balanced by the growing capabilities that EV technology offers.
“As battery technology advances, we’ll take advantage of that and get better range in cars. We’re looking at using new, more efficient engines and talking with battery manufacturers to get options that fit better.”
“The team also benefits from faster charging so vehicle charging times will be reduced. These are exciting times to come.”
On the immediate horizon for Richard and the team is a diverse other pillar of classics awaiting electrotherapy.
“We have some great projects coming to a close soon. We look forward to working on the Jensen Interceptor and the Maserati Ghibli, a vehicle that is distinctive but not necessarily well known to the general public.
“We also have more of a daily British Vitesse victory on the queue, and it will be interesting to do.”
As for the model who longs to pass the doors of his Newtown workshop? “I would like to convert a Lamborghini Countach.”
With all kinds of instincts lining up for the ECC team to work their magic, it’s definitely a matter of time before Richard gets his wish.
The new season of Vintage Voltage airs at 9pm on Thursdays at Quest and is available to stream upon discovery