Posted 01/19/2015 in Reviews by Steve
Few cars elicit pure excitement like a Ford Mustang. The design is iconic and beloved by everyone from gear heads to soccer moms. So if you're looking for a conversion that will get conversations started, this muscle car is the one. Each of the Mustangs showcased here ditched their internal combustion engines in favor of electric motors. They all tell a different story but the end result is the same: fun, exciting, one-of-a-kind rides that introduce people to the advantages of electric drivetrains.
It’s hard not to get excited when talking to Mitch Medford, owner of The Blood Shed and big idea guy behind the Zombie 222, a black and electric green 1968 Mustang Fastback speed demon. At the Texas Mile event, it hit a top speed of 174.2 mph. The 0-60 time is 2.4 seconds.
What led to the creation of this beast? Mitch was quick with his answer. "Like so many car guys I was watching Top Gear and saw an episode where they raced a Tesla against a Lotus. I didn’t really realize how deep that show was imbedded, but I guess I never really forgot about it."
That idea kept percolating and finally Mitch started Googling electric race cars. "I kept seeing this white Datsun electric drag car. So finally, I just had to email John Wayland and talk to him about his White Zombie. When we finally talked I told him about my idea to make a business building the baddest electric cars out there."
The talk must have worked because John brought his car and his expertise to Austin to help Mitch and the rest of his crew start the work on making a shop that could produce ultra-high-performance vintage cars. "I’m a former tech-industry CEO and CTO that is a car guy at heart," said Mitch. "The shop is filled with other super smart guys from the tech industry who are passionate about cars."
Once the donor car showed up at the garage, it took the team 3 months to produce. In rolled a blue car; out rolled the black and green Zombie 222. It’s a registered, street legal, all metal classic with a full interior and all the glass.
Mitch knows the cars he wants to build are a rarified breed for a specific buyer. "I want to cater to guys who want a car that no one else has. I want to work with clients that will spend the money needed to have a classic, cool car with super car performance. Our clients will be people who are addicted to speed and attention."
Normally, an explosion and two fires at the unveiling of a freshly restored and converted 1965 Mustang would have most builders running from the EV game with their tail between their legs. But it only made Duke's Garage dig their heels in and bare their fangs.
Duke Altschuler started collecting cars in the '80s. By 2009 he figured it was time to turn his hobby of collecting and restoring classics into a business. The plan was to build a niche producing fuel-efficient classic cars. So, after researching ways to improve fuel-efficiency in muscle cars, the company decided they would try their hand at converting a classic to electric.
The '65 Mustang used for the project was picked up as part of a collection and needed a ground-up restoration. It had been in a minor accident, and like a good garden gnome, it had sat outside for over 20 years. Once the bodywork was tackled, it was time to move on to the motor and electrics.
"We spent the 24 hours before the unveiling party wiring the car, installing the battery pack and putting the finishing touches on the restoration," said Dave Altschuler, Duke's son and shop manager. "We finished about an hour into the party and gave the car a final wash. As we took it on its maiden voyage to the front of the shop for its unveiling, the car caught fire."
Duke's Garage didn't get discouraged though. They hired Norm Smith, an EV consultant, and put the vehicle back together. "The complete failure didn't slow us down," said Dave.
The high-voltage phoenix rose from the flames better than ever. With the help of battery supplier Boundless Corporation and Norm Smith, Duke's has produced a fun, head turning Mustang. And if rising from the flames once wasn’t enough, the Duke's crew has the Mustang back in the garage, taking what they've learned, and are making it even better.
Larry Gareffa got his first Mustang when he was 19 and has had several since. His love of the marquee led him to spend several years as the president of the local Mustang Club. So, having a Mustang project in his garage was no surprise. And in Larry’s words, "The ’65 Fastback was a piece of junk. But, I like to tinker so it was a fun project."
Originally the plan wasn’t to make the muscle car electric though. Larry recalled: "Going electric was just kind of an a-ha moment. I’d always worked on computers and knew technology so I just decided that’s what I’d do."
So Larry got to work researching what it would take. He acquired the components piece by piece and started putting the Mustang together. Things went pretty smoothly considering Larry had never done anything like this conversion.
He liked the process so much that he's working on upgrading the car. "I’m looking at going with lithium-ion batteries and doing a few other things" Larry said.
The car is now a fixture at local car shows and events. And Larry loves talking about his blue car, which he's dubbed Sparky. Larry is also active with the Las Vegas Electric Vehicles Association, and says the car is a great way to talk about the benefits of EVs.
"I’ve talked to thousands of people about this car. I love seeing how it gets people who wouldn't normally think about electric cars talking about electric cars. They might not want their own an electric Mustang, but it might make them want to at least look at a Leaf or a Volt. And that's a good thing."
This article originally appeared in the Q3 2015 issue of Electric Car Insider. The current print magazine is available on independent newsstands throughout the U.S. and Canada including Barnes & Noble, Hastings and Chapters Indigo. Never miss an issue by subscribing.