The EVTV Conversion Shop – We Don’t Do Requests.

Wayne Alexander has probably the most ACTIVE EV conversion shop in all Christendom with EVBlue.  Wayne’s philosophy is “give the customer what he wants”.

I’m a little bit of a crank I suppose.  Were I to do a conversion shop, it would be more like “give the customer what you want them to have.”

We’ve had a bit of an epiphany here at EVTV largely deriving from the massive 598 page contest document we still wrestle with rather actively.  I’m anxious to announce the 10 finalists, but our sponsors are similarly finding their choices difficult.  Among the 955 entries, after all the winnowing in the world, there are a number of really good ones.

A common theme running through it is the largish percentage who don’t precisely want to build an electric car.  They want to build an electric car, and then ANOTHER electric car, and they want to keep doing that unto their departure from this world.   Some already DO have conversion shops, but it is clear there is a huge desire to do that.

My original interest was batteries, and video.  We propose to be the definitive niche video show for the genre.  I am not myself attracted to the idea of an automobile manufactory.  But I get it.  Now what to do about it.

If that IS the dream of a significant percentage or our viewers, we should be knowledgeable on the topic – what works, what doesn’t, what to do, what to avoid.  We can do some of that vicariously, and intend to.

But our concept of “journalism” varies somewhat from the norm.  We believe you publish best with a thorough and rigorous knowledge of the topic, and frankly we openly deride the chippy journalism taught in media school about how to ask incisive questions.  To my way of thinking, if you purport to report on a topic, you should know it thoroughly.  And of course, you learn by doing.

So how to simulate a conversion shop while not doing any of that?  An unsolvable puzzle, my favorite kind.

We were approached kind of separately by a Taiwanese electric railroad executive and a Kit Car manufacturer from the far southwest corner of Missouri with some apparently random questions all centering on the same car – the Shelby Cobra.

I have too main interests in cars – enormous land yachts and tiny sports cars.  The “muscle” car thing never quite worked for me.  But I will admit the Cobra is  a bit attractive and to some degree unique.  Kind of “sport car” sized but with a honkin big 429 V8 in it.  Kind of like putting a $10,000 hand tooled saddle on a $200 mule.  I like V12 engines.  I like MG’s.   Never occurred to me to PUT a V12 IN an MG, but out of the box thinking is always attractive to me.

Now an ELECTRIC Cobra?  And as I say, kind of a random thing.  How do you put a VW transaxle in a Cobra?  Could it be done with SLI batteries from WalMart?  etc.

As it turns out, the two separate streams of questions were really one.  A gentleman from Taiwan who wants to develop an electric Cobra for sale in China, and a 30 year veteran kit car builder from Missouri who, like Wayne Alexander, wants to give the customer “what he wants”.

At some point, somebody has to design something on purpose.  A collaboration where the builder picks one part, and the customer picks a second, and they continue like choosing up sides for a neighborhood baseball team, does not, to my eye, look like a formula for success.

I like a model where the customer defines the REQUIREMENTS ( goes 171.5 mph, accelerates 0-60 in 3.5 days, range of 22,000 telephone poles, etc), and the builder indicates expensive areas (171.5 mph) and areas that could easily be improved (0-60 in 2.2 days) and things that are in the category “are you sure” like 22000 telephone poles per hour.

Once that is all layed out, I would advocate you give the customer what you want him to have. Someone has to select components with a knowledge of:

1. What’s available.  You may have info on new products that just haven’t migrated to the body politic.

2.  What’s affordable – sure, a $34,000 UQM AC drive train is perhaps nice (haven’t ever used one frankly) but how nice is it at seven times the price?

3. What works well TOGETHER.  Random components do not a car make.

4. What works for THIS particular car choice.  These kind of cars have a history, a culture, and an expectation set built in.  If you are going to convert it to electric, you are already throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  But what holy icons do you NOT want to disturb.

And from there you move onto finer points like how much trouble it is to assemble, what would be like to MAINTAIN, what would it be like to maintain say at a distance of 8000 miles and across a couple of language barriers, etc.  If it takes a day and a lift to take some voltage measurements, probably not a good thing.

In any event, my first reaction was to send these guys back into the amorphous Internet from whence they came.  Oddly both persisted in some sincerety that they really wanted to do this car and wanted an excellent electric car to be the outcome.   So I took a closer look at the AC Cobra as a platform.

What I found was indeed a vehicle with a following.  It’s one of the most popular kit cars on the ground with numerous small firms producing these vehicles.  Typically with a comically over strong Ford 9-inch rear end, a T5 five speed transmission, and almost always a V8, choice of small block or heavy breather, big tires, enormous side exhaust pipes.

But often not weighing a lot more than our Speedsters.  LOTs of legroom.  And kind of a huge amount of space for batteries.  The flanks of this beast have those sensuous feminine curves I confess I have a weakness for (Speedster, Spyder, MG).  And then kind of a raw quirky WWII aircraft dash board with a speedometer that turns BACKWARDS.

Hmmm.  And the gentleman had aspirations to sell these in modest quantities in China under the name Aptima Motors.   Hmmm….  I was gradually developing an attachment to the vision.

So I told them to send me the car.  We’d make it an EVTV project.  And build the best one we knew how.  I can’t tell them what will go in it because I don’t know yet.  I spend a lot of time with a measuring stick and a cellphone calculator around here already.  And usually if I scratch my ass and pick my nose furiously enough for a few days, we come up with a plan.   So far, they’ve all worked out surprisingly well.  120 mph range…..  0-60 in 6 to 8 seconds…..  120mph top speed….. that’s a bit of a challenge from all directions.  This lazy car is going to want an 80 mile range, a ten second 0-60 and top out at 95 mph.

But the Ford rear end has an endless array of ratios.  There are endless transmission options.  And there’s a lot of space when you DON’T have a 429 in it.  And with about 800 LED’s in the front scoop it WOULD look a little like a flame thrower.

This week Brian Anderson of B&B Manufacturing  in the greater Granby Missouri metropolitan area  brought his creation, a very unusual “Turnkey Minus” of his Cobra kit car to EVTV.  Brian has built 2500 of these over the past 30 years.  This one is kind of special in that it has been seriously “lightened” to a scant 1360 lbs.  An eggregiously strong X member that is kind of his hallmark on his version of this car has been removed.  And in this week’s show Brian gives us a walkaround of the vehicle – our first up-close look.

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So we’ve been scratching and picking ever since.  The vehicle comes with a 3.25 rear end which I’m kind of attracted to.  But we’ll probably replace it with limited slip.  We looked at automatic transmissions for this, but we have ordered a Tremec TKO-600 monster from Mike Fortes, who does a lot of tranny’s for the Cobra crowd and seemed knowledgeable on the surprisingly large bevy of piece parts and options that you have to deal with with one of these transmissions.  The TKO 600 is nominally a 600 ft-lb transmission.  My sense is we need some power for such a vehicle, and my sense is since I’m sitting next to the transmission, I don’t want it to do the Claymore mine simulation when we first apply it.  I admit it may be overkill.  After our recent experience with a 9inch Netgain and a Soliton in Redux, blowing a Stage II Kennedy clutch, I guess I think overkill is appropriate.  We’re going to use a hydraulic clutch with an 11 inch disk.

I think one interesting thing we can do with this project is change it from a four wheel car to an eight wheel car.  I’m going to spring for some lightweight narrower wheels and some Michelin Energy savers.  It currently has some very wide, very sticky wheels and tires on it that look very Cobra.  I can only imagine the rolling resistance.  So we are going to have two sets of tires and wheels, and we’ll pick out a circuit and demonstrate for you just specifically what difference rolling resistance makes in your energy usage – to several decimal places.

Given the space, I am inclined to attempt a 240 volt pack of 160 or 180 or even 200 AH cells.  I don’t have that all quite layed out yet.  But that’s a goal.

Beyond that, we’re pretty open on a drive train and etcs.  We’ve kind of had some success in the past with our very knowledgeable viewers bailing me out of assorted mayhem and mistakes.  So before I order a random sampling of parts, this would be a good time to tell me what I SHOULD have done, that is before I do it.

And finally, I have to acknowledge that the somewhat ironic reversal has some appeal.  IT would be kind of an interesting turn if a very small manufacturing company in Southwest Missouri wound up producing electric cars for export to China.  So we want this prototype to be something special.


Jack Rickard

28 thoughts on “The EVTV Conversion Shop – We Don’t Do Requests.”

  1. Exciting project Jack. I’m looking forward to it.

    This is an unimportant point at this juncture, but never the less i’m going to mention it, and that is that having exhausts on an electric car makes no sense. I think you basically said the same in the video, but that the customer wanted to keep them. I can actually see why that would be the case because they certainly do make the car look good. I like them, but i can forever imagine the owner having to explain to people why they are there after people realize it’s an electric car.

    I reckon you should keep them, but modify them. Other people may have better ideas of what to do with them, but my idea is to cut away the top half of the exhaust and put a transparent plastic tube down the cebter of the exhaust. Then run some LED lights all the way down the centre of the tube. So from the outside it would be kind of look like a large neon light supported by half a chrome exhaust. The light could come on when the car is running, and you could possibly have an affect where the light gets brighter as the car accelerates.

    …Anyway just an idea and at this stage not the important bit to sort out. There may be other creative things to do with the exhausts.

    -Nick F

  2. Nick:

    I have pointed out to the owner that the exhausts are a little bit anomalous in an electric car. But I don’t really have any strong feelings about it one way or another. He likes them. End of story. Brian made them out of an aluminum muffler and so they are not very heavy.

    I guess it’s part of “the look.”

    But yeah, I’d like to sneak some blue LED’s into it and have them shining out the business end. Something like that. I’m into blue LED’s these days.

  3. Hey Jack,
    seeing you ogling at the cavernous space in the Cobra certainly put a smile on my face. You indeed have a blank page. Having more options changes the design process from one which tries to find a solution to one which has to choose the best option out of several. I am not sure which is the easier. Well actually, being an article designer by profession, I do. Hence reason for my smile.

    I am hoping that you keep the weight down, maybe even lighter that the typical Cobra. It is easy to get caught in the trap of adding more cells just because you can fit them. Power to weight ratio is the secret to good handling.

    Whatever your choices, this definitely is going to be one to follow.

  4. Jack,
    Would like to see you use a Kostov 11″ 250V/210A with an EVnetics Soliton1 and 90 Winston LYP90AHA cells. This combo weighs about 350kg/770lb, and should kick ass.
    288 pack Volts and an as-yet unreviewed motor brand? Sounds like an EVTV challenge to me 🙂

    For ridiculous power there’s also a Kostov dual 11″ 340V/265A motor that I am sure would go well with Noto&Hauber.

    Here’s hoping that EVCCON will feature Cobra testdrives.

    New Electric

  5. There’s a nice twin 11″ semi auto unit that would be perfect for the Cobra. Now where did he put it…

    I can’t help but feel some entries are disingenuous.. and I’ve not read any, nor taken part. So I’m not blowing my own horn.

  6. Andyj:

    I never know how to take your comments. Reading this one, I’m really lost. We’re not going to use a twin 11 semi auto unit in the Cobra, though I do have one put together for the Elescalade. Today we mounted the front plate on it with the air conditioner compressor and the power steering pump. It is a work of art. They really took me to the clearners on the price, but I must say, it is just a jewel. Runs like a sewing machine. Totally silent. It will be in this coming show. But that’s the Elescalade, which we are finally making some serious progress on.

    You’ve not read any wwhat, nor taken part in what, and what horn?


  7. On the topic of the Kostov, you all have indeed been reading my mail. i was actually inclined to do this Kostov 11 inch 250 volt motor. It would have been new, never before reviewed, quite affordable, and should have made a lot of power. Frankly, it was my number one choice.

    But I quietly asked a few knowledgeables how it was doing, and really received unanimous replies – not ready for prime time. This motor has some problems I’m told.

    If it were my car, we might look into just what the problems were. As it is, I’m feeling a bit conservative in my choices.

    As the man has aspirations of producing it, I am also not inclined to a dual motor kluge, even if its done by a master. In fact, particularly not if done by a master. Master’s are a little cranky and take six months to do anything. Then they wonder why financial success is always so elusive.

    We DID actually talk with HPEVS about a dual AC-50. They frankly told us they had experimented with that and we would be disappointed. I really dont’ quite know why or how. The basic math of 120v x 650 x 2 = 156,000 watts. That looks like 209 HP in and 177 to the ground and at about the weight of the REdux – perhaps a bit heavier but not much. But they insist I would be unhappy with it.

    So any other ideas?

    Jack Rickard

  8. Hi Jack !

    Maybe you should do an interview with Mate Rimac that has got that nice Beemer in Croatia. He has som AC units in the work that he has put in his BMW to up performance from the DC stuff that he had before. But as always with AC the complexity and size of the controller grows a bit when running hi power stuff.

    Might be worth a check though.

  9. Don’t want to harp on about the Kostov, but as I’ve just received my 11″ 250V I would be interested to know what not ready for prime time means in this case.
    I am using the drivetrain described above in my prototype, and will gladly try to hunt down these weaknesses, film it, and share the results.
    Do think this setup fills the bill as laid out in points 1 2 and 3 quite well.. as for 4, well the Cobra lovers love their V8 torque, and that just sounds like Series DC all the way.

    Little further down the component list is a dash / interface. With all these cool new tablets coming out I feel a docking station should be the center peice in future EVs. All the hardware is there and (android) apps can easily be made to order. Together with an ethernet connection to the Soliton it can be very usefull and very StarTrek.

    New Electric

  10. Hey guys,

    I have an idea about exhausts pipes, Nick said “having exhausts on an electric car makes no sense.”

    I think they could be used to store Headway battery or bank of capacitors in them, should fit just perfect… 🙂


  11. Jack & Co.:

    Its actually taken a while for you to get to the Cobra, which is a natural EV glider. I think its also the ideal basis for a conversion shop business, because there is a proven market for the car, regardless the powertrain. I don’t actually like the car, (terrible aero, still too heavy, poor use of space,) but I do think its the front runner of kit conversions, as I said so here about a year ago. It will be interesting to see how far your Taiwanese friend is willing to develop (or have you or Brian Anderson develop) and refine this EV kit car concept. The beauty of doing it with the Cobra is there is a following for the car. Of course, they are all slightly different, too, so it isn’t like the 25,000 kit Cobras out there are easy conversions using the package you develop. Anyway…

    Some not-so-random thoughts:

    1. Prepare for combination options. That means making sure the way you finish the chassis, there is room for EITHER a 9″ or 11″ motor. Make the battery boxes so that they can efficiently accommodate some number of 180Ah cells, or another number of 130Ah cells, or even 100Ah cells. That kind of planning will make the basis of a superior kit.

    2. Gearing is still everything. Getting that truly dialed in is going to be the difference between a good EV that looks cool and a great one. What you really need is 3 speeds and a tall (numerically low) rear end. Something like a Jerico racing 3-sp at 63lbs is probably just as strong as a T600, but lighter and simpler, and available with a variety of ratios. Once you get the car together, you can select your ratios for the ideal setup. Sounds like a lot of work, but its the difference between good and great performance. You could also experiment with ratios and motors such that you have one spec for the 9″ and another for the 11″ or different ratios depending on pack size and vehicle weight. Your Tremec 600 will of course be fine, but dialing in exactly the right ratios in both the transmission and rear end is probably worth the effort.

    3. Speaking of weight, its still a problem. Your roller has no interior or paint, which could add 75lbs or so. You could get that back with a Fab 9 lightweight rear end housing for the 9″, and lighter brakes/calipers/spindles and even A-arms if Brian Anderson can make lighter ones for you. If not, lighter ones are available. If it were my car, I’d go with the 9″ for the weight savings, and dial the gearing in to make the most of it. My point here is that you can’t think because the roller seems light that the build will stay that way without some obsessive attention to weight savings.

    [continued next post]

  12. [continuing]

    There are other considerations that impact the points above. Many Cobras have power steering and brakes, which add weight. I would drop them, especially with the narrow wheel/tire package I would spec, but many customers would demand them. Again, it makes sense to allow for optional versions. This iterative process doesn’t really end, either, as you know from your other builds…

    The chassis could get lighter still and actually be stronger, like the tube space frames Factory Five or the racing crowd uses for almost everything. The Cobra ladder frame is crude and heavy, as are its components. Ultimately, the Cobra body isn’t a very good choice, either- its fat fender flares and gaping grill aren’t necessary. An MGA body with a blocked off grill would be a much better shape. Why don’t you get Brian to pull molds off of one of your MGAs and start working on that in CF? Fast Cars, Inc. in Wayland, MI does a custom MG/Triumph chassis with a custom lightweight BMW 3-series based front suspension that would be sensational under a CF MGA body.

    Not to distract you at all from building the conversion, but its something for someone like Brian Anderson to think about. His business has an opportunity just over the horizon. Factory Five Racing has dabbled in EVs more than any other kit mfr, with their ’33 coupe, a version of the GTM supercar, and at least a couple of high-profile EV customer cars, including the SSI Racing Cobra Daytona Coupe. Its early, but the future of the EV kit car, and the businesses it might support, gets brighter with each of these efforts, including yours.

    See you next week in Carlisle. I’ll be there Friday only, and will be sure to stop by.


  13. Jack,
    have you considered a BLDC motor/controller. I know that you would not like to experiment on this one but M&C have quite an impressive high power range. With a BLDC, you would be able to go to a direct drive to the prop shaft and still have impressive performance.
    The Chinese, I am told, have a good grasp of the BLDC motors.

    Well, something to consider I guess.


  14. Jack:

    Its an odd thing about tires. I always want the biggest tires that will fit, and often (like right now with my ’66 Pontiac) they actually DON’T fit and rub…

    For an EV, its different. I would want to balance the tallest and skinniest with the lightest available package. That will likely create a visual problem with the wide fender flares on the Cobra, but first things first.

    In a couple hours of fooling around, I appreciate the difficulty you’re having. I’m not sure what the stock Cobra tire diameter was, but it appears to be about 26 1/2 inches. The closest available size in either of the LRR tires you want is 215/60R16. That is what I would spec at first blush. Of course, this tire is going to look silly in a wheel wells, which were widened from the AC Ace to accomodate 10″ wide meats, so really you need to look for a 10″ or at least 9+” wide tire that is LRR to look right on the car. The Michelin Energy is available in 225/50R17, which is the right size tire, but I have to wonder whether such a low profile tire is truly a LRR model. Certainly, the Ecopia in a more modest 60 or 65 series design at 51psi is going to have a lower rolling resistance, but it isn’t available “Cobra-sized.”

    Weld Racing makes a lightweight 17″ wheel for this car, the S71, in a variety of offsets, that would probably work. American Racing could also likely supply the correct wheels, but backspacing (offset) isn’t really adjustable for looks, and depends on what B&B tells you it is supposed to be for their given wheel width. You then adjust that to compensate for the difference in wheel width between stock and the new set.

    But you probably know all this already. Yes, there’s a thorny problem:

    True LRR tires aren’t going to work on this mother-of-all-California-Specials muscle car, because the body is pushed out for track tire clearance. A size tire that’s going to look right on the car probably just isn’t LRR, except for the biggest sizes of the Michelin Energy, which frankly I don’t believe.

    Even so, I would go with the 225/50R17, unless Brian Anderson has a better idea, on Weld Racing S71 wheels with the appropriately adjusted offset, or if you don’t like that look, make the call to American Racing and have them turn up a set of Torque Thrust or the stock Cobra wheels, which they still make, in 17×9.5 size with the right offset. It won’t REALLY be an LRR package, though…

    Why don’t you just see whether any of the available Michelin tires will fit the wheels you have on the car and look right, and just be done with it?

    Am I underthinking this thing?


  15. I was suggesting using your Escalade EV motor in the cobra while you might be waiting for other parts. At least as a build option!

    My other post was very long indeed. Thought it too long so hacked it right down until it lost its clarity.
    It concerned your $20K prize contest and what you have said about peoples aspirations. How many of these entrants have enquired to buy Wayne Alexanders ActiveEV business? It comes complete with all he knows, the business itself, his jigs, everything!

  16. According to Blogger:

    “We’ve started restoring the posts that were temporarily removed and expect Blogger to be back to normal soon.”

    Sure. At least its free…

    OK, anyway, here’s something interesting:

    I have not seen nor used this unit before, just came across it looking for something else. Very clever power brake master cylinder with its own electric hydraulic fluid pump.

    What I was actually looking for was something I think is something actually far more useful- a master cylinder with a ton of integral features, including built in metering valve, 2-way prop valves, multiple ports, a stop light (or regen) switch:

    This MC is the thing to have in any car that had modified (from stock) brakes, because it is so completely adjustable and easy to dial in for perfect braking behavior even when the parts weren’t designed to work together. I don’t have one, but I’ve talked to to a guy at show a couple of summers ago who raved about it. Has to be bled carefully, but otherwise fantastic. This unit and company also has a good reputation online.

    If you are likely to be trying out various braking setups from lighter discs to different calipers, something like this is a really nice thing to have. Also, its smart to spec it in a kit that could be AC/regen powered, and/or built with a wide range of components, curb weights and front/rear balance. Just a good part that will make the whole package stop much, much better no matter what it turns out to be.


  17. This looks fun, Jack (except for that double wheels idea; though I am curious). Can you say when exactly you’ll be in Carlisle next weekend? Show times are Th-Sa 7am-6pm & Sun 7am-3pm. I’ll be in CA until Saturday morn, but live in Philly. I thought I might be up for the trip by Sunday if you’re still there.


  18. So I suppose that means no Friday show this week?? Still, I guess the next one will be even better.

    How about posting some photos and/or even video clips onto a page on your site in near-real-time from Carlisle?

    Anyway, I hope it is fun

  19. Hi Jack
    The AC Cobra is a very iconic car
    It had all the curves and shape of a British sports car .
    It was based on the AC Ace and hence inherited such things as the bespoke leather interior. The wooden steering wheel and lovely British eccentricity’s such as gauges working backwards so as to allow better visibility in the important area of the gauge for the driver.
    This trick with the gauges dates back to pre WW2 supercharged MG.s and maybe even back to the blower Bentley’s.
    The other part of the mix though was the American Iron heart supplied by Mr Shelby
    The original Iron fist in the Velvet glove
    The cobra held the world record of 0 to 100 to 0 for a long time. I forget the figure but it was truly impressive especially as the brakes were not particularly powerful. It was all achieved by the engine.
    To do justice to the Cobra this electric version will have to have incredible acceleration just like the original and to withstand the glare of scrutiny it will have to perform extremely well in the 0 to 100 sprint(0 to 60 for those that like the English measurements) otherwise it will just be a pale anaemic imitation that will quickly be derided
    There is how ever good news for you.
    The Cobra came in 2 versions
    Big Block and small Block
    One revved and the other was a huge torque monster!
    So if you build more you can make a Torque monster for Brains and a revver for you.
    Funny thing is that the big block may have been the rever from memory as it was developed for racing and had a cam that came in quite high in the rev range somewhere after 3000 rpm.
    There is another nice thing about AC Cobra’s, they actually made 3 versions the MK1 Mk2 and Mk3 so there is one for every taste as the early ones were very British and the last ones more wilder and extravagant in there styling.
    Having driven one of the mid 60s genuine factory HP big block Corvettes a few times the funny thing is that they actually perform more like electric motors than people realise.
    They have instant gut wrenching torque off the line but dont rev to well.
    Much like Brains favourite porsche.
    Have fun with the build and I hope you make one that can do a bit better than 0 to 60 in 8 seconds.
    As an extra thought I wonder if you could contact the AC Cobra owners club so as to view and experience some originals?
    If you do just remember to be nice as the originals had a few serious vices that no one talks about!


  20. My dad has a replica cobra. When he reverses down the driveway it shakes the whole house. Driving off you can hear him for 2-3 minutes and we are not in a quiet suburb at all. When he goes past parked cars and gives it a little hit, car alarms go off. It is a beast.
    Obviously this electric version needs a lot of power. I would aim to touch 300 KW at the motor. To achieve that a Warp 11 HV or similar Kostov would be needed.
    To keep weight down a hybrid pack could be used. Winston for range and Headways for power. I’ve seen a few other conversions do this (or at least try).
    So around 250V after sag then running 1250 A would do it.
    Not sure if soliton can handle those amps – maybe a Zilla 2k from somewhere or a Warp controller tricked out.
    Sure it’s going to be smoking whatever you decide

  21. train horn kits for cars and trucks offer a wide range of options for the discriminating customer. From a wide option in designs to the ability to select combinations that produce traditional as well as unique sounds, there is something for just about every taste.

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