Images are by RBW Classic Electric Cars, except where noted
While the sounds, smells, and feeling of an internal-combustion engine and three-pedal manual transmission have always been an integral part of the sports car-driving experience, some inventive owners have chosen to re-power their vintage sports cars with electric motors, citing instant thrust, zero emissions, and future readiness among the reasons. Indeed, some automakers are now getting into that game!
A West Midlands English firm, RBW Classic Electric Cars, recently debuted its unique take on the plug-in classic sports car, debuting the RBW Roadster EV this past September 12-13 at the UK’s technology showcasing and industry networking trade show, the Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle Event 2018.
In an interesting twist, RWB is not using restored original MGBs as bases for its Roadster EV; rather, it’s using brand-new, all-steel bodyshells made from original MGB tooling by British Motor Heritage, the organization that has been building those MGB body shells since 1988. This car is immediately identifiable as a B, even lacking octagonal badging, the original chrome body-side trim and bumper overriders, and sporting a suggestively bulging bonnet that may be another BMH piece, originating on the 1993-’95 MG RV8.
Under that bonnet is an electric motor sourced from Zytek Automotive, a division of Continental AG, supplier of Formula E racers. This motor is rumored to make 70 kW (equivalent to 94 hp, almost exactly what the original car’s twin-carbureted 1.8-liter four-cylinder made), along with 226 NM (roughly 167 lb-ft) of torque, those outputs giving the Roadster EV surprisingly original performance, too- 0-60 mph in 8 seconds, and a 105 mph top speed. Range, while not Tesla-like at 155 miles, is fairly reasonable by modern EV standards. The plug-in charging port cleverly shares the position of the original fuel filler, above the rear bumper.
Some electric-conversion sports cars retain a manual transmission while dispensing with a clutch, as that’s a fairly efficient method of transmitting power without the loss given to an automatic’s torque converter, and you might expect to see a stick in this RWB Roadster EV, but that’s not the case. It uses a modern Chrysler or Jaguar-style rotary dial to select drive. The MGB’s traditional Smiths instrumentation has also been replaced with digital readouts. The cabin appears lavishly upholstered by local specialists at GB Classic Trim.
While this may horrify purists, remember that the RBW Roadster EV is being created out of whole cloth, and no original MGBs (or irreplaceable parts) are being sacrificed to create the 30 examples this firm has promised to build.
In a distributed statement, RBW’s managing director Peter Swain said: “Our aim is make these great classic cars better for the modern age, and to do that, we have been fortunate to be supported by great companies who share the same ethos.
“In our research and development, we put the cars through vigorous testing, which showed just how much pressure is on the body as well as the components. Such is the power of the engine, we used new components wherever possible to ensure the best for owners to enjoy from their classic electric sports car.”
Both right- and left-hand drive examples are being built –18 Roadster EVs are scheduled for completion in 2019– with color and trim specs available at the buyer’s choosing. RBW Classic Electric Cars is pricing the Roadster EV at £99,600 (about $108,000), with a refundable £8,300 ($10,825) deposit.
The Roadster EV won’t be RBW’s only electrified British classic- the firm is also promising a plug-in EV riff on Jaguar’s coveted XKSS and C-type, using Zytek motors and handcrafted aluminum bodies built by the Mielec, Poland-based coachwork specialists Gregson Polska. While no technical specs have yet been revealed about their “XKSS Jaguar EV” or “C Type Jaguar EV,” the pricing has: £180,000 ($234,775), with a £15,000 ($19,565) deposit on the XKSS; and £150,000 ($195,500), with a £12,500 ($16,300) deposit on the special-order C Type.
Do you think an internal-combustion engine is inseparable from a classic British sports car, or would you be willing to forgo the traditional driving experience to enjoy vintage looks with modern green motoring?