Converting a classic car to electric – step by step photos

Here’s some photos of the major steps involved in converting a classic car to 100% electric power. In this case it is a Ford 1965 Mk1 Cortina. This isn’t meant to be a how-to guide, or an exhaustive build log – just a quick photographic breakdown of the major steps in electrifying a classic ride.

Step 1 – Strip out

Remove all the dirty, oily bits and pieces, like the engine, radiator, exhaust, fuel tank etc. Sell them off if you can! I got a few hundred bucks for the original 1500cc engine. I kept the fuel tank in position though, as it will turn into a nice little spot to house components. Just drill a hole in the bottom and drain out all the dinosaur juice.

Step 2 – Plan and source parts

Source the major components (or at least plan for what you will end up using) so you can decide where they will sit in your car. I designed the Cortina around a brand new Netgain HyPer9 motor from the USA, and 5 x Tesla batteries salvaged from a wrecked Tesla Model X that I parted out myself. I’ll do some other posts soon about re-purposing salvaged EV parts.

Step 3 – Measure up

We are keeping the 4 speed manual gearbox in this conversion, so we need to fabricate an adapter plate to join the electric motor to the bellhousing. Careful measurements need to be made so that it can be accurately machined. We also need to work out where the battery boxes are going to fit. In the Cortina we are putting one battery box in the rear boot over the rear axle, and one over the motor in the engine bay. Here we have mocked up the HyPer9 motor in order to see what else can fit in the engine bay:

Step 4 – Fabricate

Here’s the motor adapter plate (beautifully machined out of billet aluminium), and the steel flywheel coupler, as we are keeping the clutch to make shifting gears just the same as you would in an ICE car.

The front battery box houses 2 x Tesla 6.2kWh modules horizontally. It has special custom-designed support trusses so that it is supported off existing strong points of the chassis – I didn’t want to make any modifications to the original car frame.

The rear battery box fits snugly between the wheel arches / over the rear axle / behind the rear seat, and has 3 x 6.2kWh Tesla modules mounted vertically:

The Netgain HyPer9 motor also has custom fabricated mounts that connect the back of the gearbox adapter plate to the original engine mounts:

Step 5 – Test fit

Major components like the onboard charger, HV junction box, BMS, charging sockets, air conditioning compressor, cooling radiators, pumps and reservoirs need to be well planned out in regards to position, function and appearance.

Step 6 – Wire it up

With all the parts and their positioning known, it’s now a matter of sorting through and wiring up miles and miles of cables… Lots of careful tracing and joining… High voltage wiring needs to be orange. Everything else needs to be wrapped, tied and tucked away as best as possible for a clean look.

Step 7 – Keep it cool

The Tesla batteries and the motor controller chill plate are both liquid-cooled, so we set up separate cooling systems (reservoir, pump, radiator and fan) for each. A high voltage electric air conditioning system was also added for the driver and passengers – an essential for tropical Queensland and a true luxury in a 55 year old vinyl seated-classic car!

Step 8 – Final fit out

After the motor and batteries are sorted, there are a number of other items to fit. Replace the old accelerator with a drive-by-wire throttle (I used one from the wrecked Mitsubishi, it fitted better than the Tesla accelerator). Install charging sockets (we used two, one in the fuel cap, and the DC fast charge port in the place of the old exhaust pipe). Twin fan radiators shown here with the grill off.

Step 9 – Set up the controls

The electric motor only needs two switches added to the dash – one for selecting the direction it spins (and hence direction of the car: forward or reverse) and the other to control the off-pedal regen braking. These 2 toggle switches were added on a small fascia panel on the left of the steering column where it feels comfortable to operate. The direction switch needs 2 step safety to engage reverse, so a “missile switch” cover was used. The BMS and the electric motor both have software utilities to set up, which should be straightforward (in most cases…). We are using Torque Pro to monitor key parameters of the battery and motor on the normal head unit.

Step 10 – Testing and compliance

Finally time to get it on the road and fine tune the inevitable issues that will arise. In Australia you will need your compliance engineer to check that you’ve completed the conversion in accordance with NCOP14, if so then you can be registered as an electric vehicle!

And that’s it in a nutshell! Of course there are many aspects glossed over in this overview that are crucial – we’ll try to hone in on some of those with dedicated posts in the future. If you have any particular area we’d like to write about, just let us know below.