Goals for the VW Tesla Kombi project, and restoration begins

There’s been some considerable progress on the 1973 VW Tesla Kombi restoration and electric conversion recently. Let’s start off with a reminder of what the goals for this project are:

  • Successful “Tesla Swap” – whilst there are plenty of EV conversions utilising re-purposed Tesla parts salvaged from written off Teslas (the Charged Garage Mk1 Cortina being one), not many have attempted a “full Tesla swap”. This means using the motor paired with the full battery pack from a Tesla, which can be hard to do without the right vehicle to house everything.
  • Simple yet powerful driving experience – by using the rear drive motor from a 2017 Tesla Model X to replace the VW air-cooled engine and gearbox / transaxle, we do away with the complicated, noisy and unreliable drivetrain and replace it with a much more powerful, yet simple to operate, single-speed electric drivetrain. This helps to enable our next goal…
  • Share the thrill – by creating a VW bus that is superior to the original in almost every way, and is simple and fulfilling to drive (not to mention better for the environment), we hope that others will be interested in the experience via short-term rentals or even part ownership.
  • Fit for the next generation – everything on this bus will be either brand new, or is being fully restored to better than new condition, so the finished product will be ready to enjoy for another generation.
  • Technical specification goals:
    • Long range – Kombi’s are designed to enjoy the open road, so having a long range is essential. We are using a 75kWh Tesla battery pack to give a target range of 300-350km.
    • Fast(er) charging – following on from the trail we forged with the DC fast-charging capability of the Cortina, this time we will be able to harness the higher voltage of the Tesla system to enable even faster charging, and more options for public charger compatibility.
    • “Glamp mode” – enjoying the great outdoors are what Volkswagen’s are renowned for, but can you sleep in air-conditioned comfort or power your coffee maker and charge your devices (on or off-grid) with an original VW campervan? We are going to try and integrate a “vehicle-to-load glamp mode” to be the envy of all other campers.
    • Modern comforts hidden within the retro aesthetic – these days you expect modern cars to have air conditioning, power steering, Carplay and reversing cameras, and so it will be with the ’73 VW Tesla Kombi.
    • Safe and strong conversion – We will leave no stone unturned during the conversion process to achieve a professional finish and ensure this VW will look like it rolled out of the factory with the 21st century technology hiding under the tailgate.
    • No loss of functionality – by carefully designing and utilising all the available space after the ICE parts are removed from the underside and engine bay of the Kombi, the transition to electric power will result in no loss of interior space at all. That means interior fitout options are only limited to the imagination of what can be done with the vast space inside a VW bus.

To achieve all these goals, and to warrant the investment in this type of electric conversion, the bones of the bus needed to be rock solid and ready for another 50 years of motoring. So a shell with mostly all new sheet metal panels was found and restoration by the VW experts at Van Zelst Restorations has begun. See below for some progress photos thus far.

As a reminder, here’s the before shot:

The many phases of paint preparation:

Stay tuned for more updates as the restoration continues…