Is This Our Future? 1969 Saab 96 Electric Conversion

On the outside, it looks like any other quirky little Saab 96.  It is what is on the inside that could mean so much, both good and bad, to car collectors everywhere.  This 1969 Saab 96 being sold on eBay out of Fenton, Missouri is like no other Saab.  This car has been converted to all electric propulsion in 2009, and has already covered 20,000 miles since its transformation.  With a range of 60 miles, is this Saab just a small car with a golf cart style electrical system, or is it a glimpse into the future of collectible vehicles if the environmentalists win the war against the internal combustion engine?  Does the current bid of $3,650 represent the market’s interest in such conversions?

Car collectors have a number of obstacles to overcome if the hobby is to survive.  The most glaring is that newer generations are not as interested in old cars, or at least the old cars that preceding generations cared about.  Events like Radwood and the relatively large amount of seventies and eighties cars at AACA events show that there is interest in the hobby.  However, these folks are collecting the cars of their youth.  Prices of the cars that previous generations coveted are falling.  There are a few exceptions, but those outliers are at the top of the market.

The cost of a full restoration is another problem.  Chroming has become ridiculously expensive, and engine rebuilds can approach five figures.  The decline in the number of restorers has forced aftermarket parts suppliers to discontinue some parts they carried as basic stock a decade ago.  Many of the replacement parts coming out of China are junk, with no signs of improvement.  Storage space, a place to work, and the cost of the tools needed to do a restoration yourself are large obstacles to a younger enthusiast with a family.

All is not lost.  Technologies that can reproduce parts on your desk at affordable costs are rapidly approaching.  With the rise of rat rods and those who have brought cars in rough cosmetic condition back to the highways, people are finding a way to continue the hobby on a budget.  Prices on formerly restored cars will surely reach a realistic level at some point, pulling interested parties off the sidelines and into collector car ownership.

As the situation changes politically, another obstacle may be on the horizon.  State, local, and national governments around the world seem to be oozing toward environmental policy changes that pose a threat to antique and collector cars.  Seen by these folks as rolling, archaic pollution machines, they want old cars off the road.  We have already seen cars older than a certain age banned in a few European cities.  Here in the states, there are some places where an inspection of pollution control equipment could put a car off the road for good.  As much as I hate to say it, the situation is going to get worse.

So, what can be done?  We need to get new people into the hobby, asking prices for collector cars should be realistic to the market, and we need to be accepting of every type of enthusiast.  As for a car by car solution, this 1969 Saab is an interesting one.  The car has been gutted and a 203 Series DC motor from Advanced DC Motors has been somehow attached to the factory four speed transmission.  Ten Trojan batteries provide the proper current levels to propel the car to a 60 MPH top speed.  The range is 60 miles.

The rest of the car is just a standard Saab that has been freshened up.  Looking at the finish, there are chips and orange peel in the paint.  It is, however, presentable.  The seats look to be reupholstered, and the dash has been retrofitted with the necessary gauges for an electric conversion.  Finishing work needs to be done in the interior.  There is little heat and sound insulation, and some carpeting would go a long way towards legitimizing this conversion.  Still, a 60 mile range and a 60 MPH top speed covers a lot of average driving situations for a collector car enthusiast.

Is this the future?  Maybe.  If someone can come up with a system to retrofit the engine in a classic car with an electric motor and find a way to create batteries that can be mounted in unconventional areas, then there is probably a market for this type of kit.  The cost of a conversion would also have to be competitive with keeping a standard engine running.  It would need to be something that the average garage tinkerer could do with little trouble as well.  Hopefully, we will never get to the point that government interference would mandate such conversions to keep collectible cars on the road.  Time will tell.

Would you ever convert your classic car to an all electric drive?

 

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Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    This car sold on BaT in September for $4500.

    Like 6
  2. Jay Morgan

    To me, this is the future unless it’s got it’s original equipment.

  3. art

    Hmmm, ordinarily I’d not be in favor of electrifying a classic but if memory serves, this puppy originally had a two-cycle engine. Yikes…there was blue oil smoke everywhere and all the time. Like having ten chain saws all exhausting at top rev’s at once.
    Yes, electrify this car…and any other two-cycle engines out there. Better to sacrifice them than the four-cycles to keep regulators looking away….for now.

    Like 3
    • Jonathan Dennis Jonathan Dennis Staff

      This is a ‘69 so it was a four-cycle V4. ‘68 was the last year for the two-stroke, in fact both engines were available that year. As a vintage Saab enthusiast with a ‘72 96 I support this although that hideous custom grille panel needs to go.

      Like 1
    • Geoff

      No, this would have had the Ford V4 four-stroke. I have a ’64 3cyl two stroke. If you use modern two stroke oil (e.g. Amsoil) you can run with no smoke, just a sweet ringing exhaust note.

      Like 4
  4. JerryDeeWrench Member

    So how does the heater work or the AC or the defroster maybe by candles.

    Like 4
  5. old guy

    As Rex comments- the car sold recently.. The selling dealer has been around for a while and I think it’s smart that they have it for sale.. I don’t believe the American Market cares for a “Electric version” of any classic car at this point.. The real market place could be a Millennial who lives in a upscale part of California (where gas is $4.50 a gallon).. The problem is that most Millennials could care less about cars unless it’s a Tesla.. I just don’t see the market rushing to purchasing electric classic cars.. at least not yet.. From a guy who drives one!.. my classic cars all suck down gas and I don’t care..

  6. Stevieg

    I used to have a friend that was an absolute genius with electricity. He had a small windmill that generated enough electricity to run his house & barn, and he would even receive a check periodically from WE Energies (Wisconsin Energy, our local gas & electric utility).
    This guy drove a Prius when I met him (I usually can’t stand Prius drivers), and later traded that in for a 2012 Chevy Volt when the first came out. He even had a clever vanity plate that said “12 volt” lol.
    Anyhow, at one point he purchased an early 1980’s ElCamino with a bad 229 v-6 & a 3 speed floor shift manual transmission. He converted it to electric. That thing FLEW! He installed some sort of heating element for heat & defrost. It was in the dashboard. If I recall correctly, it was an electric heater with a pump that heated water & pumped it through the heater core, & he used the factory blower motor. I might be wrong about that, & my friend passed away from COPD, so I can’t ask him now. But I think that was how he did it.
    He cut a big hole in the wall between the bed & the cab & installed a window air conditioner in it for a/c. I joked with him about his high tech red neck ingenuity.
    Same guy also converted an S10 blazer with a plow on it to electricity for his driveway.
    My mad scientist friend! I miss him.
    R.I.P. Tom

    Like 15
  7. Kenbone

    Stevieg,sounds like you were very fortunate to have had such a friend.

    Like 8
  8. mark a schulze

    Maybe the heater defrost issue solution is there? “charging system cooling fan vents waste heat via an exhaust port just after of the driver’s door.” Maybe someone could run this into a heater core where you could vent to the windshield? Might not work until the batteries heat up maybe. but you could also put a heating element in the box to supplement.

  9. Ken Carney

    I’ve been following the EV movement since 2011, and I can tell you first hand
    that this will be the way of the future.
    I’ve watched EVs evolve from overgrown
    golf carts, to used up VW bugs, to converting classic cars to EVs just to
    save them from rusting away. This
    especially holds true if your project car
    is missing the entire driveline. In this
    case, an EV conversion would be a viable
    choice since many of us only drive our
    classics around town running errands
    in the first place. And for the more
    adventurous, there’s a company in
    Gainesville, Florida that now makes
    flexible solar panels that conform to
    the surface of any vehicle out there.
    That way, you can trickle charge your
    batteries as you drive. And while these
    flexible panels are only being used on
    golf carts right now, I’m sure that some-
    one out there will find a way to wrap a
    classic car with these panels to increase
    it’s range. We used to call it good ol’
    Yankee ingenuity–something you don’t
    see much anymore. Stevieg’s friend Tom
    was one of these rare people who got it
    right and made spectacular things with
    just his imagination. I propose a toast.
    (Raise your beverage here) To Tom, a
    man who personified Yankee ingenuity to
    its fullest and paved the way for what’s
    to come…

    Like 3
  10. Comet

    Is anybody old enough to remember Popeye cartoons? I vaguely remember somewhere called Jeep island, or a pet called a Jeep, or something similar. Anyway, look at this car from the front.

    Sorry, I’m rambling, can’t find my pills.

    Like 2
  11. David F

    The lead acid battery drive train is a couple of generations before anything that is remotley practical. The lead-acid battery has one of the lowest energy densities, only about 1/5th of Lithium-ion batteries. At 60MPH this old Saab would have a range of 5 miles or less. The only way this would go 60 miles would be at a very slow speed on new batteries. The life of those batteries is rather short, between 200 and 300 charge cycles, and they are expensive to replace, perhaps $3000 for the batteries in this Saab. Electric cars are the future, but these electric conversions with lead acid batteries are not practical.

    Like 3
    • Fogline

      First thing I thought, David, is converting to Lithium-ion. There are tons available for not ridiculous prices now from wrecked cars. Of course, I am not sure of the logistics of converting from one to the other, but the same space should hold enough power to increase performance and range to over 100 miles, I would think.

      Car body and interior look good and if you like it, why not?

      Like 1
      • Michael Courtney

        How do you find these batteries and associated technologies from wrecked cars? I must need to bone up my searching skills.

  12. Royal

    There are so ,any old cars still out there, this will not be the norm but an option. If this preserves the body and improves performance why not?

    A vw bug from the mid 60’s had 35 to 40 hp. Dropping an ev motor that and is much cleaner.

    Old Saabs lend themselves to conversion due to their aerodynamic styling. Any other car would only get 40 miles range, and people need to stop doing lead acid conversions as they are horrendously inefficient.

    At the end of the day, ev conversions run roughly 20 to 30 k for the compents needed (motor, clutch kit, batteries controller and charger) so you will not see so many done so soon. When ev’s gain wide scale acceptance around 2024, you may see more of this or not as it’s much easier for many who are not handy to just buy something.

    • PDXBryan

      Cool things being done using modern EV parts by ICON, EVWest, Damien Maquire, John Wayland, and Rich Rebuilds. Look them up!

      Like 1
  13. Michael Courtney, M.S.

    I wish we could get ahold of used/wrecked Teslas to pull the battery, motors, etc. My dream would be to retro a 1940’s/1950’s era MG, Morgan, or similar car using the Tesla technology. Or perhaps Toyota’s. But these cannot be found. I guessing they go back to Tesla.

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