Plug-In Project: 1980 Lectric Leopard EV

Millions of people around the world know them as the Renault 5 and we know them as the LeCar here in the United States. This car has yet another name, it’s a 1980 Lectric Leopard, a battery-powered R5, or LeCar. It needs work as you can see, and you already know that it needs new batteries but it only has 7,405 miles on it. The seller has it listed here on craigslist in San Jose, California and they’re asking $750 for this petite project. Thanks to art for sending in this tip!

We have seen a few examples of the Lectic Leopard here at Barn Finds over the last few years. It’s a category of vehicle that I’m highly interested in. Some of you may remember that I own a 1988 Subaru GL that was converted to battery power and our own Jamie Palmer has been saddled with storing it for the last few years. Sorry about that, Jamie. Too many irons in the fire here as usual.

The Lectric Leopard was made by U.S. Electicar using a LeCar / R5 without an engine and related systems. They also made other models than the LeCar/R5 but I have to admit that I have never seen another Lectric Leopard model than the LeCar.

It may seem unusual to see a manual transmission in an electric car but a lot of the early conversions had them. Some didn’t use the clutch but apparently, the Lectric Leopards still used a single dry-plate clutch. Marketing literature of the period touts such things as four-way flashers! Whoa, fancy! Just kidding, it was still early technology in that era even though battery-powered vehicles have been around for close to a hundred years by that time in one form or another. Maybe longer. The interior looks a bit better than the exterior does but it’ll still need work.

The real work, as usual, comes with the powertrain. In this case, the electric motor comes with the car but it was taken out and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go through every single connection and system on this car before putting it back in again. And, as is usually the case, this one needs batteries. I’m being pretty generous here, but this car may appeal to 1% of Barn Finds readers. But, it appeals to me and also to art who sent in the tip and I’m sure that there are others out there who like seeing these unusual vehicles. Have any of you seen a Lectric Leopard in the wild? As in, on the street, actually functioning?


  1. Pat L Member

    Only $750.00, I’m surprised that Jamie Palmer is not already storing this one for you too Scotty!!!

    Like 5
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Ha! Quit sending in those great tips and I won’t have to keep buying things, Pat!

      Like 2
  2. Steve R

    Two LeCars featured within 24 hours located 50 miles apart. What are the odds.

    Steve R

    Like 4
  3. 9K2164S

    I worked at a near by shop in Athol Mass in the early 80’s when these were being “built”. I remember hearing rumors that the Fiat Strada (Ritmo) bodies were rusty when they arrived brand new.

    Like 1
  4. Mark

    Image that thing with the battery pack out of a Tesla. Wish I was more knowledgeable on electronics. I know someone with a Toro Zero Turn mower converted to use Tesla batteries so this couldn’t be much harder.

    Like 2
    • Chris M.

      Quite a sleeper it’d be! Boil those 12″ tires at the starting line.

      Like 2
  5. Corey Harris

    With the cost of the conversion kits being >$10k it seems this would be a good buy even if you only used some of the parts. I kind of want it! Been looking at VW conversion kits for years but the cost is prohibitive. This may be a good start. Good thing it isn’t closer to me!

    Like 2
  6. K. R. V.

    Ok just add some modernTesla items and it would be Ludicrous!

    Like 2
  7. Kenneth Carney

    Just right for going down to the gas
    station for smokes or Wally world for
    everything else. Would have to seek out
    an automatic transmission as the girls
    in my house can’t drive a stick. I’d add
    a solar panel to the roof so you could
    charge it while you drive it.

  8. Howard A Member

    Probably the nicest LeCar in existence BECAUSE it’s electric. Like Kenneth sez, good for a trip 6 blocks, but anything more than that, start planning. A guy has a VW conversion in town, and he regrets buying it, because of range, He said, in town it’s okay, but at 55, it uses juice pretty fast. It’s all about range, and sorry Kenneth, a solar panel would take about a week to charge a car, and we can’t have perpetual motion. With 60 million people living in rural areas in the US, this electric jazz is nothing more than a bandaid on a heart attack. They are putting up charging stations in our little mountain town, I think it’s .20 cents/hour( cards only, for consumer ripoff, no cash) I think 6 so far, but could you imagine if everybody drove electric cars, what a wait there would be for a charge. And where does that electricity, in an already overloaded system, come from? Sorry, electric cars, along with self driving semi’s is all rubbish.

    Like 1

    LS Swap?

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