Silent Subaru: 1977 Jet Industries Electra-Van 500

I’m not sure which part of this 1977 Jet Industries Electra-Van 500 EV is more interesting, the tiny Subaru microvan part or the Texas-based conversion part. When you combine both of them they make for what I think is a very interesting vehicle. The seller has this very rare silent Subaru listed here on eBay in Upland, California and there is an unmet opening bid price listed of $5,000.

I think you’re right, I’m not sure if anyone will throw down a $5,000 opening bid, at least when they see that even then the seller’s reserve won’t be met. These are very rare to see today, especially a super early model based on the Subaru Sambar 500 van which wasn’t made for that long. I have never seen a “500” version of an Electra-Van before and I thought that I knew a lot about these conversions. That just shows that all of us can get schooled on Barn Finds every day of the week.

I have been looking for an Electra-Van, or ElectraVan, for a few years now but I never imagined that an opening bid on a non-functioning one would be $5,000. Maybe that’s how some of you feel when you see a Dodge Challenger or a Chevelle that you remember buying all day long for $1,500 and now they’re 20 times that amount and that’s for a junker. This van isn’t presently in running condition, unfortunately.

Jet Industries was a company based in Austin, Texas and they converted vehicles to run on battery power beginning in the late-1970s. Sadly, by the early-1980s they were out of business but they did some interesting conversions. We’ve seen a few cars that they’ve done here, such as a couple of Ford Escort Electricas and even a Dodge Omni 024 Jet Electrica 007, even more rare. This Subaru Sambar 500 is only 10.5-feet long so it won’t take up much space while you get it sorted out and back on the road again.

The interior is as small as you’d expect and if you’re over 5′-10″ tall, I wouldn’t hold out much hope of being able to even squeeze behind that steering wheel. Jet Industries converted a range of trucks and vans as you can see in this period advertising brochure. There is some speculation on the internet that the Sambar 500 was never meant for production from Jet Industries and only a few of them were made in late-1977 before the newer Sambar 600 came out and that’s what most of the ElectraVans are based on. I did find one site that lists the Electra-Van 500 as having been made in 1977 and the seller provides a photo of the VIN tag which shows a 12-77 date and model 500. That makes this one incredibly rare. But, as we all know, just because something is rare…

We saw one here a little over a year ago and the seller put in a Chevy Volt battery pack which starts to make sense, range-wise. Jet Industries would get their vehicles without drivetrains and work their magic to give people around a 35 to 40-mile range back when that meant something. Today, anything less than a 400-mile range is just more fodder for the anti-anything-to-do-with-EV-technology folks.

Here’s another unusual thing in the Electra-Van, the batteries were where the back seat should be. Someone added a backrest here, or maybe this is a factory piece? In any case, that makes it somewhat usable for passengers. The rear cargo space isn’t much anyway in a Sambar and the 500 would have originally had a 490cc inline-twin engine with around 28 horsepower back there. Have any of you seen a Jet Industries Electra-Van?

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Comments

  1. Cattoo Cattoo Member

    First Jet Industries Electra Van I’ve ever heard about is right here. I’d love to have one of these or a Subaru 360 van. Being a tad over 6’ tall I wouldn’t be looking forward to long drives.

    Like 2
  2. Skorzeny

    I’d put a gas engine back in and call it the Gasa-Van. Good luck charging any electric vehicle with the coming changes to our electricity production. The whole country will be like California with rolling blackouts…

    Like 10
    • Evan

      I can hardly wait! What date is this starting??

      Like 2
      • Skorzeny

        Probably next year.

        Like 4
      • Dave

        Look at PJM.com sometime and scroll down to the pie chart that shows what percentage of power is being generated by what fuel type. Remove coal, gas, and nuclear from that chart and see how much is left. You can do the same at ERCOT MISO, and SERC websites.

      • Alberto Chavez

        im seller of this vehicle. messege me if interested chavez.allstar@yahoo.com.

        thanks

  3. FOG

    Seller should donate the van to the Subaru plant in Indiana. The engineers over there would figure out the electric upgrades, and would be a piece of rolling history there.

    Like 2
    • Dave

      Nah, the Electric Shop maintenance gang would end up fixing it and using it.

  4. Fernando Abruna

    That is a DOA bidding process.
    A more appropriate starting bid would have been: $1K to $2K.

    Like 1
  5. 67Firebird_Cvt Member

    I think I’m going to put “Internal Combustion Vehicle” on the side of my Firebird just so everyone knows what’s under the hood.

  6. chrlsful

    funny, w/all those shots only 1 partial (blocked) of the other side. Dented? Anyway looks like rd AND curb side doors. Nice.

    Now what’s needed to give it the longer range travel? Keep ol batteries (the biggest expense?). They DO have an electric crate motor now ya know. I can drive 6, 8 hrs (500 mi?) a few days in-a-row (gone cross country in 4 – 6 days B4)…

    • Dave

      Cross country in 4-6 days “B4” what…needing a recharge? Please, do elaborate. That electric crate motor wouldn’t work in this van, and the van’s GVWR isn’t high enough to support a lot of heavy batteries. It would be better used as an in-plant or warehouse vehicle where electric vehicles are best.

  7. MARK TILTON

    I bought a Electra Van about 20 years ago in the Chicago area, came with a large box of battery cables! I think the count was 17, 6 volt golf cart batteries. I had help with the “map” of installing directions! as each was going a exact — different direction, to get the proper cable connects. My assistant jumped before I did when I dropped the wrench after an hour of connecting — it did make contact!! The 4 speed functioned as normal and the gas tank was set up to VW like gas heater. A 12 volt normal battery ran the rest. I still have my plate PLUGIN 1 ! I attempted to plug into the DRYER 220 with the charger. The breaker was mislabeled knocked me off my feet !! Hope they have made improvements in TESLA and the new MUSTANG !!!!

    Like 2
  8. Alberto Chavez

    im seller of this vehicle. messege me if interested chavez.allstar@yahoo.com.

    thanks

    Like 1
  9. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: this auction ended with no sale, but the seller has provided their info above for anyone who may be interested.

    Like 1
  10. Tony

    It is now listed on Facebook Marketplace, Ontario, CA area for asking price of $3500. The listing started 2 weeks ago (as of Jan. 29th, 2021). As time goes on with no sale, I am sure the price will come down to remove the ‘sentimental pricing factor’ and get closer to a “real-world” price.

    Like 1

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