Tesla Wannabee: 1961 Stuart Electric

The story of Barry Stuart, inventer of the 1961 Stuart Electic, could have gone much like that of Elon Musk if the stars would have aligned. He may have been ahead of his time and ahead of available technology more so than Elon Musk was. This unusual and rare vintage EV can be found here on Facebook Marketplace with an asking price of $1,200 and it’s located in Manchester, Tennessee. Thanks to Nathan E. for sending in this tip!

Barry Stuart was only 29 years old when he founded Stuart Motors and developed the Stuart Electric car in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Elon Musk was 28 when he sold his first business to Compaq for $340-million. He went on to found and sell PayPal which made him a billionaire and the rest is history. And that doesn’t even include Tesla, arguably the most important electric vehicle to come down the pike in decades, if not ever. The Stuart Electric was made for 1961 and 1962 at which point the company shut down production and there are no real hard numbers on how many were produced, but not many for sure.

The seller says that this is a station wagon prototype and that 8 of them were made. It seems a bit longer than the “regular” (if you can refer to this car as regular) sedan version. You can see that it’ll need a full nut-and-bolt restoration and finding any Stuart-specific parts will be impossible. They were marketed as a second car for a family that only needed to drive 30-40 miles a day and then they could charge it up overnight and start over again the next day. At $1,600 new, it was a bit cheaper than most gas-powered vehicles but the fiberglass construction wouldn’t give me too secure of a feeling with those gigantic late-1950s/early-1960s American cars zooming around. Of course, like smoking in those days, companies rarely talked about what could go wrong.

The interior is a possible treasure trove of Stuart parts! I have no clue what most of them are but I do see some glass panels and a wheel cover and/or trim ring or two. There are no “motor” photos and the seller says that this one has been in a barn for a long time. It would have had a 48-volt electric motor and eight 6-volt batteries and, apparently, the company failed due to the motors being mounted to the fiberglass floor which flexed causing the drive belt to slip. That sure seems like an easy problem to overcome, doesn’t it? I can’t imagine that the top speed would be much more than 30 mph and the range was probably 30-40 miles. I can’t imagine anyone restoring this car but if there are any vintage EV collectors out there, this is probably a once in a lifetime find. If I had Elon Musk’s money I’d be all over it.

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Comments

  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    Well, Scotty, I can’t say that I’ve heard of this one. Kind of intriguing. Interesting that with the limited range it wouldn’t have gotten me to work. EV have come a long way but still have long way to go…

    5
  2. Wayne Thomas

    Despite being my hometown….I am not granted access to this Facebook marketplace.

    2
  3. Coventrycat

    No different between then and now having to deal with stupidly sized pickups and SUV’s. It’s no fun driving even a fairly modern classic around with them everywhere.

    5
  4. chrlsful

    boy, IDK…that rear window frame would B tough 4 me to get back into shape. I like it tho. May B glass a full ply floor in to remove the stated prob. No current parts would B the biggest problem…

    1
  5. Ken Carney

    Face it folks, this could never be 100
    percent restoration of this car. Like all
    other oddballs, you’ll have to do a lot of
    Fabrications just to replace the parts
    that are missing. I’d upgrade the electrics
    to 72 volts for more range and to take
    full advantage of the latest battery
    technologies available. Those new lithium ion units could possibly triple
    the range this car had in the first place.
    Again, I’d add a solar panel to the roof
    to trickle charge the car as you drive it.
    Throw in some regen braking, and you’ll
    have a great little car for running errands
    ’round town or a great backup car after a
    hurricane knocks out the fuel supply.
    Or, just get it running for the grandkids
    and let them have fun with it. Either
    way, this neat little car would be on the
    road again.

    3
  6. pat gill

    the other day I was invited to view a private car collection, it included many De Dion-Bouton cars from 190? up to a V8, a model T, a Swift several Roll Royce models and a 1902 wooden electric car fitted with modern batteries and motor…………… it plugs into a fast charge socket.

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  7. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Sold!

    1
  8. Ken Carney

    Just what I’m saying Pat. Now is the time to consider converting classic cars
    to electric power. With fuel prices climbing, it just makes sense. Once the
    Feds outlaw gasoline engines, the only
    place you’ll see classic cars will be in a
    museum somewhere. Thanks for reminding me about that quick charger.
    Forgot to mention it in my earlier post.¹

    1

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