Upgraded Power: 1982 Unique Mobility Electrek

Although it was unthinkable a few years ago, it now appears inevitable that the world’s automotive industry will eventually be underpinned by zero-emission vehicles. Whether these new offerings feature batteries or the rapidly-developing hydrogen fuel cell technology is unclear. Still, the day is coming when the internal combustion engine will be considered a dinosaur. Some manufacturers saw the writing on the wall decades ago, resulting in cars like this 1982 Unique Mobility Electrek. It is not the first time we’ve seen this classic, but the price has dropped significantly since then. The seller listed it here on Craigslist in Harbor City, California. If you missed out last time, that could prove fortunate. The previous owner listed it at $10,000, but you could own it today for $7,000. I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder Rocco B. for spotting this quirky classic.

I will preface this article by admitting that I don’t find the styling of the Mobility Electrek particularly attractive. Something about the combination of body lines makes it look like it is sagging in the middle. Others may disagree, and I respect your opinion if you are one of those people. The Electrek was the product of Unique Mobility Inc., based in Longmont, Colorado. They envisaged an electric vehicle with a range of seventy-five miles and a top speed of 75mph. There must be something about that number because they eventually produced seventy-five between 1979 and 1982. This one is a survivor wearing White paint on its fiberglass and polycarbonate panels. It has accumulated its share of chips and scratches over the past four decades, but there’s no evidence of panel issues. Therefore, a fresh coat of paint would help its presentation enormously. The body bolts to a steel frame, and the seller doesn’t mention any existing or previous rust problems. The glass looks good, and the sunroof is a welcome and practical inclusion on a vehicle where air conditioning wasn’t an option. The alloy wheels look stained, and it is unclear whether they are restorable. This may not prove a drama because, although the company only produced a few vehicles, many mechanical components started life beneath the skin of a Volkswagen Rabbit. Therefore, sourcing other wheels shouldn’t prove challenging.

Unique Mobility Inc. claimed that with its original golf cart lead/acid batteries, the Electrek had a range of seventy-five miles and a matching top speed figure. However, it suffered the same issues as other electric cars from this era because it was heavy. Very, very heavy. When it rolled out of the factory, it tipped the scales at 3,375lbs. That figure isn’t bad for a family sedan, but it is a lot for a compact powered by a 32hp engine that sends its power to the road via a four-speed VW Rabbit manual transmission. The story could be considerably better today because the old lead/acids are gone, replaced by Lititium/Ion units that shave an incredible 1,000lbs off the car’s weight. That should make it more sprightly, improve the range, and positively impact the charging time. One innovative feature of the Electrek was regenerative braking. This is common on modern EVs but was virtually unknown in 1982. Apart from the new batteries, someone has converted the lighting to energy-efficient LEDs, which should help extend mileage slightly. The seller recently replaced this car’s brakes, but it is unclear whether it is roadworthy. The wiring looks messy, but I suspect a bit of patience and a handy supply of cable ties should make a dramatic difference.

One aspect of this classic requiring significant TLC is its interior. The upholstered surfaces look worn and torn, while some painted items need a refresh. If the seats are Volkswagen items, sourcing new covers may not be difficult. The seller has contact information for parts suppliers and will pass the information on to the new owner. If they can’t provide other items, it may require the professional assistance of an upholsterer to return it to its former glory. However, I’d undertake a deep clean before I spent any money. It may prove beneficial in reducing the shopping list and saving a few pennies on this restoration.

This 1982 Unique Mobility Electrek will never be a coast-to-coast tourer, but it could be the ideal tool for short suburban journeys or commuting to and from work. I admit it isn’t the most attractive vehicle on the planet, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you were previously genuinely interested in this classic when it last appeared four years ago but missed the opportunity, you could right that wrong while saving a cool $3,000 over the previous price into the bargain. That can never be bad and may help justify parking it in your garage. What do you think?

Comments

  1. Cadmanls Member

    I don’t know if getting four wheels and tires the same size will improve the stance. That is one ugly car! I suppose someone was puffing out their chest when it rolled out the assembly door. 75 miles and top speed to match, and those wonderful lead acid batteries to maintain. Times have changed.

    Like 7
  2. That AMC Guy

    Ugh. Aside from the fact that I will never buy an electric car I don’t think I could stand looking at this thing in the driveway! It makes a Gremlin look like a work of art in comparison.

    Like 9
  3. RMac

    Wow side view looks like somebody climbed on a pinto door and crushed it down Then put bicycle tires on the back LOL the taillights look like they were stolen off a Grand Prix very weird looking vehicle

    Like 2
  4. Connecticut mark

    Looks like a very sick Xr4ti.

    Like 6
  5. MattR Member

    Dr. Seuss wants his car back.

    Like 9
  6. T-Hawk

    The side profile looks like an AMC pacer with a broken frame!

    Like 2
  7. nlpnt

    Styling is…amateurish, to be kind. Li-ion conversion, especially if they also upgraded to J1772/CCS charging, makes it actually useful. Bright yellow or VW Lago Blue would be a better choice for that repaint than the original white, might as well go for interesting and in-period since this WILL stand out.

    Like 2
  8. Kenneth Carney

    I’m all charged up about this one. It’s
    just what I need for those short jaunts
    to the store, or maybe the smoke shop. It would be a great hurricane
    car for those times you don’t have
    power after a storm. And while others would be paying $8-10 a gallon
    for regular, you could avoid the 3 to 4
    block fuel lines and zip around town
    with a huge smile on your face. And
    paint, who needs that. Just cover the
    upper half of the body with flexible
    solar panels to increase your range
    even further. Be the first on your block to own this very unique car. BTW, it isn’t all that shocking to learn
    that the price has been cut. Someone
    out there’s gonna get a good deal on
    this thing. Just wish it was me!

    Like 3
  9. Michelle Rand Staff

    This article arrived in my inbox this morning, about GM’s EV1. Definitely worth a read.

    https://www.hemmings.com/stories/how-many-gm-ev1s-remain/msu-s-ev1

    Like 1
    • Evander

      Very interesting! Never heard about the GM EV1 until this article; thanks for sharing!

  10. Harvey Member

    All this needs is a continental kit and a pair of fender skirts.:-)

  11. TheOldRanger

    Looks like a 500 lb gorilla tried to sit in the front seat….
    To me, it’s an ugly vehicle, but then that’s what makes horse races, isn’t it? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…. I wouldn’t take this one if they gave it to me free.

    Like 1
  12. Howie

    In the photos i see 3 large trash bins, problem solved.

    Like 3
  13. Big C

    Ev’s are the future, huh? Some of the readers here might remember when the media, and others, said that performance cars were dead. Convertibles, too! We’d NEVER EVER again have fast, reliable and safe cars. We we’re destined to drive our weak suck 120 hp Monte Quartlo’s and Tudderbirds. Then, a funny thing happened. Detroit figured out that folks didn’t want to ride around in mush mobiles. They started with adding performance versions of their cars. Then, amazingly, convertibles appeared. Soon, you could by a 400hp convertible. EV’s are a dream of a certain segment of our population. That happen to be very influential right now. This to will pass.

    Like 2
    • Terrry

      It isn’t that EVs won’t be made, they’re here. The real question is, once half the cars on the road are EVs, where’s the electricity going to come from to charge them? Our current power structure is already strained.

      Like 3
      • Dan Joyce

        Ive only been saying that very thing for the last 25+years. The bubble will burst on the electric vehicle as the grid continues to the breaking point. and it will be too late. and the hand-wringers will say “Now what do we do?”

  14. MarkO

    The”GATED SHIFTER” is worth the price by itself!
    I would paint the car RED, add an oversized wing/ Ground effects and some Ferrari badges!! Don’t forget the oversized “prancing horse” SF decals on the front fenders…. Maybe a set of 13″? plastic hub caps ( dont forget the Ferrari mylar stickers on those too) .
    Then enter itin the Concours Italiano d’limoncello!

    Like 2
  15. Dr Ron

    The “Lititium/Ion” batteries will give this gem a centerfold spot for sure.

    Like 1
  16. RMac

    Lol all the comments some very witty commenters
    Headline should have been
    UNATTRACTIVE AT ANY SPEED
    ( or lack of speed or from any angle for that matter) !!

    Like 1
  17. Terrry

    Why even mount a transmission in this? Electric motors are so torquey, with the right gear ratio the car could accelerate all the way to its top speed, no shifting needed. And lithium batteries, without a proper BCM (battery control module), would be a waste in this car’s antiquated drive train. It really needs a completely updated electric drive system. And that would push the cost of this car well beyond what you’d pay for a good used Nissan Leaf.

  18. G Lo

    These are not zero emissions vehicles. They are remote emissions vehicles.

    Like 1
  19. RMac

    GLO you are spot on people with electric vehicles get smug but forget that this country still generates most of the power to charge the dang things by burning coal, and oil which are HUGE contributors to CO2 emissions
    Therefore they are just moving the source of the pollution and concentrating it LOL!! And the batteries are going to need replacement at some point and what happens to the old ones? No source to recycle those yet

  20. MattR Member

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