My Car Quest

October 22, 2021

Electric Car Neo-Classics

A Way for New Companies to Spread the Word (and at the same time provide 4-wheeled nostalgia for enthusiasts)

by Wallace Wyss –

For you newcomers (born after 2000) you might not know the old American phrase “shotgun wedding.” That’s when a young man has been instrumental in creating an offspring but it so happens he’s not the marrying kind. That’s when Grandpa gets the 12 gauge off its resting place over the mantel and while loading it, starts trying to convince the lad of the error of his ways. Welcoming him to the family y’might say.

So it is that I see a forced marriage coming up between the exotic car industry and the electric car industry as a good thing. Exotic car makers, let’s face it, are basically Nero fiddling on the roof while Rome burns. Sweet music, truly, but when they stop playing, there will be a landscape of ashes where their industry was. Compare say the percentage growth of Tesla to Lamborghini over the last ten years…

Tesla Roadster

Tesla Roadster based on a Lotus – photo by Mike Gulett

Electric car makers started out with stubby ugly cars that did nothing to inspire car lovers. Exotic car makers make cars whose styling is to die for but internal combustion is seeing more warning signs every day that power plant wise, they’re reaching the end of the road.

THE SOLUTION

Exotic car makers should start to court electric auto makers and get assignments to create platforms, interiors, and body shells for electric car makers. This is not a pie-in-the-sky concept. It’s already happened, over a decade ago.

In the early days of Tesla, they had the drive train planned but needed a chassis and a body. The Tesla people were at a convention when they met the Lotus people. The Lotus people, you gotta understand, had been approached before with the idea of someone using their chassis and body for a new propulsion unit. Most proposers never showed. So they invited the Tesla folks to come on over to Bethel and, whaddya know, they showed up. Recalls Martin Eberhard (a Tesla co-founder) on a Tesla website;

We wanted the first Tesla car to handle like a proper sports car, so we approached Lotus Cars, known to make the finest-handling sports car on the road. Marc and I cornered Roger Becker at the 2004 LA Auto Show and convinced him that Tesla was worthy of consideration. Since our first meeting with Roger Becker, Tesla has built a strong, friendly relationship with the team at Lotus, focused primarily on bringing a great new sports car to the market quickly and efficiently.

So it was that the first Tesla, a sports car, had a Lotus chassis and body. Didn’t hurt Lotus’ reputation one bit. And Tesla went on to greater glory. Today, Tesla could buy Lotus with one day’s pocket change but doesn’t see any need to do so.

OLDIES BUT GOODIES

It’s a dated phrase used by DJ’s to announce an upcoming record that is old but was worth saving. I say when Bonnie Prince Harry and his American bride drove off on their honeymoon in a Jaguar E-type that had been converted to electric power, that was the beginning of the movement as far as the world saw. I think companies like Lamborghini should offer, say, the Miura and Countach and Espada as electric car designs to other automakers looking to jazz up their offerings. Rolls Royce ditto with the Cloud, Mercedes with the ’50s Gullwing.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle - photo by ABC News

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – photo by ABC News

And these same companies buying these designs could also look in the rejected design files of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, etc. and pull out some designs that were, and are, too good to throw away. I am not saying all of an electric car companies’ designs should be retro. I’m saying their designs would get more attention if say one or two a year were retro. There are easily ten Chinese electric car makers but can you name any of them? I’m guessing NO. But what if, say one with permission, were making an electric Miura using a classic design under license? Then you would know their name. Because you can’t afford a real Miura (at roughly a million) but you might be able to swing an electrified copy at say $60,000.

Xpeng P7

Xpeng P7

A case in point is Xpeng, a Chinese auto maker, who has been showing at auto shows a limited-edition version of its P7 electric sedan fitted with Lamborghini-style “wing” doors. The P7 Wing, as it’s called, will be available in both high-performance and super-long-range trims for a limited time. The reason you haven’t heard of it is, except for the Lambo doors, is its so-so styling. But if it were “The P7 Wing Miura” then I’d say you would look at it. Helps both companies. (Wasn’t it Al Capone who said “Why steal the hubcaps when you can steal the whole car?)

Xpeng

Xpeng

I can already hear the purists whining and saying “But wait a minute–aren’t you trashing a legend? Going against all that made this brand famous?” Technically, there is an argument for that, but I put that argument in the same category of camera film vs. digital.

At car events, I occasionally run across young photographers still shooting film who try to give me a spiel on how Ansel Adams used film and how great it was and I say if Ansel Adams were alive today, out in front of his house would be a garbage can of film cameras. Never mind how I could go on about how he sometimes manipulated a single print for nine hours in printing to get special effects–he told me about this personally. Today you could get the same effects in a few seconds with Photoshop.

As for events like Pebble Beach, I say this would be the way to ease these cars in, each retro-styled one could be welcomed with a display. Maybe even parked alongside an original. The automaker would get more known. The original cars would go up in value (AC Cobras the shining example, thousands of copies but the price of originals still goes up…)

I know–you’re going to say: “But what about the engine sound?” No problem, mate. Send a chap with a mic to record the best tuned of each exotic copied and I’m sure there would be a way to link it to synchronize with the gearbox. For my E-type I’ll take a LeMans Lightweight at LeMans in ’63…the Cunningham car is alive and well to provide the soundtrack.

Am I personally in on a wholesale changeover to new technology? Not hardly. I spend part of each week occupied in two antique professions–thoroughbred horse breeding, an activity that pre-dates electricity by hundreds of years. And oil painting, using naught but oil, canvas and a brush. Again, pre electronics. I just changed from a flip phone to a modern phone (Samsung AO1). I’m fighting it every step of the way but know it is the way to go.

I drive an internal combustion car but, if I lived where I could plug in to re-charge, I would have already gone electric.

And so it is. We’ve got two industries, one surviving on nostalgia and the other mechanically adept but lacking charisma. If we could just have this shotgun marriage.

That will keep them both in business and advance public acceptance of electric cars.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a fine artist specializing in postwar classics. He can be reached at malibucrart@gmail.com

 
 
 

Tesla Roadster

Tesla Roadster – photo by Mike Gulett

Tesla Roadster

Tesla Roadster – photo by Mike Gulett

Summary
Electric Car Neo-Classics
Article Name
Electric Car Neo-Classics
Description
I see a forced marriage coming up between the exotic car industry and the electric car industry as a good thing.
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Comments

  1. Roger Atkin says

    Wallace, the Lotus factory is at Hethel, (not Bethel) Norfolk, England.

    Roger

  2. wallace wyss says

    I was there but all I remember is doing four wheel drifts in an Esprit Turbo on their test track….

  3. So you are saying that you have to force electric cars on people at shotgun point?
    Exotic car makers could sell more if they made a more affordable car, but then they would not be as exotic would they?
    It has nothing to do with electrics and Lamborghini makes money, tesla I believe has yet to turn a profit, so it is not a Nero thing it is just people pushing what they want.
    Electrics try to copy the exotics but still make an ugly car, just because it has Lamborghini doors does not make it good looking. How many cars do you see with those Lamborghini door kits, do those look good?
    Instead of copying a company who does make elegant cars that are pleasing to see, sound and drive how about they design a car for themselves that is not ugly, that would be a start.
    Perhaps we could let Pebble Beach decide if they want those cars there and let the people decide, not decide for them.
    I have read several times in this forum about people who do resto mods and that is bad, but when the royals do an electric motor in an E type now it is spectacular? Please explain the change in your position.
    Don’t you have an Espada Wallace? Be the leader and rip your motor out and swap it with an electric and be the trend setter.
    Again if you want an electric car, go buy one and enjoy all it has to offer, just do not keep pushing your opinions on other people, and if they want petrol let them be.
    Electrics are so far away from being practical for the masses with infrastructure, disposal, obtaining the raw materials, etc. its hardly worth talking about.
    Lets not forget they are still ugly and need petroleum and coal power plants to charge them, which is kind of an odd
    concept of going green if you think about it.

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