It’s easy to forget just what a huge leap EVs made starting in the first few years of the 21st century, with the groundbreaking AC Propulsion T-Zero and some other early lithium ion battery EVs. Meanwhile in the early 1980s, when there was a quite a boomlet in EV conversions due to the second energy crisis, the best one could hope accomplish is something like this Fairmont wagon conversion, with a heavy load of lead acid batteries and probably about a 35-45 mile range, when the batteries were fresh, which didn’t typically last long.
Finding this one was a bit of a surprise, as I just assumed it was a plain old Fairmont wagon until I got closer and saw the badge on the grille.
Here it is, and that piqued my interest more than another Falcon six powered Fairmont. Time to raise the hood.
No Falcon six here. More like seven 12V batteries, at least visible. Are there more under the middle three? The electronics (controller) sit behind them, and the motor is under them, attached to the the bell housing of the original transmission.
Which was of course the manual four speed stick, as an automatic wouldn’t exactly be wanted here. So this Fairmont must have started out life as 2.3L four powered, as I’m pretty sure the six only came with the automatic. One could use all four gears, but typically only used two or so, given the torque of the electric motor. Which was none too great, as we’re not talking about a Tesla S with Ludicrous Mode. These conversions were slow, and barely freeway usable, with a top speed commonly about 55-60, and a drastically shortened range at those speeds.
Of course those handful of batteries wouldn’t have been enough to get any decent range or speed out of them, so I’m pretty sure this is another battery compartment where the gas tank was. it seems to hang lower than the tank w would, and that was the typical arrangement: some batteries in the front, and more in the rear.
And what’s in the back seat? A battery charger; what else?
Yes, it’s electric. Assuming the batteries are still holding a charge and not totally fried. Lead acid batteries are great in some applications, but not in cars, as they hate to be discharged too deeply or quickly. Just a few overly deep discharges can fry them. And that happened all-too often back then.
What? As-Is and no dealer warranty? I wonder why?
It’s the Model F. But seriously, that is the best condition Fairmont I’ve seen in a loooong time. I have to think someone would want the body and then drop something from a Mustang into it and voila, a livable, fast car with an interior and body that look a few years old instead of almost 40. But as an electric it’s useless today. Great find!
Or, you could replace the batteries with modern batteries and controllers, and have an E.V. better than they hoped this would be: faster, lighter, further.
That would cost significantly more than buying a modern EV. Used Leafs can be picked up for $5-7k.
$5-7k Leafs are near the end of life for one thing. The other is that most people who “build their own” don’t do it to save money, they do it to have what they want or to have something that can’t be bought.
Then we have the new generation of Resto-Moding as there are people who are swapping in EV components liberated from modern cars that had met their end. You’ll find lots of articles on the Tesla powered Audi and there is the well known, at least in some circles, Tesfalla. http://cafeelectric.com/stretchla/?orderby=date&order=ASC We are even seeing the start of “kits” for such projects. https://www.evwest.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=8&products_id=476
I agree that the 2.3 was likely what this car was set up for from the factory. By far the most common adapter plate, I’d love to see a chart of the number sold over the years and know whether it ever went out of production. https://www.electricmotorsport.com/ev-parts/motors/motor-mounts-adapters/vehicle-adapter-plates/ford-ranger-2-3l-adapter-plate-w-hub-for-warp-hpev-ac31-ac50-ac75-and-adc-motors.html Of course this one is set up for today’s common motors.
Not something I’m going to do, I certainly ICE it up again most likely with an old school 5.0 though wedging a 4v 4.6 in would be unique or a 6.8.
I think the answer as to why it’s in such great shape is that these very quickly became a dead weight (literally). Almost all of these conversions were parked within a very few years, and mostly never driven again, for obvious reasons. There was a house nearby some years back that had three (!) EV conversions in the driveway, a giant Cadillac, a Renault and one of those little Citicars. None ever moved. The car closest to the street was a Honda Accord.
But the idea of converting this one back to a gasser is dripping with irony. A double conversion.
I wonder why exactly they ended up parked. Did they go through batteries too quickly making them too expensive to operate? Was the lack of range and top speed mean they just weren’t that useful? Did some component in the electric drive train go bad and became unobtainium once the company that did the conversion go bust?
Given that the electric drive train, in theory, should be relatively robust, it seems that if someone used one of these conversions withing their limits – say only for a short commute to work over city streets, it would last a very long time.
Admittedly, a giant Cadillac would not be a good candidate for a conversion.
Now if someone were to replace the batteries and controller with more modern technology . . .
Which means, does that turn this car into a (grumble) resto-rod?
Until reading this, I never realized these conversions existed. My knowledge of 70’s electric cars begins and ends with the Sebring-Vanguard CitiCar. With which I have a great deal of experience.
DIY EV conversions have been going on for decades. A nice site collecting hundreds of examples is the “EV Album”. People have been using surplus components for years. Once it was all forklift motors and marine deep-cycle lead-acid batteries, now there’s a healthy trade in lithium batteries and components from wrecked Leafs, Volts and Teslas.
Speaking for myself, I planned out an EV conversion of my Miata in great detail, but leased a new Fiat 500e instead. EV conversion is a whole lot of work best suited for someone with more serious wrenching experience than me. I’m having a ball with my Fiat.
Related reading: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/uncategorized/junkyard-outtake-lectric-leopard-sparky-cc-spotted-at-wrench-n-go/
Last time I was at that junk yard it was still available for about $1300. I noticed that it was equipped to be towed behind a motor home.
Perhaps it’s equipped to PUSH said motorhome… 🙂
Six-cylinder Fairmonts were available with a four-speed. I had a 1980 wagon so equipped – it was even brown! While it had a normal four-speed shift pattern, third was direct and fourth was overdrive. No A/C and no options but power steering and AM radio, so the gas mileage was pretty good for the era.
John, did you get it new or used? It’s nice to hear some one had one of these.
The base wagon motor, at least for 1978-80, was the 2.3 4-cyl and 4-speed. As I recall, power steering was not available for that combo, and I’m not sure if auto was.
1979 was ‘peak Fairmont’. For 1979, Ford made the “3 + O/D” standard on the optional 200 six, and also on the optional 302 V8. 1979 was the last year of the 302.
A 302 V8 4-speed Fairmont was a pretty hot performer in 1979. With some extra weight in the back, the wagon with the sport suspension would have been sweet! Fairmonts were everywhere, but I’m not sure I ever saw a V8 with manual trans.
My dad bought a 4-cyl, 4-speed, 4-door new in 1980 (special ordered). There was a stripper 2-door sedan on the lot at the time, much like yours: 200 six with the manual trans, dog dish hub caps, and brown. Ours had an exterior trim package and the really good looking turbine wheel covers (faux alloys). Five years later, I inherited the car. As much as I was happy to sell it, I wouldn’t mind having a 4-speed, 4-cyl Fairmont now–ANY body style.
I just don’t understand all the fascination with electric vehicles. The most expensive Tesla is considerably less useful and less convenient than the cheapest Mitsubishi or Hyundai. Must be something in the water! At some point in the future they may actually become competitive with gas-powered cars in terms of price and overall functionality. We’re not anywhere near that point yet.
Have you ever driven a modern electric? No, they’re not for everyone – but for a number of us they really make sense. Smooth, powerful, and a full “tank” every morning.
Yes, and filling that ‘tank’ costing just *pennies* with cheaper nighttime rates! I’d love to have one for getting around locally.
And aren’t electrics less apt to break down than their liquid fuel-powered counterparts, due to fewer parts?
Indeed. Check out my CC of a 1917 Detroit Electric. It’s a 100-year-old car that runs just fine, I rode in it. Mechanical restoration was just cleaning contacts and a fresh set of batteries.
Absolutely. My 2014 Chevy Spark EV has 55K miles. The batteries are in good shape. I’ve replaced front tires twice, a cabin air filter, and ought to get around to having the brake fluid flushed – that’s it for maintenance and there have been no breakdowns. A nightmare forthe parts and service departments. Sure it’s not a long distance car, but the Mrs and I love it.
More moving parts potential for failure =/= certainty for failure. By in large good ICE powertrains will outlast the bodies housing them with nothing more than oil changes.
Wow, really, you’re just trolling, right? The LEAST expensive Tesla is not hugely more expensive, if at all, than equivalent sedans such as A4, 3-series, C-class, none of which are (ever) cross shopped against a Mirage or Accent.
No car in the world is really all that much more functional or convenient than a Corolla, yet they still aren’t selling 17million of those per year in the US.
I wonder when, after 100+ years so far, regular cars will finally become competitive price wise with a new horse that can tow my flatbed buggy around town. It’s so much more convenient to have the horse munch on my pasture than to go to the gas station constantly in a car…At this rate, who would buy a regular car?
While I hate Tesla just because of the attitude of the people who buy them, Jim’s right on the price thing. If you want to go through the hassle, the cheapest Model 3 is in the same price range as all the other current lowest priced EVs, i.e. Leaf, Bolt, Hyundai Kona, and Kia Niro.
Unless I just had to have a hatch, even I would go for the Tesla in that group.
FWIW, here in Chicago the average Tesla owner, at least in my experience, isnt much different than any other luxury marque owner. As in, yeah, some are assholes because they’re entitled, but most are just people that want a cool car. I probably know more Tesla owners than the average guy because I work in the tech industry, but they’re pretty chill and don’t act, say, holier-than-thou or anything.
We are actually perfect folks for an electric, only taking trips under 50mi 99 percent of the time, but I haven’t felt like dealing with comed and the neighbors to get a drop installed. Plus all Tesla’s cars are too big for us anyway. But I’d buy one given those problems are solved.
Do you not have power where you live right now? No reason for a new drop and meter just because you are installing a charging station. If your daily mileage is that low chances are a 110v outlet would get the job done.
The same thing was said about Toyota Prius owners a decade ago, Now hybrids are considered more mainstream. The same will happen with pure electrics.
I’promise to use and take care of it if someone would care to buy it for me!
Kudos Paul for noting the 1997 AC Propulsion tzero. (Wikipedia here.) Alan Cocconi, Wally Rippel and others were true pioneers who showed the way for Tesla and the industry to follow. The Tesla Roadster started out as a licensed version of the tzero.
“EVs Sure Have Come A Long Way,” until you compare them to ICE cars, which are infinitely cleaner, cheaper, more user-friendly, safer, and more reliable than they were when they overtook EVs in utility back in 1905. Without propaganda and aspiring totalitarians, EVs would still be on the ash-heap of history where they belong.
Albert Einstein was a slow starter, too.
Places like the US where gas is almost free might not be EV attractive but here where regular 91 is over $10.00 per gallon an EV can be a very good option for commuters, at least it was for my BIL coupled with a solar power setup that backfeeds to the grid his ex JDM Leaf costs peanuts to run him to work and back no maintenance other than tyres ever needed so in that respect it is light years ahead of ICE cars, on top of that its even ok to drive, he let me have a turn I was impressed, its very smooth and quiet, plenty of go from traffic lights. handles well, whats not to like, for extra range he and his partner have a Corolla to use if required.
All things being equal electric motors are superior to internal combustion engines every day of the week. The argument that ICE are superior to electric is simular to the piston airplane guys who behmoned the newly arriving turbine engines. The aircraft industry adopted turbine engines as soon as they worked the kinks out do to greatly extended duty cycles. The average electric motor is far more efficient and reliable than any petroleum powered turbine or piston engine. Its not even an efficiency issue. Its everything to do with what we can be done with electrons. The possibilities are mind boggeling and virtually limitless. Piston motors are romantic but compared to electric they are unnecessarily complex and grossly inefficient.
Here, August 1980, is the Cleveland firm doing the conversions. $15K price for the wagons is jaw-dropping compared to what Ford was charging (no pun intended)–plus you end up with a brand new engine to sell off, right?
Also, the Government’s 1981 tests (and more photos)–looks like everything you’d want to know. Twenty-two 6V batteries, 30hp motor; accessories run off separate 12V battery circuit: https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/5909044
I either never knew about these or had forgotten about them. After all, there was so much in the automotive world of 1981 that was best forgotten, the more quickly the better.
This car needs a diehard (sorry) electrical engineer to adopt it and give it love.
My father’s colleague in Duluth had one of these back in the day. Take all the misery of owning a Fairmont, add limited range, drastically slower speed, and a crazy price, and you have this electric hunk of crap.
The car actually ended up catching on fire, nearly destroying his house.
I own this 1981 Ford Fairmont station wagon electric car for the second time in my life and I am finishing the restoration. It is the greatest car I have ever driven. The part you didn’t mention in your story was the government study on electric cars for which I have the inch thick book of the results that reads like an encyclopedia. You have to be an electric car fanatic like me to really appreciate this car and enjoy driving it. The car is not under powered, it’s actually pretty quick. About the same as a 4 cylinder. That charger in the back seat did not belong there and was not the proper charger for the car. The car is zero maintenance. I just plug it in to a 110 volt plug at night and its fully charged in the morning. Drives like a normal car. I drive it everyday. I just replaced all the batteries in it. Its funny that people throw a rod in their car and pay 3500.00 to have a new engine put in but they won’t pay significantly less for new batteries for an electric car. By the way, lead acid batteries last for years when you use one one the new computer controlled chargers that “cares for” the batteries automatically. Thank you, Roger Haugen CEO Baby Face Towing Eugene Oregon