I stumbled across this ad or whatever it is a few weeks ago and while there isn’t a ton of information on the car itself, it’s interesting nonetheless. In the late 1970’s, Globe-Union, once the largest battery manufacturer in the world (they apparently produced Sears’ Die-Hard line amongst others) developed a few electric cars to showcase their battery technology.
For the body of this car, released for display in 1980 and named the Maxima presumably before Nissan laid claim to the name, Globe-Union obviously started with a Ford Fairmont Wagon body. However they then produced a new nose for it that lengthened it and included six huge lights, somewhat foreshadowing the lightbar of the future Mercury Sable. There’s also a large hood ornament in the shape of the Globe-Union logo with colored stripes and the letters Maxima spelled out in front, Range Rover style. If you try to put out of your mind what the front of a standard Fairmont looks like, this isn’t actually too terrible and certainly distinctive. Remember, this was 1980, stuff was bold! I’m somehow reminded of the ’70’s Ford Consul’s front end, of which my Dad had an example late in the decade and we have featured a very similar example here in the correct color, even.
As far as propulsion goes, apparently the car was rebuilt to house twenty lead-acid batteries that powered a 20hp GE motor. Starting with a relatively large car such as a Fairmont, this doesn’t sound as if it would be overly difficult to manage. The Achilles heel was apparently recharging time and speed, common maladies of the day in regards to early electric vehicle efforts. It wasn’t ever actually intended to reach production, but merely showcase what could be done by Globe-Union.
The Maxima wasn’t even their first effort, that honor belonged to the vastly more futuristic looking Endura of 1978, pictured in the combo ad pic above. Much has already been written about that car including how it supposedly foreshadowed some of Elon Musk’s Tesla Model S design and in fact aspects of it are eerily similar such as the general shape and a flat screen in the middle of the dashboard for all major functions.
I donnno about huge lights. They appear to be standard 165 × 100mm sealed beams—the smaller of the two rectangular sizes in use at that time. A little difficult to imagine what we’re going to do with this 6-lamp system, unless the answers are “drain the primitive battery extra-quicklike” and “not comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard № 108” (which specified that headlamps of this size were to be deployed as a 4-lamp system). It’s possible the extra lamps were fogs or another variety of auxiliary lamp, rather than actual high/low beam headlamps, but then we’re still needlessly guzzling scarce electricity.
Or maybe the point was to foreshadow the Griswolds’ Wagon Queen Family Truckster with its 8-lamp system!
It does sort of foreshadow the Pontiac 6000 STE, which had the setup you speculated the Maxima could have used and still be legal, a pair of fog or driving lights that looked almost like a third headlight on each side.
I think comparing this front clip to the very attractive Pontiac 6000 STE headlight and front clip design is perhaps like comparing that botched fresco touch up to the original. This Maxima’s nose is irredeemably garish in everyway! 🙂
Not quite—the 6000 STE did not have three pairs of identically-sized lamps like this Maxima.
“Drain the primitive battery extra – quicklike” was my 1st thought too. 6 headlights? Hello? That thing probably had a range measured in feet with all those on
Sorry, that front end is pretty bad. Not so much the lights, but the total lack of any professional styling skill in the downturn at the leading edge of the hood and fenders. No offense to sheet metal craftsman, but it looks like it was done by the shop guys and not a designer. And, in that era of incandescent or halogen lights and lead acid batteries, what better way to reduce range (at night at least) than with six headlights? The Endura is intriguing … almost Citroen-like.
Not to mention the poor fit and finish on the top picture around the passenger side turn signal/cornering light. And that’s the picture they are using in their marketing materials!
Hindsight being 20/20, it’s clear to us now that the cost vs. weight vs. storage capacity of lead-acid batteries was never going to lead to a viable electric vehicle in the 1980s. At least folks were trying!
It was the early eighties and, relatively speaking, the price of gas was at one of its highest points in US history. Globe-Union shrewdly seized on that anxiety with one-off concepts that are more like a couple of teasers mainly designed to bring attention to the company, and much less to test the waters of an actual production EV. Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) batteries, while okay for low-speed golf carts, just don’t work very well for a real car.
Soon enough, the price of oil would drop and EVs would be quietly forgotten for another three decades.
What, if anything, was the Endura based on? The door looks vaguely like it’s from a Scirocco but I don’t recognise anything else.
This article from Hemmings seems to indicate the Endura was a bespoke fiberglass body. And also hideous.
Wow, front end totally anticipates ’90 Saturn SL (and thus also Olds Firenza)
I clicked through to the Hemmings piece, read it, and then I scrolled down to read the comments. Boy was I disappointed to realize I wasn’t getting a CC comments thread!
I’m thinking maybe the idea with the lights is to make a mental connection between electric lights and electric car. So many lights makes you think of electricity and intuit this car must be so full of electricity it has maximum lighting!
As others have pointed out, the idea doesn’t stand up to logic, but then people weren’t familiar with electric cars and range/storage being to dominant factor with those.
Lada did a much better job in 1979, using lighter nickel-zinc batteries.
The nose extension reminds me of the Torino Talladega (although the Talladega lacks those (ill fitting) turn signal lenses).
Perhaps the long nose was designed to reduce aerodynamic drag.
I just think the idea with all the lights was to “highlight” that there was no grille because no engine cooling was required. They wanted the car to look as different as possible from cars of the era and just a painted body panel in that area would be less visually dramatic. Similar to what Tesla et al have done with their cars recently, though the Model S had a pseudo grille at the beginning for example.
The thing I really can’t warm to about the Tesla model 3 is the blank body work where the grille would be. It just looks too weird, I would like it better with some alternative such as the model S has.
The Maxima is certainly distinctive with the 6 lights, but I’m not a fan of it. It gives the impression that it’s something like an alien with six eyes or something like that. Cars need to have a face (a bad face is better than no face), and this one is bizarre. The only cars that I like without a traditional face is the ’68 Charger, and some other cars with hidden headlights like the Riviera.
Hey Grandma, what big eyes you have!
Must have been trendy at the time
I haven’t seen the Aston Martin Bulldog for a long, long time!
I love it. Just plain cartoonish.
Wow. I thought about the battery drain of all those headlights like most others here, but my favorite part is that when they weighed aerodynamic efficiency against the need for a stand-up hood ornament (and no small one, at that), the baroque won out. Perhaps there was a need for something besides constant range anxiety to remind the driver that his Fairmont was all-electric?
I keep thinking what a nice looking Fairmont wagon that would be without that front end.
They really went the cheap route with this one compared to their first model.
Finally EVs are getting more practical. About time.
The lack of brightwork makes it look very much like the European Mk2 Granada wagon. I could have sworn that it was until I spent a good 15 minutes looking at Fairmont vs Granada wagons.
The Endura is reminiscent of a Citroen CX, but that Fairmont based wagon is terrible – why so many headlights? As said previously, a couple of batteries alone would have been needed to power all those lights, and only a 20 hp electric motor?