Classic car EV conversions have been a steadily growing trend, but the controversy remains as to whether or not it takes away the point of owning a vintage ride. Converting a Porsche 911 or first-gen Ford Mustang offers the fun of instant torque, but most of the entertainment in driving an old car is the mechanical soundtrack. But, what if you converted a classic that was already designed to be quiet and smooth? Shift EV has been doing gas-to-electric conversions for classic cars and hot rods since 2009. One day, a client showed up in a 1970 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow formerly owned by Johnny Cash asking for a "deep swap" Tesla conversion.
What puts this build in a separate category from other classic EV conversions is that Shift EV didn't just pull the engine, dump in an electric motor with a battery pack and call it a day. The project involved swapping motors, batteries, ABS, air conditioning, traction control, electric power steering and anything else you'd find in a Tesla Model S into a 50-year-old, hand-built Rolls-Royce. But, the key to making this car a success is that they kept the exterior and interior as original as possible out of respect for the "Man in Black."
The decision to do an EV swap came down to the simple reason that the 130,000-mile Silver Shadow needed a full mechanical restoration. The opportunity to go electric seemed like the perfect solution. After all, a Rolls-Royce is the pinnacle of personal luxury and ride quality, where quiet and smoothness can only improve it.
This project's donor car was a new Tesla Model S with a 75-kilowatt-hour battery pack, purchased solely to be stripped of its guts. One of the biggest challenges was discovering that the Silver Shadow is actually 10 inches narrower than a Model S. The rear wheels were fitted with an adaptor to bolt Tesla wheel bearings onto the stock Rolls-Royce components, while a Tesla drive unit is visible if you look where the differential housing would typically be. The Tesla battery pack sits center underneath the Rolls-Royce, and the trunk hides the center instrument display and charger with plenty of room for luggage and a guitar case. The Johnny Cash EV Rolls-Royce has a range of over 200 miles and accelerates, stops and handles better than it did in 1970.
YouTube channel Transport Evolved produced a video interviewing Shift EV on everything that went into building this fascinating car. It's definitely worth a watch:
It may not be a pieced-together Cadillac, but this Tesla swapped Rolls-Royce definitely lives up to Johnny Cash's lyrics.
"I'm gonna ride around in style
Gonna drive everybody wild
'Cause I'll have the only one there is round."
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