One Brit’s drive to rebuild a ’70s-era electric car into an EV dragster

July 11, 2012

The challenge of chopping old cars into new hot rods lies with the declining stock of history; just as classic radio stations now play Aerosmith's MTV-era albums, the most available older cars now date to the Malaise Era-lead sleds. Which is what makes this project by British TV host Jonny Smith of turning a tiny '70s-era electric car into a battery-powered dragster worth watching.

You have to know your Morris Marinas from your Reliant Robins to recognize this piece of forgotten British engineering, the Enfield 8000. Built by a firm most known for cannons, the 8000 was powered by a 8-hp electric motor that could carry a driver slowly for up to 55 miles, depending on hills and headwinds. Some 120 were built, and if you believe Wikipedia, the founders even convinced then California Gov. Ronald Reagan to consider importing some for tests, before everyone realized this was not the future of motoring.

Smith, host of Britain's "Fifth Gear," is the kind of enthusiast who randomly collects old wheels around his desk, and says the inspiration for the Enfield revamp came from the smattering of tinkerers around the world building older small cars into EV dragsters, from VW Beetles to the Pontiac Fiero that hit 155 mph at the Texas Mile earlier this year.

"The essence of this project is about resurrecting a forgotten EV underdog and giving it some 21st century hot rod inspired treatment, but with tongues in cheeks," Smith says on his site about the project, dubbed the Flux Capacitor. "It's all about taking an unlikely contender -- an automotive Rocky Balboa -- and turning it into a pint-sized zero emission hero."

The most recent photos from Smith's work with a British speed shop shows the Enfield torn to bits, in anticipation of receiving two 9-inch electric motors to drive the rear wheels through a Ford racing axle. And like any respectable drag racer, the Flux Capacitor will be the first Enfield to ever receive a wheelie bar. When done, Smith should have no trouble hitting 88 mph and beyond, going back to the future in his own unique way.