The amount of labour involved in any EV conversion is significant, explains Matthew, but more than that, it is the R&D involved in converting a model for the first time.
“We did a Morris Minor Traveller and put a Nissan Leaf motor in it, which more than doubled the power, quadrupled the torque and added 350kg of weight,” says Matthew, recounting one of his early mistakes.
“The chassis, the springs and the brakes were all struggling, and you had to remove a battery pack just to change a headlight.
“So we had to start again with a smaller motor and battery pack.”
London Electric Cars founder Matthew Quitter has learned that classic EV conversions can’t be done on the cheap
As a lifelong classic car nut who owns an electric-converted Minor and a petrol-powered Triumph Spitfire, it became clear to Matthew that focusing on classics was the answer given both the passion and the budgets that owners have to look after them.
“We started to get new customers who love how a classic car looks, but hate them for their lack of reliability and their fumes,” he says.
With rising component costs also having an impact, Matthew now quotes £100,000 or more for a conversion on a model he’s never tackled before.
But a basic update on a more familiar car, such as a Morris Minor, a Mini or a Land-Rover, starts at £30k.
‘Our’ electric Fiat 500 next to an Austin-Healey at London Electric Cars
It’s not just costs that have changed in the past five years, however: the DVLA has also become much stricter on the practice.
“They started to get so many enquiries that they freaked out a bit,” says Matthew.
“For a short period of time, they just shut it all down. Now they send an engineer.”
As a result, any electric conversion must now be careful not to modify the chassis or monocoque of a car in any way, or it may find its V5 withheld and require re-registering under a ‘Q’ plate.
The Fiat 500 has never struggled with tight urban parking
“All I used to hear was ‘sacrilege!’,” smiles Matthew, “but we’re not doing anything that is so substantial that you couldn’t reverse it, and with some of the cars we have we’re doing so much restoration work that we are almost turning it back to original form before we convert.”
Pleasingly, Matthew isn’t too high-minded about his conversions, considering himself just the latest in a long line of hot-rodders who have looked to make old cars more powerful and reliable.
“It’s entirely up to the owner, and always has been,” he says. “There are people who will tell you that you’ve ruined a car just for changing the steering wheel.”
This EV-converted classic Fiat 500 is in great condition
Leaving Waterloo and taking the Fiat back to Mortlake is just a case of following the South Circular, but the route tests the car’s ride.
The 500 felt composed north of the Thames, with the extra weight taking away the bounciness of the standard car.
But the poor surfaces south of the river reveal there’s only so much you can do with limited suspension travel and small wheels: big potholes or sunken manhole covers are spine-shattering, and best avoided.
Belgrave Square in London provides entertaining respite in the nimble Fiat 500