By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, eBay

Lets talk about electric kit cars and replicas. I get why you’re apprehensive; the classic silhouette of Porsche or Cobra speeding towards you, only to be met by an anticlimactic electric whine. It’s a bit cringe worthy, and the car enthusiasts as a collective just don’t find electric motors exciting.

While classic motoring will always be dominated conventional “motors,” it’s important for us to plan ahead, in the event that our treasured internal combustion engines become too expensive to operate regularly. Let us not allow the electric car revolution to consist only of “meh” four-doors that are about as exciting as a Buick Enclave.

But what happens when you combine an exciting car like the raw and nostalgic Beck 550 Spyder with some electric car jargon, say “a 48V electric motor and six 8V Trojan batteries.” Is the final product positive, neutral or negative?

Here are some basics on the Beck to help you make your own call. From the seller’s description, it sounds like the car is indeed a brand new Beck 550A Spyder with 200 miles on the clock. From the outside, the car looks like most any other 550 Spyder, aside from the slightly chintzy steel wheels, which look more like car trailer wheels than anything. Aside from that, there’s a standard-looking Beck tube chassis, nice leather bits, a wood-rimmed wheel and all the standard 550 badging and decals. The gauges and switchgear would be your next indication that something is different about the 550, before lifting the rear hatch. In place of the 1.5-liter, Type 547 Fuhrmann engine, you’ll find four batteries (two more are held under the front hatch) and a host of electrical components.

But the electric motor in the 550 seems a little small, and the batteries are tied down (unreassuringly) with ball-end bungee straps, bringing us to the anticlimactic conclusion on the 550’s power potential.

“TOP SPEED [is] 34 MPH, AND YOU CAN MAKE IT GO MUCH FASTER FOR VERY LITTLE MONEY IF YOU LIKE.” — Seller, Craigslist.

So this car turns out to be more of a proof of concept, than an actual silent giant killer, as a 34 mph top speed starts to make this 550 look more like an oversized golf cart. The Spyder could indeed be made faster though, with the addition of a more powerful electric motor and better batteries, and plenty of such conversions have been done with production car battery packs and motors. (See links at the bottom of the page for more information.)

But I don’t want to close on that note, as I think the kit car and replica market is playing a pivotal role in the advancement of EV technology, especially for hobbyist drivers. Companies like EV West, Renovo and Eddy Motorworks have already had great success installing EV parts into replica and kit vehicles, which use simple chassis and bodies, which are easy to adapt for electric power. Replica vehicles are also much lighter than today’s production vehicles, making them an ideal choice more maximizing EV performance. In fact, I think the coolest EV I've seen is this Cobra, which is powered by a Tesla P85 motor, and is a serious threat on the track. Car like this one prove that there's potential for hobbyists in the EV world, and replica vehicles will continue to pioneer this technology.

Epower Racing

For more on EVs, check out these past features:

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