Converting A Car To Electric? How About A ’39 Pontiac Silver Streak?

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'39 Pontiac Electric Car Conversion (© Roanoke College)

'39 Pontiac Electric Car Conversion (© Roanoke College)

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For as long as electric cars have existed, enterprising individuals around the U.S. have sought to convert gasoline cars to electric power.

Over the years, we’ve seen everything from classic British sportscars through to SUVs and pickup trucks converted to run on electric power, with conversion budgets running from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. 

These days, thanks to Nissan, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi and Tesla, electric car conversions have taken a back seat to more capable, impressive production vehicles. 

But car currently undergoing conversion to electric power at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, stands out among all the other converted electric cars we’ve ever seen. 

That’s because the car being loving worked on by student organization RE Electric isn’t a beaten up high-mileage car, pickup truck or European hatchback. 

It’s a 1939 Pontiac Silver Streak, with over 70 years of history to its name. 

Originally purchased by The Greenbrier, a resort in West Virginia, the car was used prior to the second World War to transport the rich and famous to and from the local train station. 

By the time it was purchased by the students for $1,500, the vintage car was in need of some tender loving care. 

Since then, it has been sandblasted to remove rust, repaired as necessary and painted a dark burgundy red to match Roanoke College’s colors. 

Replacing its original 4.0-liter, straight-8 known for low inherent vibration and enough “power to get the job done in affordable luxury”, the team of students plan to fit a large direct-current electric motor, and an appropriate amount of off-the-shelf traction batteries. 

The RE Electric team have been working on the car since 2010. With help from various local sponsors, it hopes to have the car completed and ready for the Roanoke Alumni Weekend in spring 2014.

As not-so-secret vintage and classic car fans, we’re glad to see this classic pre-war car is getting a second chance courtesy of a team of young, enthusiastic students and an all-electric drivetrain.

We wish Roanoke RE Electric team the very best luck with their endeavors, and wonder, perhaps not-so quietly, if we might be given a ride in this magnificent vehicle when it’s finished. 

You name the place, and we’ll try to be there. 

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