The idea of converting a classic car to electric power is often a reasonably contentious one among enthusiasts, and in some ways, that's easy to understand. Some cars -- for example, a Porsche 911 -- are so tied to the sound and feel of their engines that removing the sound and smell from the equation kind of kills the spirit of the car.
Other cars, though -- classic luxury cars in particular -- could definitely be improved through the clever addition of modern electric car technology. An excellent example of this would be vintage Bentley and Rolls-Royce models, which offer so much in the way of experience, though very little of that has to do with the vehicle's drivetrain.
So, when we heard that a company up in Oregon was marrying an old, black Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow that formerly belonged to Johnny Cash to the guts of a Tesla Model S, we were excited. Especially because the conversion process, which Digital Trends covered on Wednesday, offered up some unexpected benefits.
Before people get up in arms about SHIFTev modifying a classic, celebrity-owned Rolls-Royce, it's essential to establish that the car was in sad shape, and the Silver Shadow is one of the highest-production Rollers ever. Getting it on the road, even in original form, would have been time-consuming and expensive, with plenty of further maintenance costs to look forward to down the road.
The Tesla conversion is cool because it axes the massive (and hugely underwhelming from an efficiency and performance standpoint) 6.75-liter V8 from the equation. It also does away with the Citroen-based hydropneumatic suspension and braking system, which is fiendishly complex and very expensive to keep running.
Tesla's drivetrains, battery packs included, have been proven to be pretty damned reliable, and likewise for the car's braking and suspension components. SHIFTev found a 2016 Model S 75 to scavenge as a donor car, specifically because the single motor would work best with the Rolls' body, and because the 75 kilowatt-hour battery pack could be slimmed down a bit, where other larger packs would take up more space.
In terms of footprints, the Tesla battery pack and Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow body fit together surprisingly well, according to the folks from SHIFTev. It was making all of Tesla's controls and systems work outside of their original body that proved especially challenging. Still, the team was able to make the Rolls' original steering wheel and shifter work with the car's new electric innards.