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The future of electric vehicles is this 44-year-old pickup truck

The future of electric vehicles is this 44-year-old pickup truck

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Driving vintage vehicles into an all-electric future

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This is the front end of the Ford F-100 truck from 1978, but it’s restored with gray and copper accents. The LED headlights are on and you can see the new access door on the driver-side front fender that houses the charge port.
The Ford F-100 Eluminator.
Becca Farsace

This 1978 Ford F-100 “Eluminator” pickup truck is the oldest vehicle I’ve ever driven, and also perhaps the newest. That’s because, despite its vintage exterior, everything inside, from the drivetrain to the dash, is less than one year old. Oh, and it’s fully electric.

Turns out what I’m really driving is a 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition, but you couldn’t tell from its gloriously restored 44-year-old truck shell from the outside. It’s a beautifully done restomod with fresh gray and copper accents, an F-100 Custom badge, and slick retro wheels.

A hopeful display of support for smaller shops and tinkerers

Ford Performance, the automaker’s motorsports division, designed and commissioned the F-100 Eluminator and was built by MLe Racecars in Washington. And like many of Ford Performance’s other one-off projects, this F-100 won’t be available for purchase. It exists solely as an auto show car that displays what could be built using Ford’s $4,095 electric crate motor, which makes it easier to convert any old gas-guzzler into an electric car.

That’s great news for enthusiasts that want to renew classic cars without the carbon emissions they would otherwise produce, as well as the small companies that specialize in these kinds of custom jobs. Zelectric Motors built an electric Porsche using donor Tesla motors, and luxury converters like Everrati get their motors custom-made. But now with electric crate motors becoming available from big automakers like Ford, it’s a hopeful display of support for smaller shops and tinkerers that would like to modify their own vehicles.

Our own Becca Farsace made a whole video about how this is also a big statement for the right to repair movement. She talked to Chris Salvo, CEO of Electrified Garage and Kyle Wiens of iFixit on the matter. Check it out!

Many companies like Tesla have historically made it difficult for small shops and skilled owners to fix their own electric cars by locking down the software and not making parts easily available. But that hasn’t stopped tinkerers like Rich Rebuilds on YouTube from repairing the cars himself. Another YouTuber, Simone Giertz, modded her Model 3 into a truck despite the company’s record of blocking cars out of supercharging.

Ford’s approach seems to be friendlier for the repair crowd

Ford’s approach seems to be friendlier for the repair crowd, its crate motor being sold is the same as the one in the Mach-E already. “It’s been really really fun to see who’s excited and wants something like this,” said Ford Performance marketing specialist Autumn Schwalbe.

The e-crate motors on offer from Ford had run out of stock quickly, but they’re back in production and readily available to buy. Ford could make the efforts seem even sweeter if it offered more parts that would make building a custom EV easier, like batteries and a full drivetrain. “We’re in the works of creating some more parts to go along with the motor, but nothing has been revealed yet,” Schwalbe said.

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Becca Farsace / The Verge

Fusing the F-100 and the Mach-E together was no easy task. It involved tuning the truck for performance and adjusting the suspension to favor paved roads. It has two motors, making the F-100 Eluminator capable of 480 horsepower and 634 lb-ft of torque, and the truck bed is freshly coated for hauling. There’s no tow package installed though because this electric pickup truck isn’t about that labor life – Ford’s got that side covered with its actual workhorse F-150 Lightning electric trucks.

You get all of the Mach-E’s features like the 10.2-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay, digital dashboard, gear shift dial, wireless phone charger, and modern seating. But you won’t forget that you’re inside a vintage truck: it’s got the original flappy-door glove compartment and you’ll need to crank the windows to open and close them.

This is the F-100’s interior in a fisheye view from the driver’s perspective. There’s a copper colored upholstery on the door with a window crank on the left and a big vertical touchscreen on the right. Becca’s left hand is on the wheel and she’s got a denim jacket with a tan wooly poof that comes into perspective. the right side has a glossy white dash with a retro glove compartment hatch perpendicular to the car.
The Mach-E’s interior hardware and software are retained, but you do get a cool F-100 logo on the steering wheel.
Becca Farsace / The Verge

It stinks that you can’t buy the F-100 Eluminator — just like you can’t buy Hyundai’s gangster Heritage Series Grandeur EV based on a design from the 80’s. But Ford at least let us drive this one. We were amazed at how thrillingly quick it goes. The truck certainly caught the attention of passersby too, who were astounded by its show-stopping presence as we whipped it around the city. People started asking questions about its age and price — which is when we broke it to them: “It’s fully electric too.”

The questions that followed were all too familiar to me: “So there’s no gas at all?” “How long does it take to charge?” “How far does it go?” It’s almost as if it doesn’t matter that this is a vintage one-off restomod truck, what really matters is what’s on the inside. It’s an electric car and people are still in the early stages of understanding them.

Pray they do nothing to stop us

We need more of these projects. We need to maximize the usable life of every vehicle that’s manufactured. The entire process to make new cars, from material mining to manufacturing, is an emission-heavy process whether they’re electric or not. Research has shown that the entire lifespan of a new EV is still cleaner for the environment than that of a combustion engine vehicle – even if the EV were exclusively charged on a dirty grid.

The solution to clean travel is better public transport, but the next best thing is electrification of cars and the best way to do that is to reuse old ones and turn them into EV restomods. Our own transportation editor Andrew Hawkins wrote about how manufacturers need to shut up and ship EVs, and it seems to be the case that 2022 will be the year to ship them. And if automakers still don’t ship the cars, at least they can ship more of these parts. Then we can go build the EVs ourselves, and pray they do nothing to stop us.