The 47-year-old back shed mechanic from Shalvey in Sydney's west spent six months and $17,000 turning his 1985 Toyota Corolla into an electric-powered super beast. And his driving force was more economic than eco logic. “I was spending about $3000 on fuel every year travelling to and from work in Wetherill Park every day and just running around,” said maintenance fitter Mr Swan. “When fuel went up to $1.78c a litre last year I thought, it's $55 a week to run a little Corolla, what's the point?”
Mr Swan is not alone. Last year 30 electric vehicles were registered in NSW, an RTA spokesman said. “Converting my 2002 Honda Jazz wasn't an economic decision,” retired engineer and fellow car converter Michael Belfield said. “It is a retirement project. I have four cars and I'll just take this one to Strathfield and back.” The Castle Hill retiree's project will cost $32,000 — $7000 for the car and $25,000 for the parts.
But is it worth it?
“No! But if you talk to a hot-rodder, they'll spend $10,000 doing up their car,” he said. “I'm in effect hot-rodding my car, but I'm making it a more powerful and efficient car.”
While Mr Swan and Mr Belfield are content being car conversion amateurs, some enthusiasts are entertaining more entrepreneurial thoughts.
Maroubra-based Convert Ur Car owner Nathan Bolton, 32, has converted four vehicles since opening three years ago. For $22,000, electrical technician Mr Bolton promises to transform a pre-loved bomb in about six weeks — a cost not as “crazy” as some might think. “Is it crazy to build a vehicle that doesn't break down, that has an engine that's 95 per cent efficient compared to 35 per cent efficient in a normal car and has only one moving part?” he said.