It’s always a little exhilarating to encounter a bit of really impressive technology that is not reserved to multi-billion dollar corporations, armies of faceless engineers, and hair-trigger legal departments. Yeah, I get collaboration, I get intellectual property rights, I get EBIDTA. But we need a break from it once in a while.
If you’re old enough, you’ll certainly recognize this.
The Bug. You might even recall the oh-so-distinctive rattle of that 35hp air-cooled unkillable engine in the rear. Back in the distant mists of time, I drove a bright yellow one. From a standing start I could hit 60 in 3rd without ever taking my right foot off the floor, speed shifting.
Here’s another one. But there’s something different about it.
No air-cooled engine. This one’s electric.
So is this.
Zelectric Motors specializes in retrofitting vintage VW and Porsche cars with electric propulsion. And it isn’t cheap. But they do have a following.
Why? Well, obviously classic cars have an undeniable appeal for a lot of people. They are collectors’ items, and a labor of love to restore. But there’s also an undeniable attraction for some in replacing the maintenance headache of a worn-out, noisy internal combustion engine with something much more reliable, quiet, smooth — and fast.
It’s a growing industry.
Electric GT caters to people who want to put a little electric muscle under the hood of, say, an old Landcruiser.
253 foot-pounds of instant torque.
And Chevy is planning to sell Bolt EV motors next year as “crate motors”, for enthusiasts.
This one is installed in a 1977 Blazer.
Of course, all of this relies on advanced technologies that were not available even five years ago, let alone fifty. The latest generation of road-safe lithium batteries. Compact permanent magnet motors. The latest in computerized battery management. But in my opinion, when you see stuff like this becoming fun, then you know it’s mainstream. Which is a good thing.
It can also be art. If you’ve ever visited the Charles River Museum, a little gem tucked away by the river in Waltham, MA, you’ve probably seen the second floor devoted to the history of watchmaking.
Waltham, of course, is the town that taught the Swiss how to make watches. Or so I’m told.
These were mainly pocket watches. Like this:
There are still many around, but not all in very good shape. Still, there is a small company of enthusiastic watch experts and machinists in Ft. Collins, by the name of Vortic Watch, who can transform even a broken-down heirloom of mechanical craftsmanship into a modern work of wearable art, with a complete restoration and 3D-printed titanium case.
Again, not cheap. But cheaper than a Rolex, and I’d much rather have a gorgeous piece of American industrial history on my wrist.
No offense to Rolex.