We really want to use an eCrate to restomod an old GM car. Here’s what we’d build

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Hopefully, today you’ve seen the news of GM’s introduction of its Connect and Cruise eCrate motor and battery pack, effectively making the Bolt’s electric motor, battery pack, and myriad other elements available to, um, shoot into another vehicle. It’s the same concept as installing a gasoline-powered crate motor in a classic car, but with electricity and all.

This of course got us thinking about where we would put the eCrate in. Before getting too much ahead, however, we found that the eCrate battery pack is literally the Bolt EV pack, not just in terms of capacity, but size and shape as well. In other words, you must have enough space in the vehicle to accommodate and / or store about 60% of the length of a Chevy Bolt. It’s not a big car, but that’s still an awful lot of real estate. There’s a reason GM chose to just pop the package into the bed and cargo space of old full-size SUVs. Well that, and with a rear suspension sturdy enough to handle about 1,000 pounds of batteries.

So after that buzz kill, we still wanted to peruse the GM back catalog for classics we’d like to see transformed into an electric restomod that might swallow all that battery … maybe … possibly … whatever , Saws and burners do not exist for nothing.

1971 Buick Riviera

Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski: If you’re going to build an electric conversion, why not do it with style? That’s why I choose a 1971-1973 Buick Riviera. You know, the one with the big glass boot tail that ends in a pointed V.

Since it is a fairly large vehicle with a large sloping fastback shape, I hope there is enough space in the trunk and back seat to pack the necessary battery pack. That will likely require cutting out some of the metal bulkhead that supports the rear seat back, but not so much that a little bit of structural bracing wouldn’t be able to support things.

The big 455 cubic inch Buick V8 up front will have to go, of course. Remember, these were the 1970s, so despite all that displacement, the Riviera only had about 250 horsepower (depending on the year and trim level). So the electric motor’s 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque should work as an acceptable replacement.

Chevrolet S10 from 1982

Associate Editor Byron Hurd: OK, so the name “E-10” is already being used by a completely different truck, but let’s not let labels get in the way of a fun idea. Placing the battery pack under the bed can be challenging, but it has to fit somewhere or different, as we’ve illustrated with the lead image in this article. Put a tarpaulin over it and call it done, right?

In all seriousness, I think something like that would make for an excellent utility runabout. I chose 1982 because it was the first relevant image I found, but I am certainly not married to that generation. Any straight frame will do, and I imagine it’s possible to find a clever way to mount that package without completely robbing a compact pickup of all the practicalities.

Cadillac Coupe DeVille from 1969

West Coast Editor James Riswick: I really wanted a ’67 or ’68 Eldorado thinking “well it has to be big enough and the lack of a driveshaft or rear diffuser should make it easier to put in that Bolt battery pack.” Unfortunately, it still doesn’t look like there would be enough space. That size of the battery is a real limitation. So let’s go up a size! See the 1969 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. If that in the back isn’t enough length to swallow the battery, I’m not sure it’s possible in a car. While not as classic as the Eldorado, this Coupe DeVille is one of the more understated versions of its nameplate. Would its curb weight of 4,800 pounds put a little bit of pressure on an engine intended for a car weighing 1,200 pounds less? Almost certainly. It would certainly be comically slow. On the plus side, you could get it in “Chateau Mauve Firemist and ‘halo’ framed vinyl roof.” Ideally photographed with “Watteau, Studies of Women and Men” from the Louvre. So it’s beautiful. And electric. It’s chic electric.

1971 Buick Estate Wagon

Contributing Editor Joe Lorio: I originally thought a four-door Chevy Chevette hatchback might be ideal as it could be touted as The Return of the Electrovette (GM made a few EV conversions of the Chevette at the time). But even with the rear seats folded, the ‘Vette’s cargo floor is only two feet long, which doesn’t seem like enough to house the Connect and Cruise battery pack. So I made a complete 180 and imagine a ’76 Buick Estate Wagon.

GM’s gigantic 1970s “clamshell” full-size wagons (the largest ever built) would certainly have enough room to house the battery pack, even if it meant removing the third seat. And the original 455-cubic-inch boat anchor in this baby produced only 205 smog-choked horsepower, so not much more than the e-engine – although the torque output was significantly higher. This re-powered car may not be that fast then. But it has miles of style and acres of fake wood. Call it the E-lectra Estate Wagon and take it to SEMA.

1965 Chevy Van

1964-1970 Chevy Van

News Editor Joel Stocksdale: Practical maverick that I am, I was thinking about what kind of classic Chevy would have the space and ruggedness to haul a large battery pack, but it wasn’t just any pickup truck or wagon. And it struck me that a van would be perfect. Sadly, a Corvair van wouldn’t be particularly useful for the upcoming Chevy eCrate package with its rear engine setup. But it was followed by an equally funky van known simply as the Chevy Van or G-Series Van. From 1964 to 1970, the Van had a nifty flat-nose design that didn’t look much like the old Corvair, VW Bus, Ford Econoline, or Dodge A-Series. I am a bit more pleased with the earlier design with the high headlights and stiffer length, but I certainly would not reject the later one.

Converting one shouldn’t be very difficult. Despite its shape, the engine sits at the front between the front seats and sends power to the rear through a traditional transmission and solid rear axle. As such, that should be perfect for the eCrate engine and transmission clutch. The Chevy Bolt engine is probably more punchy than the six-cylinder and V8 engines originally fitted to the G-series Vans, so it should be more fun to drive. And with a low load floor, it’s easy to add the battery while retaining plenty of cargo space, and maybe even room for a set of rear seats if I want.

1971-1976 Oldsmobile 98

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: This could be a disaster, but I’m going for the ninth-generation Oldsmobile 98 for three reasons: it’s an Oldsmobile, it’s nearly as good, and it looks sweet. I could probably put the battery pack in the trunk with some break-in in the back seat, which is okay as I can put three in the front seat. (If anyone reading this has access to a 98 of this era, please take a measurement of the trunk and back seat.) I would have to assume the V8 was already plucked out of this example to live a better life in something else – I don’t think I could sleep at night after yanking a working 455 Rocket from under the hood. Hopefully the 200 horsepower would be enough to move this big beast. I would almost certainly have to bolster the rear suspension.

Yes, this is probably a terrible idea. Maybe I’m just waiting for GM to pull out its much more modular Ultium batteries. Then I could find a way to package it in the 3rd generation Cutlass that I really want.

1953 Cadillac Series 62

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: GM has a tradition of converting interesting classics into electric power for SEMA (virtual this year, of course). It’s one of the cooler parts of the show, second only to the open bar Mopar stages after the press conference. For my pick, I play from the back of the deck with the 1953 Cadillac Series 62. Autobloggers like to scold me for my throwback picks for these lists, usually with a line like, Grandpa Migliore should get his entry. this one from great grandfather.

This luxury Eisenhower-era coupĂ© measures nearly 221 inches, which is longer than a modern Escalade. It may take some creativity to get the eCrate components in, but there is a lot of room to work with. I love this period in Cadillac’s history. It reflects the post-war exuberance with jet-age styling, and the Series 62 was the first Cadillac to receive fins in 1948. Aesthetically, this era of GM Design holds up well almost 70 years later, especially with the long hood and curved fenders. Yes, the grille looks like it’s going to torpedo you, but that’s really chrome.