Resurrecting a Vintage Electric Vehicle is Hard


The team has tried numerous upgrades to get their Jet Electrica 007 to go just a bit faster, charge more efficiently and run more reliably. For its first race at Carolina Motorsports Park, the golf cart batteries that came stock in the Electrica were swapped for modern deep-cycle marine batteries. The team had to pause that race when a mouse nest built inside the motor caught on fire and started smoking. Turns out, varmints love to build nests in old EVs, too!

They also had to pull in every three or four laps to swap in recharged batteries, and learned along the way that fire ants are extremely attracted to electrical currents—which the small army of chargers (which were originally meant to use with a crop-dusting drone, but had been modified) generated a lot of. 

For what it’s worth, this was still safer than the charging setup for Lemons’ first electric car, a forklift-motor-swapped Datsun Roadster, which ran at MSR-Houston. The batteries were charging out in the open, and because it’s a Gulf coast race, it rained. The race organizers weren’t too pleased. 

After getting the full deep-south fire ant experience, Duff Beer moved to an 88-hp brushless motor paired to a Curtis controller and Chevrolet Volt lithium-ion batteries. They’re still hot-swapping these batteries in the pits for races, too, as each battery set is on a custom frame that drops in and out of the hatch of the car. 

But wait! Endurance racing an obscure 88-hp EV wasn’t enough. They started taking it on the 24 Hours of Lemons’ road-based offshoot, the Lemons Rally. Think of the Lemons Rally like a big interstate scavenger hunt. There are start and end points for each night and various roadside attractions and oddities to find along the way. 

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