"It's the most fun car I've ever driven!" Michael Bream's enthusiasm about a particular Factory Five 818 came through the phone loud and clear, despite the several thousand miles separating us. It's a pretty big statement too, considering the co-founder of EV West – an electric conversion shop located in San Marcos, CA – has a battery-operated BMW M3 race car that puts out 420 horsepower and a very scary 850 pound-feet of torque. Naturally, we hoped there was video taken of the newly built kit car in action to back up the gushing. There was.
Now, there was a time when America was littered with kit car companies offering the DIY crowd the opportunity to drive 1952 MG TD and Ford GT40 replicas built on the bones of VW Beetles. That era has mostly passed and the somewhat meager component car industry, as it prefers to be called, is now dominated by one firm: Factory Five Racing.
"It's the most fun car I've ever driven!" – Michael Bream
This outfit has come to the fore by offering not only a select group of standard classics, but also a couple designs of its own. The most recent in that latter category is the performance-oriented 818, and it's turning out to be a blank canvas upon which electric vehicle enthusiasts can work their black arts. Of the several builds that we know of in the works, the one Bream was boasting of is the only example that has its wheels turning. And by turning, we mean sliding around asphalt, plastering broad smiles across the faces of the select few that have driven her (keep following below to see a video of what we mean).
Related GalleryElectric Factory Five 818
The project, undertaken by Erik Hansen of 33 Machine with help from the aforementioned EV West crew, is still sans bodywork but that didn't stop its builders from taking it to Adams MotorSports Park in Riverside, CA for its initial shake down spin. Despite sharing the track with a handful of converted cars, the little racer found the real estate to make some big impressions.
Building your own EV offers the advantage of letting you to tailor the drivetrain to fit your desires and budget. In the case of this electrified 818, the component choices are certainly interesting. Let's start with the motor. It's an AC35x2 from Hi Performance Electric Vehicle Systems (HPEVS) and, as the name suggests, is actually two AC induction motors in a single casing. Interestingly, it uses two separate Curtis controllers to regulate the flow of electricity from a 16-kWh lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery constructed of two 8-kWh sub-packs.
Building your own EV lets you to tailor the drivetrain to fit your desires and budget.
This air-cooled unit gets its peak 165 horsepower at just under 5,000 RPMs – its 189 pound-feet of twist is, of course, available right from the get-go until this point – and so uses a five-speed manual transmission from a 2002 Subaru WRX to quickly accelerate up to its estimated (but as yet unproven) 150-mile per hour top speed. It could be possible (and awesome) to use a more powerful motor with a higher redline and do away with the shifter, but that would certainly involve more money. High output motors are more spendy and require other components to be upgraded as well. As it is, the installed electric drivetrain rings up at a not-inconsiderable $19,500.
When it is finally covered in painted body panels, it's estimated the electric 818 will weigh in at 1,950 pounds – about a hundred and fifty more than the gas-powered version. It should, though, have a slightly lower center of gravity and moment of inertia. Other important electric performance parameters include a range of between 60 and 70 miles. Charging happens in fours hours from empty using the 5-kW on-board unit.
The 818 EV uses a five-speed manual transmission from a 2002 Subaru WRX.
While electric conversions have been happening for some time, from-the-ground-up builds are just starting to become a more feasible reality and will only become more compelling as batteries and components continue to become better and more affordable. This project, in particular, has even attracted the attention of Factory Five head and former EV-doubter Dave Smith, who invited Hansen to display his naked car this past Saturday at the company's 6th Annual Huntington Beach Criuse-In. It walked away with a trophy for best innovative design.
If you couldn't make it to that event, don't worry. You can see this machine in all its tire-squealing glory, and get a bit more insight on its construction, by simply watching the video below. Then, you can follow the car's continuing construction over at this Factory Five Forum thread.