October 30th, 2020 by Steve Hanley
The problem with old cars is that they are so old! They suffer from rusted frames and weak brakes. They have engines and transmissions that are about as reliable as a politician’s promises. Not so long ago, the object of buying and restoring classic cars was to keep it as original as possible but things have changed. The flathead V-8 engine that came in your beloved 1949 Ford Tudor Custom may have been celebrated in Chuck Berry’s song Maybelline, but “cruisin’ and playin’ the radio” isn’t all that much fun if you’re stuck by the side of the road with a mechanical problem.
Over the past several decades, originality has taken a back seat to reliability for classic car enthusiasts, opening the door to the “crate motor”revolution. Why drive a 1932 Packard with a 1932 Packard engine when you can have a modern V-8 engine and transmission under the hood, a package that is as reliable as sunrise in the morning? America’s Big Three — Ford, GM, and Chrysler — soon began offering factory fresh components that came with a warranty. That was great, but how exactly do you install them in that beauty you found in a barn somewhere? There was no book on how to do it, so everyone was left to figure it out for themselves.
The performance people at Chevrolet recognized the challenge of engine swaps and created a whole new business unit called Connect and Cruise with the mission of making the conversion process as close to plug and play as possible. On its website it says,
Our engineers did all the hard work, designing and calibrating carefully matched Connect & Cruise powertrain systems for optimal compatibility and performance, while also identifying the complementing engine and transmission controllers, torque converters and supporting installation kits.
With 84 Connect & Cruise combinations, Chevrolet Performance provides the ultimate powertrain solution without the need for third-party tuning, sourcing parts you need (with a 24-month/50,000-mile or E-ROD 36 Month/50,000 Miles Connect & Cruise limited warranty included) to help protect your ride. The calibrated controllers are designed for retrofit installations in older vehicles, for easier and quicker installation. The result is a premium package that offers the dependability of Connect & Cruise and the confidence of Chevrolet Performance.
Way cool and a great way to sell more crate motors to the classic car crowd. But what about EV conversions, which are becoming more popular all the time? Last week, we did a story about a company in France that is offering EV conversions for a number of popular small cars that came from the factory with a gasoline or diesel engine. It got an insane amount of page views and comments, which suggests the interest in EV conversions is higher than we thought possible.
At last year’s SEMA show, an electric resto-mod of a 1949 Mercury stole the show. At SEMA 360, which kicks off next week online only, Chevrolet Performance will introduce its new Electric Connect and Cruise package designed to make retrofitting a Chevy Bolt powertrain to older cars easier. According to GM Authority, the electric crate motor package, which will go on sale in the second half of 2021, will include the following:
- 60 kWh lithium-ion battery pack
- 200 horsepower electric motor
- DC to AC power inverter
- DC to DC power converter
- Wiring harnesses, controllers and water pumps for battery heating and cooling
In a press release, Chevrolet Performance says, “To prepare for the eCrate launch, Chevrolet Performance is certifying Electric Connect and Cruise installers. Participating Chevrolet dealers and aftermarket companies will receive the training, tools and equipment needed to work with high-voltage systems and charging stations to service customers’ vehicles. Lingenfelter Performance Engineering in Brighton, Michigan will be the first company to pilot the training and certification program. This experience will help inform the certification process for future installers.”
Chevrolet Performance is also evaluating additional eCrate packages with higher performance options and new battery configurations to fit a wider range of aftermarket applications. Longer term, the team will work to integrate GM’s modular Ultium battery system technologies, it says.
“Minutes after Chevrolet showed the E-10 concept, customers started calling to ask how soon they could build their EV project,” says Russ O’Blenes, Chevrolet director of engineering, Performance and Racing. The team has just completed the installation of a Bolt powertrain in a 1977 K5 Blazer and Johnna Crider will have that story for you soon. “The K5 Blazer-E demonstrates what is possible for customers who want to convert their vintage truck to a daily driver with the instant torque and unique driving experience of an EV. For customers who want more extreme performance, the modular eCrate system will have virtually limitless applications,” O’Blenes adds. Prices for the conversion kits have not yet been announced by expect more details during the SEMA 360 event.
We have been hard on General Motors this week but have to admit this electric Connect and Cruise program makes a lot of sense and could prove to be exceedingly popular. But it is just a drop in the ocean compared what the company should have been doing for at least the past decade. We suppose we should be grateful for small favors.
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