My starting car was a 1962 Volvo P1800, which I purchased in running (barely) condition in 2013 (note the afore-mentioned custom English Wheel in the background), and yes those are not the original bumpers.
Ok first off, I would not have even considered starting this build if it were not for the help and support of my father-in-law, Andy Longeteig. He is a retired electrician by trade, but a Master metal smith and hotrodder by choice. He has been restoring, customizing and rodding out cars and trucks in Lewiston, ID at a professional level since the 1950s for extra income and creative enjoyment. His portfolio of cars is simply mind-boggling for a one-man operation. Chopping, Frenching, Tucking, lead-work, in steel or aluminum, he has done it all on cars, trucks, tractors and motorcycles. And before you scoff at his remote location, note that included in that portfolio were two classic 1950s aluminum-bodied 300SL gullwing Mercedes, an award-winning custom lead-sled Merc, and numerous other classic American muscle cars and hotrods. Along the way he built his own Louver machine and French Wheel using nothing but photographs from a magazine. Trust me the guy’s a genius with metal. He is now in his eighties and although he still works on small jobs the Evolv Project is his last full car and this entire journey was a collaboration between myself and Andy. Thank you, my friend.
Now the car may not look too bad in the photo above, but its beauty was literally only skin deep. As soon as we started stripping the car we found that the only body panels that had not been damaged at one time or another and repaired (badly) were the bonnet, boot lid and roof. [Fun fact: I use the English terms here because it is a ’62 P1800, not a ’63-’72 1800S. For the first two years of production, ’61-’62, Volvo produced the cars under contract with Jensen Motors. Jensen subcontracted the bodies to Pressed Steel in Linwood Scotland, and assembled the cars in West Bromwich, England https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volvo_P1800]. In addition to the usual rust areas around the door sills and trailing fenders, both front fenders had been mauled and roughly beaten with a ballpeen hammer and then filled with bondo to the point it was just easier to replace them than restore them. The rear had also been damaged at some point and poorly welded back together. In total we took nearly 6 months to restore the body back to original specs before starting the custom work.
One of the first body modifications that we completed after repairing the car was to French the headlights, modifying the cup to accommodate aftermarket LED 7” lamps with integrated turn signals. I’ve always preferred the recessed look of Frenched lights to the bug-eye look of the originals.
The next modifications we made were to the nose. The original chrome nose trim was pretty beat-up and I preferred the look of the late ‘50s Ferraris and Mercedes which extended the nose and used thin trim to the look of the chrome “lips” on the 1800. I also wanted to enlarge the opening for better airflow to the radiators. So, we extended the nose about an inch past where the original trim would have ended with much less of a taper, giving the front of the car a different profile. Also, since the headlights I am using have integrated turn signals, we created Frenched recesses where the original turn signals were to accommodate LED foglights.
For the grill, I gave a nod back to the original P958-X1 by incorporating a prominent V in the center. It and the surround were hand formed from aluminum and polished.
To give the roof a more modern look we used an old hotrodder trick and shaved the drip rails.
In the rear, several modifications were made to smooth the lines and improve the look. First, keeping the outside body line, new tail-light housings were fashioned and elongated to accommodate sets of 3 LED brake/turn combos and frenched in. In addition, the original gas fill located on the top of the left quarterpanel was removed and a recessed license plate holder was installed. The new charge port was placed in the middle of the license plate mount and will be hidden behind the plate and accessed with a hinged plate holder.
Next, the rear fins were shaved to more closely match the body lines. This was a mod I loved in Bo Zolland's design and greatly improves the rear stance of the car. I am very happy with the end result, but have two more further modifications to the rear end in store after the chassis integration, so stay tuned.
At this point we couldn’t do much more until the new Art Morrison chassis was installed, and at 80 years old, that large of a job was beyond what Andy was comfortable with handling in his shop anymore, so I trailered the car from Lewiston, ID (northern part of the state) down to where I live in Meridian, ID (Southwest part of the state) and got in touch with Treasure Valley Street Rods, in Boise (http://www.treasurevalleystreetrod.com/). Dave Horsley, who owns TVSR is an ex-drag racer and has been restoring and racing cars for over 30 years. He has a great crew. In particular, Jeff Reed, my lead technician has been another great collaborator on this project. Although Jeff and Dave were a little skeptical at first on working on an electric drive race car, once we got going they embraced the project.
The first step was to integrate the new chassis. Since the P1800 was a unibody, this entailed cross bracing the body and then completely removing the entire floor of the car and all existing frame rails. Then the body shell was attached to the prepped chassis, welded back together and new floors were fabricated and installed. It was a long process but resulted in an extremely strong and stiff car.
For shoes on the car I had ET Wheels build a custom set of LT-IIIs for me and shod them with Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber. They are built to resemble period Panasport 8 spoke magnesium race wheels popular in the late 60s and early 70s, and ET can make them in custom sizes and offsets which was necessary to get an 18” wheel big enough to fit over the giant 14” Willwood “Big Brakes” I ordered on the chassis. [Fun fact: this is the same style of wheel used on the 1800S in the BBC classic series, The Saint, staring Roger Moore, before he became James Bond (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwCjOakOMKE)]. With the chassis welded in place and the new wheels and tires installed we could finally put the car back down and get a look at the new stance and ride height.
The next step was raising and flaring the fenders front and rear to accommodate the larger wheels and tires. This was always part of my design and a necessity to allow us to be able to turn the front wheels.
Moving back to the rear of the car, there were two other performance modifications that I wanted to make to the body. The first was to design and install a rear diffuser. This acts to create more volume under the car at the back of the vehicle causing the air to move faster under the car than over the car at speed. This differential velocity serves to suck the car to the road increasing downforce and stability. Mine is fabricated out of aluminum and removable. As the car is finished, I will also be installing removable panels across the chassis rails to create a flat surface under the car, adding in the efficiency of the diffuser.
The next modification was to integrate an electronically activated rear spoiler. This will serve to smooth the air flow over the car reducing turbulence from forming behind the rear glass. This reduces drag and makes the car more efficient at speed allowing greater range and top end speed. It is not a rear wing and does not add significantly to downforce. After a bit of research, I settled on using the spoiler from a 2012 Chrysler Crossfire convertible. It actually has a very similar trunk profile to the P1800, enabling integration with only minor modification and provides the added benefit of a third brake light.
Concurrently, we were finishing up the chassis integration and fabrication of the interior sheet metal. An awful lot of work later and we had a new floor and firewall. Also visible in this picture are the Lokar pedals, Flamming River tilt column and Billet Industries steering wheel. You can also see the panel we fabricated into the transmission tunnel to access the Mastershift adapter that electronically controls the 5 speed TKO600 transmission discussed earlier.
After completion of the fabrication work, the car was placed on a rotisserie, all joints were seam sealed and prepped and the entire bottom of the car was coated with an epoxy liner.
After creating all the mounts for the motor and transmission and test fitting everything the engine compartment was prepped and painted with Ford Magnetic metallic paint and matte clear coat.
We then reinstalled the drive train, steering linkages, power steering and power brakes. Without pulleys to drive oil or vacuum pressure, I am using an electric brake booster from ABS Brake Systems and an electric over hydraulic power steering unit made for a 3rd gen Toyota MR2 (http://electricsubaru.com/steering.html).
To update the interior design, I wanted to incorporate a waterfall dash similar to newer Volvos while retaining the 2 large + 3 small gauge layout. Since the new gauges with bezels are slightly larger than the original gauge cluster, we decided to just rebuild a whole new dash, which was then painted with the same Ford Magnetic metallic paint as the engine bay but with a gloss clear coat.
I am working with Dakota Digital on a set of custom HDX gauges to go into the car that pay homage to the original P1800 design but allow us to capture all of the additional information needed from the electric drive train on integrated digital screens.
In the picture above you can also see the MasterShift adapter that converts the shifter to cable operation which in turn are controlled by electric solenoids and the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. The rectangular cut-out is for the double dim 7” touchscreen stereo receiver with Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple Car play. It will also serve as the display screen for navigation and dual-view cameras.
To safely house the 16 battery modules contained in the original 400V Tesla Model S P90D battery pack, I first made wooden mockups of the battery modules. Each module is ~27”X11.75”X3” and weighs 55 lbs. I used 2X4s and 0.75” MDF to make the boxes and filled them with playground sand, in order to match the size and increase the weight (although they are not nearly 55 lbs).
To keep the weight of the pack as low in the car as possible and improve traction and handling, the majority of the battery modules will be mounted where the rear seats used to be. First we fabricated a set of racks to support the battery modules between the rear wheel wells and they were test fit. A secondary rack was also made to fit low and behind the rear differential and recessed below the trunk floor. This will allow us to place 11 modules in the rear seat area, 3 modules behind the differential and the remaining 2 modules will be placed in the engine bay to balance the weight front to back.
Test fitting complete, the racks were removed and painted. RestomodAir Membrane was installed onto the floor and the racks were reinstalled; they also supplied the A/C system. Once the high voltage system is installed and plumbed and the roof modifications are complete, Membrane will be installed throughout the rest of the interior.
A CoachControls low voltage wiring harness, stainless brake lines and an E-Stopp electric parking brake were all installed and then the car was ready for shipping to my EV specialist, Matt Hauber, owner of StealthEV in Oceanside, CA (https://www.stealthev.com/). Matt was recommended to me by the guys at Rinehart Motion Systems when I first spoke to them about using their controllers in my build and needing some help with the integration. Matt runs a shop in southern California specializing in EV conversions and has been very helpful in selection of various high voltage components necessary in this build and is ultimately responsible for installing the battery pack, Orion battery management system, Rinehart controllers and CAN control and integration systems necessary to get this vehicle running. So, the car was packed up and shipped to CA for its next evolution.