In 2012, an American car buyer can choose from among a half-dozen electric cars made by major auto manufactures, such as Nissan and Ford. The impressive capabilities of cars like the Nissan Leaf or Ford Focus Electric underscore how far we’ve come from a generation ago when owning an electric car meant having to build one yourself in your garage. Industrious tinkerers assembled EVs by following instructions from magazines like Mechanix Illustrated. That’s exactly what Glenn Legrand did about 40 years ago, producing this extremely rare and oddly beautiful example of a circa 1970 DIY EV that still runs today.
Mechanix Illustrated was a primary source for guidelines on how to build hybrid and electric cars in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the plans were for pure electric cars, while others showed how to construct plug-in hybrids that mostly ran on grid-supplied energy, but also had a backup gas engine on board (not dissimilar to the Chevy Volt). The plans published by Mechanix Illustrated for its “Town Car” concept, upon which Legrand reportedly based his creation, had a top speed of 55 miles per hour, and a battery-only range of 60 miles. When assisted by the gas engine, the range was extended to 100 miles.
According to the seller, who displays the EV at car shows, the real-world specs on this street-legal car are slightly different. Its top speed is 50 miles per hour; its range on a full charge is 70 miles, with juice supplied by 12 six-volt “golf cart” batteries. It has an 8 horsepower motor that provides a casual level of performance: zero to 35 miles per hour in about 15 seconds.
Its funky retro design uses fiberglass and polyurethane foam build directly on top of a Volkswagen Beetle. In the process, the Legrand EV picks up three feet of length and two feet of width. The plastic windows don’t roll down—to get some breeze, the windows are removed entirely. The interior wood is made from mahogany. According to the seller, “everything works,” and the car even had a cameo appearance in the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie Total Recall.
This car reportedly took Mr. Legrand five years to build. But in a matter of seconds, for the “Buy It Now” price of $6,500, you could own the 1970 Legrand electric car, a unique example of homespun American ingenuity.
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