Turn your classic car into a green machine

Will Kinton

Fuel efficiency and being green is usually not at the front of many classic car owners’ minds. Most classic cars just aren’t driven enough to make any real impact on the environment. That said, a growing number of classic car owners are interested in more than the standard classic car experience and want to extend their environmentally friendly lifestyle to the hobby. These tips will help you maximize your classic car experience and minimize any impact on the environment. 

Choose an Efficient Classic Car

If you’re just getting into the classic car hobby, you have a great opportunity to start off on the right foot. While classic cars have a reputation for being gas guzzlers, there are still a number of desirable (and appreciating) classics that can deliver a fun driving experience and offer a relatively high number of miles per gallon. In fact, many European and Japanese cars of the 1970s enjoyed good gas mileage by even today’s standards. The combination of smaller, fuel-efficient engines with lightweight, nimble chassis resulted in cars that were fun to drive and economical. 

Popular Mechanics recommends cars such as the Porsche 912, BMW 2002, Alfa Romeo Giulia, or Datsun 510 as fuel-efficient classics. Choose one of these, and you’ll be surprised at the number of miles you can achieve per tank.

Care for Your Classic Car

If you already have a classic car in your garage, the best way you can maximize efficiency is to regularly maintain it. Your car’s engine will deliver more horsepower from less gas if everything is running properly. Keep your engine properly tuned, make sure tires are in good condition, and change your oil every six to 12 months to make sure your car is running properly. 

Check the laws in your area regarding recycling and disposing of old oil and fluids. When you aren’t driving your car, put a drip pan under the engine to prevent any leaking fluids from becoming hazardous runoff. 

Lose Some Weight

Modifying classic cars can be controversial, but if you value decreasing the ecological impact your car makes, it can be worth it. One of the best modifications you can make is to reduce weight. Less weight means the engine doesn’t have to work as hard. Remove your car’s spare tire, tool kit, radio and speakers, or even the air conditioner and rear seats for weight and gas savings. 

You can also replace old parts with newer upgraded parts such as lighter seats, wheels and engine parts to “add lightness." Your classic will accelerate, handle and use less gasoline. According to Hot Rod Magazine, every 100 pounds removed is equal to a tenth of a second, or 1 mph, at the drag strip. You may not be racing your classic car, but those weight savings will help you burn less gasoline. 

Convert your car to electric

If you’re willing to make a major upgrade, you can convert your classic car into an electric vehicle. If you want to do it yourself, expect to spend between $8,000 and $12,000 on top of the cost of the donor vehicle, and a lot of your time. 

  • If you’d rather leave it to the professionals, a number of companies have popped up around the world offering these conversions. Zelectric Motors in San Diego offers turnkey classic Volkswagens with electric motors replacing their air-cooled engines. Zelectric Motors' Beetles, Microbuses, Karmann Ghias and Things look completely stock, but their electric motors allow for an emission-free classic car experience. The classic ZelectricBug starts at $68,000 and offers double the horsepower of the original Beetle, a range of 80 to 100 miles, and lithium batteries that will last 160,000 miles.

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Photo credits: From top to bottom, Chris Sampson, Flickr; pyntofmyld, Flickr; Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr; Jason Goulding, Flickr; Zelectric Motors, Facebook.

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