Scottsdale auto shop takes classic cars and converts them into electric vehicles

Scottsdale auto shop takes classic cars and converts them into electric vehicles

Vintage Iron and Restoration at the Rock and Roll Car Show in The Pavilions at Talking Stick on November 4, 2023. Photo via Vintage Iron and Restoration.

By Penelope Kramer

May 28, 2024

While many electric vehicle buyers are environmentalists, Scottsdale classic car expert Mark Scalpone has discovered a whole new market: hot rod fans who love EVs for their lightning-fast pick-ups.

“An electric motor, the minute you hit the gas pedal you get 600 foot-pounds of torque,” Scalpone said.

As a result, the new Lucid Sapphire “will snap your neck right back into the seat,” he said. “It’s an eight-and-a-half-second car in the quarter mile.”

‘The power is already there’

To get a jump on the EV market, Scalpone made his shop, Vintage Iron and Restoration, the first in the Scottsdale area to offer electric conversions that make classic cars zippier and hot rods even hotter.

EVs’ stunning pick-up is possible because they have fewer moving parts.

“Regular gas-powered motors have to spool up to get to that horsepower torque, to get the car moving,” said Scalpone’s EV specialist, Logan Necochea. “With the electric cars, the power is already there.”

 

Boo, hiss—at first

Even though EVs are cleaner and cheaper to run, Scalpone, like all trailblazers, has faced resistance.

When he showed his first EV—a fully electric 1972 Chevrolet El Camino—at the 2022 Goodguys Southwest National in Scottsdale, fans howled that the motor didn’t thunder and roar and smell like gas.

“We got a lot of, ‘This is terrible!’ ‘Why did you do this to an old car?’” Scalpone said.  “Blah-blah-blah.”

But one year later, at the 2023 Goodguys show, they were getting a good reception.

“People said, ‘That’s pretty cool,’” Scalpone remembered. “‘I see why you need to do this. It’s coming; we might as well embrace it.’”

 

Interest grows in “Electric Valley”

Meanwhile, Arizona was becoming the hub of “Electric Valley,” thanks to President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which brought the state $11 billion to make electric cars and batteries and build 25,000 charging stations. Partly in response, word was spreading about EV conversion.

“People are talking about it,” Scalpone said. “They know we do it.”

In the last two years, EV conversions have grown to between 5% and 8% of his business, and Scalpone is starting a subsidiary company called “Vintage Ion” focused entirely on EVs.

 

Not trying to be green

Asked whether they touted EVs’ climate benefits to customers, Scalpone and Necochea looked at each other and laughed.

“We’re not in it for that,” said Necochea. “It isn’t about going green.”

“We did it to stay ahead of the curve,” Scalpone said. “We wanted to be, I wouldn’t say pioneers, but known as the first. That’s the important thing.”

 

‘On top of the world’

Scalpone thinks EV conversions could start small, like other automotive changes. “In the 1930s and ’40s, people came back from World War II and took the little 4-cylinder engines out of their cars and put in Cadillac engines,” he said.

“Everybody thought they were crazy,” Scalpone said. “But over the last 70 years, it’s created an unbelievable marketplace.”

But while the money’s nice, Scalpone was adamant that he’s not doing EV conversions to get rich.

“The money came in second,” he said. “Us car guys don’t always care about the money. We want to be the first guy to do it and we want to be on top of the world. So if the money comes after that, that’s a bonus.”

“It’s—what do you call it,” he said, laughing. “Ego.”

Author

  • Penelope Kramer

    Penelope Kramer is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, AP wire service, Utne Reader, WFN.com, Intuition, Fitness and Parenting. She has ghostwritten several books and loves helping new writers get their work written and published.

CATEGORIES: LOCAL BUSINESS
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