The world’s fastest road-legal electric vehicle owned by motoring journalist and Channel 5’s Fifth Gear presenter Jonny Smith, has gone on display for visitors to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.
Just months after the re-engineered 1974 Enfield 8000 set a world speed record – accelerating to 121mph in just 9.86 seconds on the Santa Pod Raceway quarter-mile drag strip in July – the car joins the Driving Change display of motoring innovations and technology at Beaulieu.
The tiny vehicle was originally used by South East Electricity Board as a research vehicle, but the cute yellow Enfield is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Producing 800bhp and more than 1200lb ft of torque from its twin DC electric motors, the rebuilt historic EV is a formidable drag racer with supercar-beating performance. Yet it is completely road legal and exempt from London congestion charges.
Owner Jonny, who’s daily driver is a Chevrolet Volt, rebuilt the Enfield to show how fast an electric car could be and change the public’s perception of EVs. The Enfield’s original 6kW electric motor gave just 8bhp and topped out at 40mph. Following a complete re-engineering with the latest electrical technology it was bestowed with the ita drag racing name the ‘Flux Capacitor’ as tribute to the time-travelling Delorean.
“The essence of this project is about resurrecting a forgotten EV underdog and giving it some 21st century hot rod inspired treatment, but with tongues in cheeks. I fancied building a hot rod electric car a while back, but rather than convert a piston-propelled relic, why not remind the world that EVs aren’t a new invention?”
After being rescued in 2012, with the original electrical equipment wrecked by flood water damage, the Enfield is now fitted with two DC electric motors rated at 2000 amps – in contrast to the 150 amp rating of the car’s original electrical system.
188 Lithium-ion batteries, formerly used in a military helicopter, provide the power and are half the weight of the Enfield’s eight original 12-volt batteries. Jonny estimates the car’s new top speed to be in the region of 140mph, with a range of 50 miles.
The car’s aluminium bodywork has been left unaltered, but the tubular steel space-frame chassis was modified to cope with the significant power increase. Bespoke braking and suspension systems were fitted and a tougher Ford rear axle replaced the original Reliant part, while the tiny wheels were swapped for bigger 1970s slot mag wheels.
Created by motorcycle manufacturer Enfield, the 8000 Electric City Car was built in Cowes on the Isle of Wight between 1973 and 1976. Smaller than a Mini, it offered an emissions free alternative to fossil fuel-powered cars during the 1973 oil crisis.
Its forward-thinking design included an on-board charging system, a heated windscreen and run-flat tyres, but its heavy batteries limited its performance and range, while its retail price was twice that of a Mini. Of the 120 examples built, half found homes at electricity companies.
The record breaker joins other remarkable electric vehicles in the National Motor Museum, including a 1901 Columbia Electric which was used by Queen Alexandra to drive around the grounds of Sandringham House, an electric 1939 Harrods delivery van, 1985 Sinclair C5 and a new electric bicycle, demonstrating that electric vehicles are not just a modern fad.