Test drive: Classic Ferrari goes electric as Wicklow aims to be Ireland’s Motown
Driving the converted 308 is both a thrilling and terrifying experience
The converted Ferrari 308 “GTE” can do a sub 3 second 0-100km time if you can keep wheelspin in check. The simple fact is a performance EV can bring the horizon closer at a must faster rate of knots than a fossil fuel burning engine can
The sight of a well-fed middle-aged man trying to fit in an 1980s Italian supercar was never going to be pretty. Surprisingly the mid-engined Ferrari 308 GTS, a car many will remember from the TV series Magnum P.I., was one of the more spacious cabins of its ilk. The drop down to the thinly padded seat at near ground level will catch many out but the opportunity to drive a re-engineered 600hp version of the famous V8, now badged GTE was worth a potential trip to the physio.
While I may be slightly larger than I was in 1981, when this particular car first rolled off the production line, my shoe size hasn’t changed. Trying to get my size 10s to find let alone work the pedals, even in thin shoes would prove tricky in a car that was clearly designed around a national hunt jockey. Thankfully the driving experience would be less nostalgic for me as the Ferrari 308 GTE is a rather special conversion that sees its V8 heart ripped out and transplanted with Tesla’s P100 electric motor.
Electrifi plans to open a new showroom and assembly factory in Wicklow by the end of 2019. It will also modify customer’s classic for a fee.
This 308 is an original Ferrari reworked for the 21st century, not be confused with a faux Ferrari kit car built on a donor MR2. This €300,000-plus classic car has been converted in Wales by Electric Classic Cars (ECC) which has teamed up with the Powerscourt estate-based Electrifi. The transformation involved removing 3,700 oily and dirty bits and engineering the car to take the electric running gear. The process left a far less complex car with circa 100 moving parts. The GTE is rear wheel drive as the car’s unique geometry couldn’t accommodate a Tesla dual motor all wheel drive setup.
Where’s the noise?
When you walk up to the car everything looks good but for one thing, the exhaust pipes are missing. Drop inside and the cabin and its time travel. The switches, the thin steering wheel, the handbrake all are of there time and utterly dreadful by today’s standards yet gloriously so. A turn of the original ignition key doesn’t ignite a glorious V8 thoroughbred but a rather pathetic soundtrack of barley audible electrical whines.
The gated manual gearbox is blocked off to allow the automatic transmission. The original stick shifter can only be slotted in to three locations D, N and R. Beside the gate is a high tech display that reads out the electrical status of the car, but other than that it’s all 1980s.
Driving the GTE is both a thrilling and terrifying experience. The power delivered to the rear wheels is immense and the slightest misuse of the throttle will break traction and light up the tyres at any speed.
You have to respect the GTE or you can easily run out of talent and find your self heading directly to the scene of the accident. The car had some further modifications on ECC’s to do list that I had to factor in to driving it. The steering was unassisted and the brakes were the original’s and not up to the task.
Ignition on and there is no clue as to the car’s readiness. Breathe on the throttle and the car lurches forward like a demented whippet. With speed the steering lightens up and despite being restricted to the Powerscourt estate’s private road network I could easily imaging driving along the Almafi coast in this beauty. Tragically my arrival, if even noticed without a V8 soundtrack, would be met with derision from traditional car fans although an equal number, particularly from congested cities, would probably welcome the emissions free car with open arms.
A joyous sensation
Driving Electrifi’s 308 delivers a joyous sensation. The GTE can do a sub 3 second 0-100km time if you can keep wheelspin in check. The simple fact is a performance EV can bring the horizon closer at a must faster rate of knots than a fossil fuel burning engine can.
Driving a supercar should always generate a sense of trepidation. The original petrol powered 308 was a handful in its day and demanded respect but its performance is no better than a modern GTI’s.
The Ferrari V8’s glorious burble may be gone but the soundtrack of performance is changing. Electrifi’s Richard Morgan makes a good point: “When we moved for the horse to the car did we want to make the car sound like a horse?” Electric motors and their unique whine are now delivering truly electric performance too.