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A Retro build I’d like to make.

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11_Baker_Electric_DV_06-AI_01 11_Baker_Electric_DV_06-AI_04 Over the years I have been able to drive there have been many DIY (do it yourself) car kits on the market. Automobiles that were offered were in general very expensive, fast running ICE cars of the last 30 years. The average price of these cars were about $20,000 to build and were (and still are) way over my budget and interest level when it comes to car construction. Sadly, there were no offers concerning the very first cars (only the Model T or Model A cars, and even then, they required you to buy their kit to get the plans). I searched high and low for the first cars that ran on electric motors and could find none. Alas I feel that there is no one willing to offer a basic series of blueprints for building an electric car from 1900, only conversion projects.

The reason why I bring this up is because I saw a 1911 Baker Electric (or even a Ford or Detroit Electric)in a series of articles and videos on electric car ranges and my interest has steadily grown in this area. Basically, a Baker Electric was one of the best electric cars on the market during its heyday. If you look at the pictures, it has classic styling, high seating, looks cool, and got an amazing 100 miles per charge (amazing since most current electric conversions will get you the same range). Sure it only had a max speed of 23mph, was a two seater and had no real frills when compared to modern cars. It made almost no noise when in operation, required no maintenance or oil, or tune ups, or even emissions testing. They sold these cars to women back then and the interiors were dolled up to have appeal for the fairer sex. Its engine was 8hp (lol, yes 8, my Geo has about 115hp and most cars now are close to 200hp), ran on 84volt charge system (battery jargon) and simple locks, simple window ideas (they could all be opened and had straps to open/close them, even the front windows). Needless to say, back then this was the luxury vehicle of its’ time and was marketed for just that reason.

11_Baker_Electric_DV_06-AI_06 fordelectric1914 Why would one want to get the plans to rebuild a 1911 Baker electric car? Why not just take a newer car with a dead engine and convert it to electric? The main answer is cost and efficiency. A newer car can weigh anywhere from 1500 pounds to about 4000 pounds for some trucks. If I were to get the plans for this electric car and rebuild it using carbon fiber technologies, modern batteries, and a lighter engine I could get around 200+ miles per charge and get the speed to around 40mph max. This would allow me to drive this machine on most city roads and get errands done quickly and cheaply. The cost of this new build would be about the same as buying a running used car ($3000-$5000) but would be much cheaper to operate and cooler to be seen in (I mean really, who doesn’t smile when seeing an older car in their neighborhood?). Sure there wouldn’t be many of the modern things that you would find in cars today (probably no AC), but with the flat roof, it wouldn’t be a far fetched idea to build a small scale low powered (100-400 watt) seat warmer/summer fan system. Add in some LED lights, a radio, and use the remainder of savings to increase the comfort of the insides or driving range. Whatever you do, if you keep the body style the same, do not change the style of the horn sound! Beep Beep or Arooooooghahhh is the sound that everyone wants to hear coming from one of these mechanical beasts!!

aptera seethra-kit-car-1 Lastly, if one were to merge the idea of a city only car, and keep the frills out of it, you could make it available to the masses of people yearning for an electric alternative to their current driving machines. The 1911 Baker Electric used Nickel-Iron batteries that have a lifespan of 20-40-60 years and counting! Some of the original Edison batteries in these old cars are still running 80 years later! So much for Lead Acid, Lithium Ion or Cadmium batteries which need to be replaced within 10 years, here you have a 100 year old car that has a battery pack and electric motor that would outlast the body of the car. So imagine, you buy a car and drive it around the city until it starts to fall apart, you sell the body of the car for scrap or recycle it and buy a new car body while reinstalling your engine and battery pack into the shell! Thus it would be like buying your first car at 19 years old for $20,000 and every 10 years you spend (at your option) $2000 for a new car body that is attached/detached  at the factory in a manner of minutes. The car would go the same speeds and have the same performance (unless you upgraded), but would cost you much much less over your lifetime. The batteries are nontoxic and the engine parts would probably be something you’d pass down to your kids (or sold for recycling in your retirement years).

Think about it, and if you see blueprints for these old electric cars, let me know!


Written by Josecito

January 18, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Those old cars are so freakin’ sweet! I’ve always wanted to ride in one… with a pair of driving goggles and a scarf tied around my head, of course! If you ever get around to building one, you call me, post-haste! Ahoy!


    January 18, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    • Sure thing! I was looking up a few places online that sell blueprints for antique cars from that era. The only issue was that none were of this styling. Truth be told, I could probably come up with a working prototype by using plywood shapes, horse carriage wheels (I am sure there is a supplier in the Philly area), and motor parts from an old forklift. Granted it would have to be painted black and the interior dressed up, some acrylics for the glass, meters, batteries (under the seats) and headlamps (modified for LED’s turn signals, etc). All in all a very simple build and could be done in a reasonable budget (even cheaper if I find places that will donate the motor, old batteries with some charge left for testing).

      The more I think about it, the more I want to do it. Three problems prevent me from achieving it: 1. No money, 2. No indoor garage for storage/parts, 3. No idea how much it would cost to title / insure / register this type of semi classic machination!


      January 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm

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