“I really like the idea of taking the old and combining it with the futuristic.”
- The Ride
- The Driver: Sam
- Car in Question: Candy Apple Red 1969 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia (converted to be all electric)
- Spotted at: San Francisco Giants AT&T Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107
- Odometer: 7,176
- Car’s Nickname: Mighty Mouse
Q: Wow. This is quite a vehicle. How long have you owned it?
A: I’ve had this vehicle for about four years. I paid $15,000 for this car. I was about six months into researching doing my own conversion on an Austin Healey, when I ran into this really unique Ghia. It was going to cost me around the same amount of money minus the labor to do my conversion. I just decided to buy this instead. This got me a great E.V. [Electric Vehicle] right away and ran no risk of me having pieces of a Healey in my garage for years.
Q: Was it a good car buying experience?
A: Yes. Car companies have still been really slow to provide people with the kinds of cars they really want. Most everything available now is pretty much dependent on fossil fuels. Before I owned this car, the five years before that, I had a car that was running on straight vegetable oil, so it hadn’t been to a gas station in about five years. The next natural step was to get something electric. Since the automotive groups haven’t been doing it, there are whole communities of people who are doing it themselves. I think it’s really important that people vote with their money.
Q: What’s your car’s main use?
A: I use it to commute a couple of days out of the week when I work from my office in Oakland. Other than that, I drive around town with it on the weekends. The car has a max of fifty miles range, so there are limitations on how far you can get in a day. But I think this car can make even the most mundane drive a great trip. You get a lot of people giving you thumbs up while you’re driving, tons of people asking questions, and pretty much anywhere it’s parked, people will leave notes complimenting the car or asking for more information about it. So anywhere that you take it is really great.
Q: Do you have any rules in your car?
A: No, it’s only my fiancé or I who drive it, so I really don’t need any rules. There are technical rules though. Since it runs on lead acid batteries, they have to be watered twice a month. The batteries add an extra thousand pounds on the car, so the frame has been steal reinforced to support the weight. It also has an air suspension system added. The air suspension keeps it up off the ground, so maybe about twice a week you check the air pressure.
Q: If your car had a human emotion, what would it be and why?
A: I think it would be arrogant. The thing about it is, the car itself looks like it can go super fast, and really zing around, but it goes zero to sixty in almost never. I think it’s a car that has a lot of personality but at the same time, it can’t back up all of its looks.
Q: How many miles do you think are left in the life of your car?
A: It runs on an electric motor, which has few moving parts, so those motors can easily get a million miles. As far as the rest of the car goes, the only things that require maintenance are the brakes, tires, and windshield wiper fluid. If those are maintained, there’s no reason one couldn’t get endless years of driving out of the car.
Q: What do you think your next car will realistically be?
A: I think that the next car I’m considering is taking a kit car, maybe like a ’66 Cobra and converting it to be all electric. The Ghia uses lead acid batteries, so with the next car we’d probably build with lithium ion, and that would provide top speeds of around 100 and 120 to 150 miles range on a four-hour charge. I’d say my dream car for the future would be something really custom built. Just completely tech it out, so use really advanced censors, everything would be digital touch screen. I really like the idea of taking the old and combining it with the futuristic to make a really unique car.
Q: Wow, thank you. That is really unique. Is there anything else that we should know?
A: The great thing about this car, and pretty much all electric cars, is there are few moving parts that make up the engine, so there are no tuneups or no oil changes. In addition to that there’s also no—well what it boils down to is brakes, tires, and windshield wiper fluid is all you need to maintain. When you start looking at the cost savings over the years of not having to deal with tuneups, engine replacements, radiators, it really adds up. You’re helping the environment, while driving cool cars. I would encourage everyone to look into alternative energy vehicles for their car.
Photos and interview by Brandon Oldham
View previous Defend Your Ride features as well as other great stories for people who love cars at CBSSanFrancisco.com/Autos.