A clean, green classic machine

Derek Dillon and family show off their unique electric-engined vintage car
Derek Dillon and family show off their unique electric-engined vintage car
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It’s the classic car from the year of the Queen’s ascension that’s been given a very 21st century makeover.

When Derek Dillon bought his 1952 Wolseley 6/80 it was a rusting wreck in desperate need of some care and attention.

The 35-year-old from Denny paid £200 for the vehicle and originally planned to turn it into a sporty run-around by fitting it with a V8 engine.

But after the birth of his first child, green-minded Derek decided that he wanted something more environmentally friendly – so he instead fitted the Wolseley with a custom-built electric engine.

“Having children was the catalyst.

“When my son Craig was born, it made me think about the kind of world I wanted him to grow up in.

“Living in Denny, you notice there are a lot of wind farms being built in the area and it gives you an idea of where the jobs will be in the future. I wanted the car to provide an inspiration to my kids. It shows that green technology does work.”

Derek bought the car 15 years ago, but only began working on it seriously following the birth of Craig in 2004.

It was not an easy task. The project involved carefully restoring a 60-year-old car as well as tackling modern technology that is constantly evolving.

Derek, a mechanical engineer, might be more technically-minded than most but he had no previous experience in working with electronics.

“I basically had to teach myself, but it was more enjoyable than you might think.

“But the conversion to electric was actually the quickest part. The restoration process is what has taken the longest.

“The motor itself and the motor controller, which controls the speed, were imported from the USA. I bought the batteries from down south but I suspect they were originally from China.

“Anything that was original I refurbished and made good.”

Built in Cowley, near Oxford, the Wolseley ‘six eighty’ cost £1121 and 10 shillings to buy new in 1952 - around £30,000 in today’s money.

Derek won’t say exactly how much he’s spent in total restoring and then converting his car, but estimates that he’s paid £15,000 on parts.

“Put it this way, if I decided to build another electric car tomorrow, it would be finished in a lot less time and cost less money.”

The one-of-a-kind electric Wolseley is now fully insured and roadworthy, and is understandably attracting a lot of attention from friends, neighbours and other drivers.

“The two questions I’m always asked are: how fast and how far? It can do 70 mph - motorways are not a problem. The battery pack could do 40 miles between charges, but that’s down to around 25 now. It’s enough to get me to work and back each day.”

Derek is considering investing in a new battery pack that would allow him to drive further between charges.

But the more pressing problem for him – and all electric vehicle owners – is the lack of public charge points.

The Wolseley has a plug socket instead of an exhaust which allows its battery to be charged over night.

Derek has asked his employer to install a charging point at their site in Grange-mouth, which they are considering.

“There’s more in the south-east. Electric car use really increased there when London introduced the congestion charge.”

When asked if he sees the same happening Scotland any time soon, Derek has no doubts.

“People smashed the cotton loom and the steam engine when they were introduced. You can’t stop technologies.

“There’s a lot of vested interests in oil. People have written off electric cars, but ultimately I think they will be proved wrong.

“The technology has been there for 15 years. It’s improving all the time. It’s popularity is only going to increase.”

For now, Derek’s Wolseley

is a unique example of what can be achieved by marrying the old with the new, and

acts as a shining example of the power of green technologies.

Even other classic car enthusiasts are impressed.

“Other Wolseley owners have been very good about it. I was worried what their reaction would be. I thought they would call me all the names under the sun!

“I think they’re just pleased to see another Wolseley back on the road.”