I'm still interested in seeing how this pans out but I agree that in general it is not really worth it to do major frame welding and other body work on a car that was made to be cheap and not known for its safety anyway. It made me curious about what I might pay for a decent small vehicle that would be suitable for an EV conversion.
So I checked the Baltimore Craig's list and I was surprised what you can get for under $1000. I found a 1999 Saturn SL1, which is the same as I have, for $500. It needs engine work but I figure that I can use lots of the ICE parts as spares for my main vehicle and maybe sell some of them and almost get it free. If it has a 5 speed I might jump on it. I would have to look at the various options for conversion but it would be a perfect candidate if the body is in good shape. I've had several other Saturns and never had problems with rust, and the other mechanical systems have given no trouble.
They seem to have good Aerodynamics
because I have gotten 46 MPG on a highway trip and I average about 35 just on local roads. So I think I could get 250-300 W-hr/mi, and probably a 25 or 30 HP three phase motor would be sufficient. Let's see - if I drive 40 MPH in one hour I'll go 40 miles which is 10 kW-hr. Which means 10 kW or 13 HP might be enough. The main expense, of course, would be batteries. If I can get them for $0.35/W-hr I'd have to spend $3500, but everything else should be about $1500 so for about $5000 I'd have a pretty cool EV.
Sorry to hijack your thread, but I'm just mulling over the possibilities, and I think you have made your decisions and you don't want to play around with the electrical stuff, so there's not much more help I can offer. Good luck, and I'll post separately if and when I start a road EV project.