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1985 VW Cabriolet using Nissan Leaf - Charlottesville, VA, USA

7210 Views 35 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  bostonmacosx
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I might as well start a build thread. It seem to be all the rage, right?! :).

I am also shooting video as I do and will try to put a few videos out there as I can.

About me: 47 years old. Engineering background but most of that was in software coding. Limited electronics experience. Limited mechanical experience. First time converting anything.

Why the VW Cab? Wife's favorite car as she was growing up after watching the movie "Can't Buy Me Love". This is her b-day present and she wants it converted.

Why am I doing it? See above but I really want to learn how EV's go together and working on projects while learning is actually a way that I unwind from my "day job".

Now onto to the stuff you all probably actually give a sh*t about. :)

GOALS

1. Weekend/fun driver
2. Range: 75-100 miles
3. Remove the manual & clutch
4. Heater
5. Don't need AC
6. Preserve the look & feel of the car as original as possible.
7. Retain power steering
8. Finish within 6 months... I will take a moment for you to stop laughing! :)

Moving on.

BUDGET

I am hoping for $35,000 US all in but understand it may go over. I know that if I did the analysis this is absolutely a dumb 'investment' but I don't care. See above, for me it's a way that I relax. Plus it makes my wife happy and that makes me happy. I will do my best to track costs for anyone interested.

CONVERSION CAR

1985 VW Cabriolet. I did 'overpay' for it but considering that the market for cars is absolutely nuts (thank you, inflation) and I did not want to do any real body/interior restorations I opted to find one in the best condition possible. AND, I did!

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I am now working on removing all ICE components. Happy to report that the motor is out and SOLD! woot.

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(that's me but you all are smart and figured it out already, i am sure.)

I decided to go the Nissan Leaf route after seeing the number of leafs at the junk yard. Figure for a good price you can get a decent start on all the major components. AND it seems that ResolveEV's VCU is pretty good.

To that, I am bidding on a Leaf right now and did already purchase the VCU. Spent an hour today labeling it. Hope that this helps as I am working.

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At this point, I am 1% in the conversion. I will continue to remove what is not needed in the car and then clean. Once I secure the doner car I plan to remove the motor and battery pack and wire it up and see if I can get this thing to work out side of the car. Once that is done, I will disassemble the pack and begin the process of figuring out where to place the batteries. Right now, I am trying to:

1. get as close as the original balance of the car
2. try to keep batteries out of the main cabin

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(original weight)

I am thinking putting a few where the gas tank was and towards the front of the trunk. Also, I will probably have to get a few in the front.

I have lots of questions but here is one that I know you all know. Where is the best place for me to pick up the bits I will need like fuses, wire, momentary switches and the ilk?

Thank you and happy holidays!
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Would it be possible to salvage the floor from the Leaf and transplant it to the Golf?
As noted earlier:
A Leaf floor obviously won't fit a Golf, but a similar shape could be custom-built, even using some of the Leaf floor panel. The Leaf has 300 mm (a foot) longer wheelbase than the Golf, so even with a custom floor the Leaf pack is unlikely to fit intact - either the back end runs into the rear suspension or the front end blocks the front seat footwell, or both.
As noted earlier:
However the battery pack doesn’t strech all the way. It may still be possible and at least worth checking.
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However the battery pack doesn’t strech all the way. It may still be possible and at least worth checking.
View attachment 126857
So imagine the floor much shorter, in a Golf... and that stack of modules under the Leaf's front seat ending up under the driver's feet. :oops:

But yes, certainly check out the details, preferably in drawings, photos, or 3D models (not by chopping up cars to then throw away the pieces) to be sure - perhaps you could come up with something workable.
Early VWs also have very little interior height clearance and low, thin floors. I'm researching similar setup options for my own potential project and even adding an inch or two to the floor might lead to either significant headroom loss or road clearance issues, or both, and there isn't much of either to begin with. I own a MK2 but intend to use an A1 chassis for a conversion which will make it even harder.
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For those tracking.. my current progress. Motor, et al out.

Next step will to get it to run on the "bench". Then figure out how to get into VW Cab. Not sure I can do the traction pack as is so most likely will require disassembly and reconfiguration. What / how I do not know. :)

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@heybluez - how goes it? I'm keenly waiting updates ! Hanging on to a 93 Cabriolet over here in Aus and getting real itchy feet on an EV conversion.
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Hello. Its going pretty good! Yesterday we test fit the motor (with inverter and gearbox) and mocked a possible way to mount it. We are going to fab this tomorrow evening so we can drop it again and place it. Then build motor mounts.

Once that is in, we can start placing the other components. For battery placement, I think I can drop the 24 module pack (48 modules in total) as is in the trunk right behind the cross member. Then I think I can put 12 (maybe) where the gas tank was and finally I think 12 more in the front. At least that was the plan.. but I am not sure how I will get the Leaf PDM in the car. It is pretty large. If I can't get that in, then I may go another route and look at a Thunderstruck VCU and what not so I can place a DC/DC converter, charger, and so on separately in the car.

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I am relatively local in Richmond and I'd love to pick your brain, I'd buy the coffee, or take a look at what you're doing. I am thinking about doing an MGB conversion (currently restoring a 79 ICE MGB) and I'd love to hear directly from someone about the process and pitfalls.
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MGB is going to be a fitment nightmare. I'm not sure a Leaf is a good idea in such a tiny RWD car.
MGB is going to be a fitment nightmare. I'm not sure a Leaf is a good idea in such a tiny RWD car.
Actually looking at the warp 9 but if you can fit a v8 into an mg a leaf motor may not be impossible.
Motor fit is the easy part.

Batteries...

Which if you choose the wrong motor....
LAB. Interestingly enough.. I would not go the Leaf route for the MGB.. but have some ideas for you. DM'd you.
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Quick update.. working on what I am calling the cradle. See pics. Hope to have the motor (w/ inverter) mounted this week. Don't worry, we will make this all look pretty... just trying to get it right.

Also, I could not get all the batteries, motor, inverter, and the Nissan PDU in the car. SO I am dumping the Resolve EV VCU and bought Thunderstruck VCU and BMS with a separate charger and dc converter. Those should be coming soon.

The plan is 24 modules in trunk, 9 in the gas tank area and 3 where muffler used to be, and 12 on top of the motor in the engine bay. Once I get the motor mounted will test and be sure.

More soon.

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heybluez: nice project! We don't see a lot of these in the Midwest, but one happened to pass me 2 days ago and it was nowhere near as nice as the one you bought. Your Leaf donor also looks very clean.
Just curious about one thing: what are your range expectations? Lately, I've been paying more attention to just how many miles I drive around town during a typical day. It isn't that many, often only about 14-22. If I buzz out to see my buddy, it jumps up to mid 40 range. For that reason, I'm paying attention to the hybrid packs, such as the BMW 5 and 7 series versions. I can see how it might fit some peoples needs. Certainly not for everyone.

Keep up the good work!
I have an 86 Cabby would love to see how you get the batteries in and can you comment on pricing?
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