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Discussion Starter #1
First conversion project, relatively handy and experienced for an average Joe garage mechanic. Bought the truck yesterday for $700, really $698.15 since I found some loose change in the glove box.

The basic plan is to get a donor salvaged/wrecked EV and recreate it's setup in the truck. The goal is to get the motor and batteries in the frame and under the bed so it looks relatively stock while giving me room for a small frunk. A BMW i3 looks ideal due to it already having the motor on the back axle and a relatively small battery. Just wanting 50 or so miles of juice to get around town.

On that note, quick question, could I put the drive axle of a FWD vehicle on the back axle of another car? Seems like if I just remove the steering and maybe replace the knuckles I'd be in business?

Anyway, I made this post to track progress and stay motivated. I'm amped right now but can imagine getting bogged down later.

Just started the tear down phase...

120046


120047
 

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Looks great! That's quite a good deal on the donor car.
Not sure if the i3 motor has been hacked to be easily usable, but the batteries do seem good. Leaf motor might also be good, and the Leaf battery should have enough range too.
I've seen quite a few FWD motors used in the rear end, usually people just get custom half-axles made and bolt it right up.

-Isaac
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks!

Would it need to be "hacked" if I'm essentially just taking out the guts and transferring? It's like a reverse body swap.

I may have to get custom half shafts but was hoping to make this as painless as possible, as ridiculous as that sounds.

Ripping out the interior. Nasty AF.

120055
 

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Oooh you got a free jack! Only the highest of high quality.

Hacked as in, easy to control without the rest of the car. I don't know how much of the i3 is needed to make the motor work.
Reverse body swap - there have been a few Leaf car-swaps, at least one Bolt, but I haven't (in my limited reading) seen an i3 one. I guess you could start with the car and just pull fuses til it breaks? Then swap over whatever it seems to require.
Being a BMW it will probably demand things like wheel speed sensors for ABS and traction control, and even make a fuss about the headlights. German engineering at its finest.

'Pegboard Leaf' of 2014
 

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You may want to check out B2600EV.ORG for ideas on mounting the batteries and such. Those are neat trucks and relatively easy to convert. I'd use a Leaf motor simply for the cost. You could keep the manual transmission. Have fun!
 

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On that note, quick question, could I put the drive axle of a FWD vehicle on the back axle of another car? Seems like if I just remove the steering and maybe replace the knuckles I'd be in business?
There have actually been a few mid-engine production cars which used the engine, transaxle, axle shafts, and front suspension of a front-wheel-drive model. For instance, the Pontiac Fiero used Chevrolet Citation parts, the first Toyota MR-2 used Corolla parts, and the second MR-2 used Celica parts. The knuckles (hub carriers or uprights) don't need to change - the steering tie rods are just replaced with links (track rods) to fixed points on the frame.

Most front suspensions of front-wheel-drive cars would be difficult to use in the back of a pickup truck, because they are tall strut designs which would poke up far above the pickup cargo box floor.

If using a different suspension and hubs than the transaxle is normally used with, axle shafts can be custom-built to match the transaxle on the inboard end and the hub on the outboard end.

For an example of the powertrain-only (not suspension) front-to-back transplant, see Yabert's Westfalia T3 with Chevy Bolt drivetrain. This project is also an example of transplanting a complete set of EV components salvaged from a production car into an unrelated vehicle. If doing taking this whole-system approach (so no modified motor control is required) the Bolt would be a good candidate for a small pickup.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for these links and references!

I've seen the Leaf pegboard video which is what made me think most any EV's guts can be swapped as long as you keep it all together. I realize there are all kinds of sensors and things from modern vehicles that don't exist on old ones - I'm hoping this just means I'll get a bunch of warning lights, not that the vehicle will be undrivable. Then I can just take out the bulbs/LEDs that illuminate the warning lights lol. Guess we'll see!

The Bolt is a good candidate, the only problem is the battery is too large. I fear there's just not going to be enough room in the frame/under the bed for the motor, wiring, and a battery over 30kW or so (obviously depends on density and design of the pack). Plus I'm trying to keep weight down and that pack weighs about 1000 lbs. I wonder if a Bolt motor will work with a Spark or Volt battery being that its all Chevy? I hesitate when it comes to the Leaf due to its BMS and notable degradation.

For a complete system, I've been looking at the feasibility of the Volt due to its small battery and relatively powerful motor. The only question is if I can get rid of all the ICE stuff that comes with it without too much trouble. I understand whatever I do it will be somewhat of a nightmare.

Currently I'm early in the deconstructing phase so I have time to do research on the potential donors. I've already half-filled the bed with useless ICE parts and broken trim pieces. Really what I'm waiting for is for a super cheap salvaged EV to show up on the auction sites close to my city. But in the meantime I'm going to clean the truck up, add some paint, and prep as much as possible for the arrival of the donor. I won't mess with the suspension/brakes/steering right now just in case I end up swapping axles.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Genius or idiot?

Some time back I replaced my overhead light in the garage bay with a fan/LED in order to keep my non-AC garage feeling a bit cooler and get brighter light. It's been 100+ lately and taking the edge off the heat makes the work bearable. Great idea, right? I thought so. But for the first couple weeks it didn't seem to make a difference - in fact it felt hotter! Oh well, I thought, at least I have improved lighting.

Then, just today while tinkering with the truck, I found a white screw. The fan requires 4 little white screws for the housing, and during installation I had dropped one and couldn't find it. But 3 held it up fine so I didn't sweat it.

So I go up to insert the lost 4th screw when I realize the blades were turning the wrong way this whole time. Ugh. Switched it and now it feels so much better, feels like maybe a 5-10 degree difference!

Also today I built the relaxation station. Slapped some casters on a pallet, dropped my truck's bench seat and a tool box on top, and now I have a mobile couch with tool storage and access.

So - genius or idiot?

120140


120141
 

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Definitely genius.
I have one seat of the car in front of it on the garage floor, and I spend a lot of time sitting on it and looking at the project, waiting for the ideas to come.
There is a spare seat just in case my neighbor comes to inspect the work's progress and have a beer with me.
This is a nice car you are planning to convert, by the way!
Markus.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks Markus!

Got the first portion of my plan worked out today - anything obvious I'm missing?

120144


Removed the old stereo system today and hope to get the carpet and headliner out tomorrow. The seatbelt hardware is really tough - hopefully some penetrating oil will help overnight.
 

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Progress is slow but steady. Working by myself about an hour every day. My dad wants to help, but I think he's skipping the manual labor part and waiting for the "fun" problem solvong part that comes later haha.

I'm coming to realize that there aren't many parts I'm going to keep off of the truck. Basically just the body, everything else will come from the donor EV including axles/suspension/brakes as well as everything on the dash. I was going to save the wiring and other items, but I suppose it'll all get replaced. I think it'll be easier that way instead of trying to get the old stuff to work with the new. So basically I'm going to have a Fiat 500e (or similar) in a truck body with the axles reversed.

Last night I got the steering wheel, visors, and rear view mirror off. Day before I removed the passenger door for ease (and later painting). Hoping to get carpet, headliner, and dash out by the weekend.

120152
 

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Pretty good weekend overall.

Removed the carpet, hood, front bumper, radiator, driver side door, and a couple other things here and there. Started draining fluids, too - coolant and oil is out.

Did run into a few issues as well. The bolts for the rear bumper on the driver's side didn't want to come off. The rear bumper is the only thing on the truck with rust so it needs to go. Don't think I'll replace it either due to my styling preferences and a touch of weight savings. Also found out that the truck had previously been in a small fender bender. The right front radiator panel was a little smashed in - they fixed the bumper and lights but not the inside pieces. Not a big deal, it's just a small corner, so I think I might just grind off that section on both sides. Nothing bolts to it so I'm not sure if it's purpose.

I'm getting closer to the point where I'm going to have to take a whole weekend and pull the motor. Probably not this weekend but the weekend after is likely.

Also, got a lead on a donor EV. We'll see how that goes, hopefully decent shape (for a salvage vehicle) and a good price. Don't really need it until I'm done with deconstruction, which is likely mid to late Sept, but I'm ready whenever an opportunity presents itself.

120175
 

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Some progress so far this weekend. Got the bad fender off and assessed the damage. I'm thinking of just cutting off the radiator support section since nothing bolts to it. Any reason why I shouldn't?

120201


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Also, got a lead on a donor EV.
If you're looking at a Spark EV (for the compact battery pack), then you may be able to use the Spark EV motor as well, without the reduction gearbox, driving the Mazda axle. The Spark EV was designed with a large high-torque motor run to a low speed (so the gearbox has about half the reduction ratio of, for instance, the Bolt or Leaf), and this means that it may be suitable with only the stock axle final drive reduction.
 

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I'm thinking of just cutting off the radiator support section since nothing bolts to it. Any reason why I shouldn't?

View attachment 120201

View attachment 120202
If by radiator support panel you mean the panel across the entire front of the truck, doesn't that also support the headlight, grille, etc? It would also provide torsional stiffness to the front part of the cab; since it is a separate body and frame vehicle that's not critical, but you might miss it.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
If you're looking at a Spark EV (for the compact battery pack), then you may be able to use the Spark EV motor as well, without the reduction gearbox, driving the Mazda axle. The Spark EV was designed with a large high-torque motor run to a low speed (so the gearbox has about half the reduction ratio of, for instance, the Bolt or Leaf), and this means that it may be suitable with only the stock axle final drive reduction.
Yup this would be my ideal set up if it's possible. Just got to figure out how and where to stuff in the batteries.
If by radiator support panel you mean the panel across the entire front of the truck, doesn't that also support the headlight, grille, etc? It would also provide torsional stiffness to the front part of the cab; since it is a separate body and frame vehicle that's not critical, but you might miss it.
The panel does at the top, but I'm just talking about cutting out that bottom section and not the whole panel. Since it doesn't directly bolt on to anything, or hold or support anything, I think the structural importance of it is negligible. But I think I'll keep it for now - it's purely cosmetic and even then it's hidden by the bumper and grills when assembled. Just trying to shave off every ounce I can where possible.
 

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Good trip to the junkyard this weekend! Picked up several cosmetic parts for the truck that were needed including the front right fender, a "bubble" hood off a 4x4 model that just looks cooler, a grille that isn't broken, and various plastic interior trim pieces.

As far as actual work, I got the rear bumper off and am working on the bed now. It's been tough as lots of the bolts have been rusted in for 30 years. Besides that I took out a few more pieces from the engine bay in preparation for the engine pull. Have also been sanding and priming various pieces as I feel like it. Still trying to figure out what color I want to paint the truck - white or red are at the top of the list currently. All I know for now is that the trim will be blacked out.

Once the bed is off, I can get some real measurements and get a better feel for where everything will go. Still trying to acquire a donor.

Will post pics later.
 

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Been a while, but lots of things have happened. All ICE stuff is out - engine, tranny, drive shaft, gas tank, electrical, and more. Only thing I'm keeping, other than the frame and body, is the brake lines, dashboard, and some other little things.

Next steps include cutting/grinding things off the frame I don't need and then cleaning/re-painting things. Decided on flat white for the body, practiced my spray paint skills on the hood.

Then I'll be ready for to implant the donor...
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Couple more shots with everything gone.

In the rear there are various brackets for the exhaust and gas tank that have to go. Also removed the spare tire and metal brackets for it - will no longer carry a spare, just an inflation kit to maximize weight/space.

In the engine bay all is gone except the brake booster, brake lines, and wiper motor. Will leave the booster for now knowing it might be replaced with the donor version.

In the cab, all will be cleaned and repainted. Leaving out carpet and trim until I can get it moving under its own power. Will be using the donor HVAC systems with the B2200 vents. The donor has a digital gauge cluster which I'll shimmy into the spot for the trucks old cluster. It also has a touch screen in the center console which means I'll have to cut some of the truck dash and make a bracket to get it wedged in there.

Should be fun!

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