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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, everyone.

I've read a bunch of the posts, and this looks like a great forum. I'm a newbie that's anxious to get a conversion going this summer, trying to decide on and find the right donor car. I'd appreciate any advice. Here's what I'm hoping for:

Range: At least 20 miles, although 30 or 40 would be nice. Main need will be for kids to get to high school and back (16 miles round trip), including sitting unplugged in a cold New England parking lot for 7 hours.

Performance: Roads to school are 35 mph or less, but with some definite hills. 50 mph on the flat would be good; an occasional few miles at freeway (60 mph) speeds would be preferred.

Money: I'd like to spend around $10K, but I can spend more. I'd prefer to start out with a car in decent shape ($2-3K for the donor), so it won't need work on the body, interior, etc.

Skill level: Advanced beginner, maybe. I'm a generally handy DIYer, but mostly around the house. I haven't done much with engines since high school many years ago – rebuilt a lawn mower engine and a motorcycle carburetor, and had a course in electronics.

Other requirements:
-- 3-4 seats, so a 2-seater truck or tiny sports car wouldn't work (rear seats can be small, though)
-- A car with a good reputation for fighting rust, since New England winters are harsh on cars, and I want to buy locally. (I'm in Massachusetts.)
-- A car with at least a little pizazz, since I'll be spending so much time with it (converting it, and, I hope, running it), and to show that EVs don't have to be tinny if they're not Teslas.

At $2-3K, I'm finding cars around 10 years old, some that run well, some that have exhaust or engine problems to bring the cost down. Some that have caught my eye:
-- Saturn
-- VW Jetta
-- VW Golf

Some that are interesting but maybe too heavy:
-- Saab
-- BMW
-- Extended cab small pickups

And maybe too hard to get 4 seats:
-- Mitsubishi Eclipse
-- Toyota Celica

Potentially cool cars that are too new and/or expensive:
-- Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe
-- Subaru Baja

So, that's where I'm at. Given the availability, price, weight, etc. I'm leaning towards Jettas and Saturns at this point, but I welcome any advice anyone can give me.

Thanks,
Jon
 

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Your performance criteria seem pretty achievable. Your best bet given your requirements would probably be a compact station wagon (like a honda accord wagon, or toyota / nissan equivalent). Look for the best combination of low curb weight and high GVW but no matter what you will be upgrading suspension and brakes.

There's also the honda civic "wagovan" which might work real well for what you seem to want: four seats, four doors, yet still compact and pretty light:

http://climate.uvic.ca/people/ewiebe/car/wagovan.html

though it might be too old for what you want to do and I don't know how it does in the rust department. (it is a honda though, thats worth something). Its not the most aerodynamic but you don't seem to plan on high speed driving.

Assuming you get a small wagon or wagovan or something similar, you will want 1000 pounds of lead (minimum), insulated well to handle the cold new england weather. Maybe a bit more to compensate for electric heating since you will have kids in the car. A 96v system (16 6v golf cart batteries) would give you at least 50mph and weigh about 1000lbs. 120v (20 batteries, 1250lbs) would be better though if you plan much actual freeway driving. Use a 9" DC motor like the advanced DC 9" or a warp 9" for good torque on the hills. A curtis controller will work but if you can budget and wait for a Z1K it will work better.

Your project cost for such a car should come in around $10K.

Good Luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the info -- that seems to confirm what I've been reading, but the specific suggestions are very helpful. I hadn't really been looking at the small wagons (other than Matrix/Vibe, as I mentioned) -- I'll add those to my search to see what's available.

Jon
 
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