Few would question the beauty of classic cars from the 1950s and 60s. Unfortunately, these vehicles are increasingly rare on British roads as they fall into disrepair or become a treasured possession that is only driven on weekends, after hours of meticulous maintenance in a private garage. David Lorenz, however, is desperate to keep classic cars on the road. He's driven them for years, knowing full well they'll probably break down every six months. "It didn't really bother me," Lorenz said. "I could laugh it off and say it was part of the experience of owning a classic."
One particular mid-drive malfunction stung, though. Lorenz recalls sitting on the side of the road, in the freezing cold, with no vehicular heating to keep him warm. Breakdown services showed up 90 minutes later. "My brain was going 'How do we change this?'" he said. In that moment, Lorenz realized that classic cars would eventually become too hard to fix and, therefore, inaccessible to his daughter Luna's generation. "She's just not going to [own] these types of vehicles," he thought. "Because people will not continue like this."
Instead of wallowing in this automotive bleakness, Lorenz sought a solution. He stewed on the idea of electric conversions until April 2018, when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle drove a Jaguar E-Type Concept Zero at their wedding. "That really cemented it as an idea I had to go ahead with," Lorenz said.
Lunaz, named for Lorenz's daughter, is currently working on two classic cars: a Jaguar XK120 and Rolls-Royce Phantom V. From afar, they look identical to the vehicles that rolled off the production line in 1953 and 1961 respectively. Under the hood, though, almost everything has changed. The XK120, which is drivable and closer to completion than the Phantom V, has a twin motor system that can generate 700NM (or 516 in pound-feet) of torque and 375BHP. It's powered by an 80 kWH battery pack, and the larger Phantom V has a 120 kWH version (the cheapest Tesla Model 3, for comparison, comes with a 54 kWh battery, at the moment.)
Lunaz has promised modern conveniences, too, like cruise control, CHAdeMO-socket fast charging and regenerative braking.
Lunaz has promised modern conveniences like cruise control, fast charging and regenerative braking.
Lorenz is developing the cars with Jon Hilton, Lunaz's managing director and technical lead. He started his career at Rolls-Royce before joining Cosworth's Formula 1 team as an engine designer. Hilton rose to chief engineer before switching to the Arrows Formula 1 crew and, as technical director, the Renault team that secured back-to-back titles for Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006. Hilton then left to run Flybrid, a company that made regenerative-braking flywheel systems. Torotrak acquired the business in 2013, after which Hilton slowly scaled back his involvement before taking a short-lived retirement.
Lorenz, Hilton and the rest of the Lunaz team have a meticulous conversion process. First, they place the car on corner weight scales to understand its original weight distribution and handling. The company then removes everything that will never go back inside the car -- the gas-guzzling engine, gearbox, fuel tank and exhaust system, for instance -- and weighs the car again. The second set of measurements reveal roughly how much weight they need to allocate to the front and rear battery packs.
"Then we can start trying to find the space," Hilton told Engadget.