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You’ll never believe this quirky 1970s electric car

PUBLISHED: 06:44 04 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:26 04 November 2017

Trailblazer: The Enfield E8000 electric car, first made in 1974 and now on display at the East Anglian Transport Museum in Carlton Colville.

Trailblazer: The Enfield E8000 electric car, first made in 1974 and now on display at the East Anglian Transport Museum in Carlton Colville.

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Collectables: Electric cars have been around for longer than you might think, says Mike Hicks.

Two things are very relevant today with motor cars. One is the fact that the demand for vintage and veteran cars has probably never been higher. We have seen some incredible prices for really classic motor cars, and it seems unstoppable. I think I read somewhere whereby the value of good vintage cars has risen by something like 300% in the last twenty years.

The other thing is, we have had advances in motor technology, whereby we can now go by electric, having charged your car at some point, for very many miles, at quite a reasonable speed. The development of this is still emerging, and I imagine we will see much more of this in the future. Quite whether you will have to pay and stop off to have your car swiftly charged, instead of putting in petrol, I am not sure, but this will be another way that the Revenue could get compensation for the lack of petrol duty.

Talking of electric cars, I was very surprised the other day to see at the East Anglian Transport Museum at Carlton Colville, an example produced way back in the 1970s. I have seen little, if anything, of this vehicle before - not even a mention. Apparently, it was a quite difficult ‘sell’, because the batteries that were on board were so substantial that it slowed the speed of the car right down. But nevertheless, it was a proper electric car, produced in 1974, and surely this has got to be the ultimate collector’s item for those interested in this fast-developing form of automotive power.

For the history of the car, we have to go back to the 1960s, when a Greek millionaire, Giannis Goulandris, had a business called Enfield Automotive which was based on the Isle of Wight. He pioneered the design of the electric car way back as far as the 1960s, when the United Kingdom Electricity Council invited people in a competitive way to build an electric car - this car was born from that idea.

The only problem was that when you have eight very large batteries the size of car batteries in the back of your car, and they have to be charged, it didn’t leave a lot more room for anything else, but nevertheless, production commenced and one hundred were built.

The Electricity Council themselves used 65 of the vehicles for their own use; the remaining vehicles were offered on the open market. Some people were lucky enough to acquire one; quite how the one got into the museum at Carlton Coleville, I am not too sure.

This pioneering vehicle was certainly was well ahead of its time. Performance wise, it wasn’t too sharp, 0-30 mph in 12.5 seconds but it did pass the Department of Transports Crash Test with flying colours, and in a wind tunnel, it even showed better performance than a Porsche, but back to practicalities; top speed was about 48 mph and the problem was that the range with the batteries only allowed you to go fifty-odd miles, and with the slow speed, it was not going to be very popular.

I have checked on the saleability of these cars, and there is a great variation. I have seen one on a social media site which is for sale for £3,500, at the other end of the scale, there is one which is almost like a barn-find, which can be yours for £300-£500 - but what a restoration project! You have a vehicle that is made up various components from all sorts of manufacturers, bought new and assembled, originally on the Isle of Wight, but then the millionaire manufacturer got rather fed up with the potential of sales in this country and moved back to Greece. Manufacture continued on the Greek island of Syros in the town of Piraeus.

It was considered to have a great potential in the 1974 period when there was a fuel crisis. Interestingly enough, components that were made in Greece were sent back to the Isle of Wight to be assembled, but the whole thing finished on the island in 1977.

The irony of the whole tale is that the Greek-built car, known as the Enfield-Neorion, although made in Greece it couldn’t be sold there, because of the tax categorisation issues with the electric power, so all production had to be exported to the UK, with the hope of selling it on the home market being totally extinguished, and production ceased shortly after.

If you get a chance, do have a look at this unusual vehicle at the Transport Museum, and maybe it is a project you could get interest in doing, should you be lucky enough to find one.

Mike Hicks runs Stalham Antique Gallery at 29 High Street, Stalham (NR12 9AH). You can contact Mike on 01692 580636 or info@mikehicksantiques.co.uk.

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