Nissan converts a 1988 Bluebird into an electric car with a 130-mile range 1

Nissan converts a 1988 Bluebird into an electric car with a 130-mile range

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Nissan’s newest electric car isn’t actually that new. In fact, it’s 33 years old!

The Japanese manufacturer has celebrated the 35th anniversary of it building motors in Sunderland by using the electric powertrain from its current Leaf and installed it into a 1988 Bluebird – the first model to roll off the North East factory’s production line.

Called the ‘Newbird’, the one-off creation has a 130-mile range and can hit 62mph from a standing start in around 15 seconds.

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Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks? This F-reg 1988 Nissan Bluebird has the electric powertrain of the following 2021 Nissan Leaf installed in it

Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? This F-reg 1988 Nissan Bluebird has the electric powertrain of the following 2021 Nissan Leaf installed in it

Production of the Bluebird started in Sunderland in 1986 and assembly lines have continued running ever since, making over 10 million cars in three and a half decades.

The plant’s future has been secured by the Japanese firm’s commitment to Britain, which has seen the all-new third-generation Qashqai SUV start producing this year, joining the smaller Juke and the all-electric Leaf. 

And to celebrate the landmark achievement, Nissan UK bosses came up with a daring plan to connect its latest vehicles to its oldest.

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To do so, it stripped out the 90bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine and manual gearbox and in its place slotted in the 40kWh battery pack and electric motor from the Nissan Leaf. 

The conversion was managed by local specialist conversion company, Kinghorn Electric Vehicles, which is just 15 miles away from the Sunderland plant.

To get the huge battery pack to fit into the eighties hatchback, it was broken down into two pieces, mounting one half under the bonnet

To get the huge battery pack to fit into the eighties hatchback, it was broken down into two pieces, mounting one half under the bonnet

The second half of the battery cells have been installed here in the boot and takes up almost the entirety of the compartment. You certainly couldn't fit much shopping in there

The second half of the battery cells have been installed here in the boot and takes up almost the entirety of the compartment. You certainly couldn’t fit much shopping in there

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The creation is to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Nissan building motors in Sunderland. The Bluebird was the first car to roll off the UK production line in 1986

The creation is to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Nissan building motors in Sunderland. The Bluebird was the first car to roll off the UK production line in 1986

To get the huge battery pack to fit into the eighties hatchback, it was broken down into two pieces and mounted in the engine bay and the boot – the latter taking up almost the entirety of the compartment.

This not only allowed for all the battery cells to be used but also ensured decent weight distribution rather than bulking all the load at one end of the car.

The charging socket is hidden behind the car’s existing fuel filler flap – and the system is compatible with a 6.6kW charger.  

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Engineers also had to install upgraded suspension to support the added weight of the batteries.

Nissan has called the 1980s electric car conversion the 'Newbird' and it has a 130-mile range and can hit 62mph from a standing start in around 15 seconds

Nissan has called the 1980s electric car conversion the ‘Newbird’ and it has a 130-mile range and can hit 62mph from a standing start in around 15 seconds

Engineers also had to install upgraded suspension to support the added weight of the batteries

Engineers also had to install upgraded suspension to support the added weight of the batteries

The manual transmission has been stripped out of the Bluebird and replaced with the Leaf's single-speed automatic with this suitably retro control panel in the centre console

The manual transmission has been stripped out of the Bluebird and replaced with the Leaf’s single-speed automatic with this suitably retro control panel in the centre console

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The manual gearbox was also removed and replaced with the Leaf’s single-speed automatic with a suitably retro control panel in the centre console. Nissan also recreated the car’s original fuel gauge so that it now displays battery charge instead. 

Also out went the original power steering, brakes, heating unit and replaced with electrically-operated versions.  

Other additions include an eighties-themed graphic kit for the bodywork, which is said to have been inspired by eighties consumer technology.

And to showcase its electric power source, the Nissan badge on the front grille has been backlit with a subtle glow – though Nissan says it only illuminates when the car is parked because it is illegal to display any lights other than headlights on the front of a vehicle in the UK. 

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The charging socket is hidden behind the car's existing fuel filler flap – and the system is compatible with a 6.6kW charger

The charging socket is hidden behind the car’s existing fuel filler flap – and the system is compatible with a 6.6kW charger

Nissan had the 90bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine and manual gearbox removed from the retro family hatchback and in its place slotted in the 40kWh battery pack and motor from the Leaf

Nissan had the 90bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine and manual gearbox removed from the retro family hatchback and in its place slotted in the 40kWh battery pack and motor from the Leaf

The conversion was managed by local specialist conversion company, Kinghorn Electric Vehicles, which is just 15 miles away from the Sunderland plant

The conversion was managed by local specialist conversion company, Kinghorn Electric Vehicles, which is just 15 miles away from the Sunderland plant

Commenting on the car, Alan Johnson, Vice President of Manufacturing at the Nissan Sunderland Plant, said; ‘The Newbird represents all that is great about our plant – past present and future – as we celebrate 35 years of manufacturing in Sunderland.

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‘We have a rich heritage of building great cars, right from the original Bluebird model, and our fantastic team is now leading the way as we drive towards an exciting electrified, carbon neutral, future.’

Andrew Humberstone, Managing Director at Nissan GB, added: ‘This Newbird project is a wonderful tribute to the enduring presence of high quality manufacturing that Nissan has enjoyed in the UK for more than three decades.’

As well as paying tribute to Nissan’s past, the Newbird conversion also points towards the brand’s electric drive, in which it plans to sell only fully-electric cars from the early 2030s.

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