Article By John Redfern

Nissan converts a classic Bluebird to electric power

Celebrating 35 years of production at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, the ‘Newbird’ uses the drivetrain from a Leaf EV.

A unique Nissan Bluebird has been built to commemorate 35 years of Nissan’s production facility in Sunderland.

The one-off creation, dubbed ‘Newbird’, brings together boxy retro styling with modern electric power.

Alan Johnson, vice president of manufacturing at Nissan Sunderland, said: “The Newbird represents all that is great about our plant – past present and future – as we celebrate 35 years of manufacturing.”

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The Bluebird was modified extensively to accommodate the electric drivetrain from a brand new Nissan Leaf.

The original engine and gearbox were removed, with the motor, converter and battery pack from a Leaf installed in their place. Modules for the 40kWh battery were split between the engine bay and boot for optimal weight distribution.

Further upgrades were made to the suspension, brakes, steering and heating system to accommodate the new electric drivetrain.

To highlight the electric makeover, LED backlighting was added to the Nissan badge on the bonnet.

Charging the batteries takes place through the original fuel flap, which provides access to the charging port. The Newbird supports charging at up to 6.6kW, with battery charge shown on the fuel gauge.

Although not subject to official tests, Nissan believes the Newbird should offer a range of 130 miles when fully charged.

Don’t expect tyre-shredding performance, though. Nissan says the retro EV will accelerate from 0-62mph in just under 15 seconds.

Nissan Design Europe was tasked with creating the bold exterior livery, with Kinghorn Electric Vehicles in Durham responsible for the conversion work itself. 

George Kinghorn said: “Given our location so close to the Sunderland plant, working on this Bluebird conversion was a great project to be part of. When Nissan opened the Sunderland factory it gave the North East a big economic boost. The Bluebird was first off the line, so it represents the start of that optimism, progress and global industrial footprint that has continued to this day.”

He added: “Electric vehicles are not just the future, they’re the now. Converting older vehicles to electric gives you everyday use of these iconic vintage models, but they’re just as enjoyable to drive, they’re more reliable and, importantly, they don’t produce harmful emissions when driving. With this project, we think we’ve created a car that captures the soul of the Nissan Bluebird, with the heart of a Nissan Leaf.”

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