Tuesday, February 8, 2011 05:31
“It’s a sign,” old folks used to say when something they witnessed seemed to predict the future. “It’s a sign” that electric cars are on their way to being fully embraced when all-electric cars start showing up at the dragstrip. Those who hot-rod electric cars are what marketing folks call “early adopters” and average people call “nuts,” “super nerds,” or “whackos.” Versions of those names where applied to people who stuffed V8s into Model T chassis back in the 1940s. (Somehow, those who put V8s into 3 Series BMWs or overly shortened the suspension springs of Hondas earned the more respectable-sounding moniker of “tuner.”)
Someone who would build a street-legal electric drag racer capable of running a quarter mile in 10.3 seconds at just over 120 mph is far more of an early adopter (and a car guy) than the Ed Begley Jr. types who acquire, but don’t often drive, a Prius, Leaf or Volt.
John Wayland has converted a 1972 Datsun 1200 Coupe into what he calls the “world’s quickest street-legal car.” (Wayland calls himself “Plasma Boy.” Ladies, that’s a pretty good indication he’s single.)
A video of Plasma Boy’s racing exploits shows him racing—and beating—Corvettes and BMWs among others. One of Wayland’s advantages is that, like every electric car, his makes maximum torque at zero rpm. Combined with the made-for-drag-racing tires, that means the White Zombie launches like a real drag racer every time. It helps that his opponents in the video have the reaction times and shifting skills of cannabis-browsing koalas. (Since the video, a switch to lighter and more potent lithium-ion batteries has allowed Wayland’s car to run much faster.)
Wayland, like most electric car proponents, overstates the environmental benefits of battery vehicles. It would be refreshing if they called them “zero-emissions at tailpipe,” acknowledged the environmental impact of producing (and disposing of) batteries, and spoke honestly about other downsides of all-electric cars. That’s okay. Hot rodders and tuners rarely mention or are concerned with the downsides of their creations.
The bottom line: Anyone who enjoys producing and driving a car as fast as the White Zombie is a real car guy.