The ‘Newbird’ is a Nissan Bluebird running on electric power

Courtesy of the Leaf’s e-propulsion system
by Vijay Pattni | Dec 18, 2021
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PHOTO: Nissan
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The ‘why’ you’re no doubt currently mulling is simple: The Bluebird was the first car to be built in Nissan’s Sunderland factory, which now celebrates 35 years of knocking out actually very good cars you buy in large quantities.

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So, welcome not to the Nissan Bluebird, but the Nissan Newbird, a classic Japanese box fitted with the internals from the Leaf electric car. “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,” explains Nissan GB boss Andrew Humberstone.

The conversion was overseen by Kinghorn Electric Vehicles, which specializes in putting batteries in old cars. As such, they binned the Bluebird’s gasoline engine and gearbox, slotted in a Leaf motor and inverter up front, and fitted a 40kWh battery split between the engine bay and the rear cargo area for better weight distribution.

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It charges at just 6.6kW—basically, ages—via the recharge port placed where the fuel filler used to live, and the fuel gauge has been swapped out for a battery level. The brakes, power steering, and heating have all been converted to run on electricity, and a “custom suspension” was fitted because batteries are of course, quite heavy.

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Just don’t go expecting Tesla-rivaling performance: Nissan reckons this delightfully boxy one-off that once epitomized reliability and tedium can accelerate from 0-100kph in under 15sec and provide a range of around 210km. Yeah, look, it’s just a fun pre-Christmas project, okay?

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Indeed, the exterior very much reflects that. Nissan’s London design center made up a graphic that represents the ’80s. “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, don’t produce harmful emissions when driving,” explains Kinghorn boss George Kinghorn.

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Here’s a couple of potentially not-very-fun but interesting facts to end on: Nissan’s Sunderland factory has pumped out more than 10.5 million cars since 1986, and each Bluebird took 22 hours to build. Today, a Leaf takes just 10 hours to knock out. Ten hours.

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: Nissan
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