Meet Rhonda the Honda, a 1969 S800 Gone Electric

Meet Rhonda the Honda, a 1969 S800 Gone Electric

I would like to introduce you to Rhonda the Honda, one of my favourite EV conversions that I’ve come across so far.

Most electric vehicle conversions tend to revolve around the same car models. Land Rover conversions are quite popular, Volkswagen conversions are as well, and due to component costs, classic cars dominate the space.

Every now and again, a classic car that isn’t one of the earlier-mentioned models gets electrified by a passionate owner. Such is the case with Rhonda the Honda, the name given to the beautiful Honda S800 below.

rhonda the honda
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

“It was missing the motor, the gearbox, the drive shaft, the rear differential, the steering column, the brakes were all missing, and the body was battered and rusty,” OZ DIY’s Graeme Manietta told Gizmodo Australia.

“We’re nearly there. we had to make up our own steering column, we had to make up mounting bolts… Finding parts was the hard thing.”

OZ DIY offers classes on electric vehicle conversions on the Gold Coast, where it’s based, and we’ve interviewed one of their engineers before. The company is hoping to take its conversion classes on tour sometime soon, down to Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.

rhonda the honda
The batteries inside Rhona the Honda. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

“In its previous life, it was drag-raced,” Bernadette Savage, the owner of the car, told Gizmodo Australia. She said that it had sat in a garage for 30 years, and that she inherited it from a previous partner.

“It spat bits down the end of the drag strip one day and got pulled down.”

At a meeting one night with the Australian Electric Vehicle Association, Savage said that she was convinced that enough batteries could be put into the car to make it a viable conversion.

Since then, the car has been fitted with a 96-volt Hyper 9-motor and a Suzuki rear differential, and has so far taken six months to rebuild as an electric car. Manietta said that the goal was to get it to be as original as possible, “even though it’s nothing like the original car”.

When it’s ready, Manietta said that it’ll be twice as powerful as when it had its original motor. The car includes a gear-shifted neutral, drive and reverse control, a lever-activated handbrake and regenerative braking.

The goal is to get the car to drive for an expected 250km on a full charge, but Manietta said that it’ll likely reach up to 280-290km.

Savage is very attached to the car, adding that she’s not looking to sell it, and that if one day her children do, she’ll “come back to haunt them”.

And on that note, both Savage and Manietta reckon Rhonda the Honda is a good example of when a conversion makes sense – when the car is a rust bucket and when original parts are hard to find.

To any car owners who find themselves in a similar position, the message from Manietta and Savage is “just do it”.

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