Aston Martin has created what it terms a "reversible" electrical drivetrain that can be retrofitted to some of its greatest hits-in this case, a 1970 DB6 Mark 2 Volante. If it's sacrilege, it's not the first time: Jaguar has already developed a modular electric powertrain for the company's older models, and we drove the prototype E-type Zero at Pebble Beach earlier this year.
While we respect the engineering behind such efforts, we still struggle to understand the rationale behind them. Why would anybody with something as lovely as the DB6 Volante that has been used as the project's test bed choose to rip out its rorty, snorty inline-six and replace it with an electron-fueled motor?
As with the Jaguar system, Aston's is a tightly proportioned modular package, described by the company as a cassette, which puts a battery pack and an electric motor into the space formerly occupied by the straight-six engine. Technical details are limited, but we are told this is related to the powertrain that has been developed for the forthcoming Rapide E electric car. A company spokesman told us that the cassette weighs about the same as the internal-combustion engine, allowing cars fitted with the transplant to have unchanged suspension, steering, and braking systems.
The clue to the big difference over the E-type Zero can be seen in images of the DB6's cabin, which show the continued presence of a gear selector. That's because it still uses the car's original five-speed manual transmission, which should make for an intriguing combination. Although we don't have power outputs yet, Aston says that the zero-to-60-mph time is slightly improved compared to the stock engine, leading us to believe the motor makes more than the inline-six's 282 horsepower. Top speed is claimed to be 120 mph. Range is claimed to be around 120 miles, but we will have to wait for more technical details.
Although the lack of engine noise will be obvious, visual changes are almost nonexistent. The DB6 demonstrator has a charging port hidden under what would normally be its fuel filler, and we're told that there is also a small display screen in the cabin to report on different drivetrain modes, but in every other regard it seems to be unchanged, still having a rev counter and even exhaust tailpipes.
Aston Martin's Works heritage division will be responsible for conversions. The company says it will be delivering cars to customers as soon as next year, in exchange for what is certain to be a serious financial outlay. We'll be driving one and bringing more technical details before then.
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