Not everyone wants a modern vehicle, but the advantages of electric drive make it an increasingly hard thing to ignore. Even for people who want a newer EV, sometimes it’s just nice to enjoy an older car, but without the headaches of maintaining an older car, or the pollution. So, Ford was very smart to offer the Eluminator crate motor and it was even smarter to show us that it could work quite well in a 1978 Ford pickup.
But it took a lot of custom work to get the F100 Eluminator working. With a few relatively minor changes in the Ford Eluminator motor, it could be a LOT easier to install in older Ford vehicles, and maybe not require any fabrication at all.
Ford’s F100 Eluminator Crate Motor
Before I get to the ways Ford could improve the Eluminator for shadetree mechanics, I do want to point out that it’s still very cool. The F100 pickup is an iconic vehicle that might not have been appreciated much in the 1980s and 1990s, but now that it’s a bit over 40 years old, it’s a classic.
Ford gave the F100 a very tasteful resto-mod, too. It didn’t try to make it look like a newer truck, give it ungodly amounts of highly-reflective boomer identification markings (aka chrome), didn’t give it giant wheels, and only gave it a little bit of drop. The paint job was very factory looking (no flames or metallic paints). Ford even gave it wheels that look like steelies. In other words, if you saw the Eluminator going down the street, you might think that it’s just an F100 that someone took really, really good care of or restored.
While they kept things looking classic and even stock, they also gave the truck some modern EV touches. The interior has borrowed elements from the Mustang Mach-E. The steering wheel, digital gauge cluster, center display (with a knob for us Luddites who want tactile response), and other Mach-E controls were all transplanted.
It also has seats and a center console from the Mach-E, replacing the traditional bench seat that most trucks of the era come with. Basically, the driver and passenger can get a very modern experience while driving a classic-looking vehicle.
Ford even gave the truck a frunk, but left it so you could get a peek at the front drive unit. In the frunk, they included a custom bag for charging cords and a tire repair kit. Once again, a good blend of current and old.
While it has a classic look because it used a real F100 body, that’s where the similarities between this truck and an F100 end. The frame, battery pack, and drive unit mounts were all custom built for this truck, and it uses a modern suspension. In other words, the real guts of the truck are 100% modern EV, and were just made to let an old truck’s body bolt onto the top of it.
For performance, handling, and general ride quality, that’s all a big plus, but for people wanting something a little more authentic, it’s probably a bit of a letdown.
The Average Garage Hobbyist Probably Can’t Build Their Own
The problem with using this truck to advertise the Eluminator crate engine is that it’s really not that easy to use for your own F100 build. How do I know? I have a family member with an inoperative F100 truck sitting in his yard. When I sent it to him, he figured out pretty quickly that using the Eluminator to build his own F100 electric truck would be no easy task.
The biggest impediment is that the Eluminator is designed to act as a Tesla-style transverse drive unit. It’s got the electric motor, differential, and two outputs for CV axles to drive wheels. For a factory vehicle, there are ups and downs to this approach, and in most cases it’s going to be the most efficient and logical choice.
There’s just one problem: nearly all old trucks have a longitudinal drivetrain layout and solid axles. To install an Eluminator or two, you’d have to completely redesign the suspension, front and rear, place a drive unit front and rear, and use CV axles. You’d need custom-built mounts, front and rear, to hold the drive units, too.
When most garage hobbyists think of a crate motor, they’re thinking of something that replaces the factory 6-cylinder or V8 engine, usually bolting right in its place. The factory driveline, transmission, and everything else are probably used.
What Ford Could Do To Make This More Hobbyist Friendly
Instead of selling a Mach-E drive unit, Ford could build an electric motor with gear reduction suited to work with common rear-end ratios, and provide just one output shaft. It could offer common classic Ford transmission tailhousings that could bold right up to the truck’s factory driveline. Finally, Ford could offer mounts that put the tailhousing in the right spot to line up with various classic Ford cars and trucks.
That way, one could buy the right tailhousing and mounts, and just bolt it in place of the truck’s transmission. This would open up nearly all of the space under the car or truck’s hood for battery modules, a truly massive frunk, or whatever the customer wants up there.
The end product wouldn’t be a “skateboard” chassis with a more modern suspension, but it would be something pretty easy for most hobbyists to do in their garages. Decent centers of gravity could still be achieved by placing batteries on the bottom of a truck bed, where the factory gas tank was, and low down in the front.
It would also make for a more authentic classic vehicle, just with electric drive instead of gas-powered. Sure, it won’t be a Tesla or even an F-150 Lightning, but that’s really not the point. Getting electric power, but with a factory ride and driving experience, is just the balance many people restoring an older vehicle want.
In the case of 4×4 EV conversion projects, being able to keep the solid axles and transfer case could make for far better performance and durability than a transverse EV setup, much like the Jeep Wrangler 4xe. That alone would make it worth it to offer this kind of kit.
Images courtesy of Ford
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