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The Enfield Thunderbolt: How Electric Cars Came To Be
posted on Dec 04 2013 by Jade Hensby
40 years ago there were 100 cars in production that would become the first electric car, built on the Isle of Wight, the Enfield Thunderbolt was the UK's motoring future and gave a design that was years ahead of its time, making an impression all over the world.
Enfield 8000 was a prototype electrical vehicle that had emerged out of a competition by the UK Electricity Council in 1966. In November 1969, the Enfield Thunderbolt was shown off at the first ever international symposium on electric vehicles, which was held in Arizona. It was here that it caught the eye of Governor Ronald Regan. Regan offered to find a factory site in California, and promised healthy subsidies, along with guaranteed orders. He even suggested that they should give the cars to all-buyers on the Island of Santa Catalina which is off the California coast, where the use of petrol-driven vehicle is still heavily restricted.
The Automotives owner, John Gouldandris, turned down Regans offer and instead chose to continue the production in Cowes, Isle of Wight.
The Enfield 8000 could reach a top speed of 48mph, along with a range of 56 miles and was aimed at low mileage urban users.
In spite of all the attention the Enfield 8000 received, the main deterrent was the price. At 2,600 each you could have bought two Miniss for this price during the 1960s and 1970s. In May 1976, production of the Enfield stopped altogether.
After being used as promotional vehicles by the electricity board, many were scrapped in the 1980s and only a few remained in the hands of museums and collectors.
Its pioneering role was recently recognised however when the organisers of the London-Brighton veteran car run, who allowed a 1973 Enfield 8000 owned by Clive Williams from Manchester to accompany much older cars on the annual rally. The car was drive by Peter Curran during the run, who said that the final coast downhill to the finish line at Brighton was incredibly exhilarating.