While hybrid and electric cars are all the rage today, the ideas behind them are hardly new. In fact, the first car that Ferdinand Porsche designed – all the way back in 1898 – was an electric vehicle. This is however not that car, but it does come from a pivotal moment in the hybrid/electric lineage – not to mention a cameo in 1990′s “Total Recall”.
It’s called the Urba Town Car, and it was designed in the late ’70s by Quincy-Lynn Enterprises amidst rising oil prices and shrinking gas availability – a logical time to look into alternative powertrains. The duo behind the company, Robert Riley and David Carey, debuted the car on the front cover of Mechanix Illustrated in 1980. If you were so inclined, you could purchase the plans to build your very own Urba for only $19.
Why would you want to? According to the press materials, you would receive many, many MPGs. Underneath its retro fiberglass and polyurethane physique beats a hybrid heart. The Town Car draws power from 12 six-volt golf cart batteries, good for a claimed top speed of 55 mph and a range of 60 miles. A single-cylinder gasoline engine could also be fitted to help charge up the batteries.
When initiated, it’ll crank your mpg up to around 100 miles.
The car pictured here belongs to BoldRide reader Andy J., and it relies solely on its 72 volts of battery power. “These were designed to be completely electric cars, driven around for just pennies a day,” notes Andy. Although he said he first thought it was the ugliest thing he’d ever seen, he immediately knew he had to have it and bought it on the spot.
“Whenever I drive it, it instantly attracts all kinds of attention. People stop to take pictures and ask all about it, which is why I always have to plan an extra half hour into every trip. Driving an electric car is a chance game. You go as far as you can ’til you reach half power, then you have to turn around.”
Remember that early Porsche EV we mentioned earlier? We’ve come full circle because the Town Car was designed to be built on top of a Volkswagen Beetle chassis. As such, the brakes, transmission, axles, and steering all come courtesy of the donor Bug. Ancillary components all had to be sourced by their owners. In this instance, the interior wood trim and most of the wiring on this car came from a power plant that was being demolished in Iowa. The tail lights? Those are from a Chevy Citation.
The Urba Town Car’s most prominent feature is quite obviously the styling, which is wedge-shaped enough to make a Lancia Stratos look curvy. Despite the hard lines, Andy says the Town Car is quite a comfortable ride and even has seating for four. And if you’re thinking, “I need this in my life… badly,” you’re in luck. Andy mentioned he might be looking to sell come springtime.