SANTA MONICA, CALIF.
A 1978 Triumph Spitfire convertible is doing a little sunbathing on the Santa Monica pier on a late Friday morning, the kind of day real estate boosters call "sun-splashed."
But this is not a story about a car. It's about a man called "Gadget," aka Greg Abbott, though no one ever uses his name. Gadget owns this Spitfire, one of some 50 vehicles parked on the pier and the only one that runs purely on gas.
The vehicles are about to line up for a parade that will mark the start of the first Alternative Car and Transportation Expo held in Los Angeles.
It's 10:45 a.m. – indulge me in the recurring time motif because there is, indeed, a loudly ticking clock in this story. Starting at 9 a.m. on the following day, Gadget will have 36 hours to get a difficult job done: convert the Spitfire from its original combustion engine to a fully electric car.
I'm going to amplify this because it's hard to comprehend just what this will entail: He's going to transform an old gas-burning, particulate-spewing car into a completely clean, zero-emissions electric vehicle. He's going to do this by removing the old engine, exhaust, and fuel system and installing a new electric motor with everything it needs.
When he's done, the car will go faster and be more powerful than it was with the old engine, he promises. All of the work will be done on the floor of the expo, in full view of the browsing public, where failure would be a transparent humiliation.
Plus, he's going to perform this task with the assistance of guys who have never done this before – and without using a single power tool.
Because he wants to make the point that, even though this may sound like rocket science, it isn't. He wants to make this point because he is the owner of a company called Left Coast Electric, and it is his plan to mass-produce conversion kits so that just about anyone can transform any car into an electric vehicle.
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