Nissan’s latest electric vehicle isn’t really new. It’s actually 33 years old.

Japanese maker celebrated 35 years of manufacturing motors in Sunderland. It used an electric powertrain that it had on its Leaf to install it into the 1988 Bluebird. This was the first model to come off the North East factory production line.

The ‘Newbird,’ a one-off creation with a 130-mile range, can reach 62 mph in just 15 seconds from a standing position.

Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks? This F-reg 1988 Nissan Bluebird has the electric powertrain of the following 2021 Nissan Leaf installed in it

Nobody said an old dog couldn’t learn new tricks. The electric motor of the next 2021 Nissan Leaf has been installed into this F-reg 1988 Nissan Bluebird

The production of the Bluebird began in Sunderland, England in 1986. Since then, assembly lines have been running continuously. In just three decades, over 10,000,000 Bluebirds were produced.

Japanese company’s dedication to Britain has ensured the plant’s survival. The all-new Qashqai SUV of the third generation has started production this year. It joins the Juke, the small Juke, and the all electric Leaf. 

To celebrate this landmark accomplishment, Nissan UK’s bosses devised a bold plan to link its new vehicles with its older ones.

To do so, it took a 1998 F-registration Bluebird, stripped out the 90bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine and manual gearbox and in its place slotted in the 40kWh battery pack and electric motor from the Nissan Leaf. 

Kinghorn Electric Vehicles, a local conversion specialist, managed the conversion. It is located just 15 miles from Sunderland.

To get the huge battery pack to fit into the eighties hatchback, it was broken down into two pieces, mounting one half under the bonnet

The battery pack was too large to be fitted into an eighties hatchback so it was split into two parts. One half of the unit is mounted under the bonnet.

The second half of the battery cells have been installed here in the boot and takes up almost the entirety of the compartment. You certainly couldn't fit much shopping in there

You can find the other half of the batteries here, which takes up most of the space. There is no way you could fit much shopping there.

The creation is to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Nissan building motors in Sunderland. The Bluebird was the first car to roll off the UK production line in 1986

It is being created to mark the 35th Anniversary of Nissan Sunderland Motors. In 1986, the Bluebird was the first vehicle to be produced in the UK.

The huge battery pack was too big to fit in an eighties hatchback so it had to be broken into two parts and placed in the engine bay.

It allowed all battery cells to be utilized and also made sure that the weight was evenly distributed, rather than putting all of it on one side.

The charging socket is hidden behind the car’s existing fuel filler flap – and the system is compatible with a 6.6kW charger.  

To support the increased weight of the battery, engineers had to upgrade the suspension.

Nissan has called the 1980s electric car conversion the 'Newbird' and it has a 130-mile range and can hit 62mph from a standing start in around 15 seconds

Nissan called this 1980s conversion of an electric car the “Newbird”, and it boasts a 130-mile range, can reach 62mph when starting from a standing position in under 15 seconds.

Engineers also had to install upgraded suspension to support the added weight of the batteries

In order to handle the extra weight, engineers also needed to modify the suspension.

The manual transmission has been stripped out of the Bluebird and replaced with the Leaf's single-speed automatic with this suitably retro control panel in the centre console

Bluebird’s manual transmission was removed and the Leaf’s single speed automatic has been installed. The centre console features a retro control panel.

A manual gearbox was also taken out and replaced by the Leaf’s singlespeed automatic. The centre console has a retro-style control panel. Nissan also recreated its original fuel gauge, so it displays the current battery charge. 

Also out went the original power steering, brakes, heating unit and replaced with electrically-operated versions.  

The bodywork also features an eighties-themed graphics kit, inspired by 80s consumer technology.

To showcase the electric power source of Nissan, the badge has been backlit by a subtle glow. However Nissan claims it illuminates only when the vehicle is parked. In the UK it is against the law to have any other lights than the headlights. 

The charging socket is hidden behind the car's existing fuel filler flap – and the system is compatible with a 6.6kW charger

The charging socket is hidden behind the car’s existing fuel filler flap – and the system is compatible with a 6.6kW charger

Nissan had the 90bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine and manual gearbox removed from the retro family hatchback and in its place slotted in the 40kWh battery pack and motor from the Leaf

Nissan took the 90bhp, 1.8-litre petrol engine with manual gearbox from its retro family hatchback. Instead they installed the 40kWh battery pack.

The conversion was managed by local specialist conversion company, Kinghorn Electric Vehicles, which is just 15 miles away from the Sunderland plant

Kinghorn Electric Vehicles was responsible for the conversion, which took place just 15 minutes from Sunderland.

Commenting on the car, Alan Johnson, Vice President of Manufacturing at the Nissan Sunderland Plant, said; ‘The Newbird represents all that is great about our plant – past present and future – as we celebrate 35 years of manufacturing in Sunderland.

“We have a long history of building amazing cars. Our team, which includes the Bluebird original model, is leading the charge as we push towards an exciting, electrified and carbon-neutral future.

Andrew Humberstone (Managing Director, Nissan GB) said: “This Newbird Project is a beautiful tribute to the enduring presence in high-quality manufacturing that Nissan enjoys in the UK over the past three decades.”

In addition to paying tribute to Nissan’s past, Newbird also points to Nissan’s electric drive. The brand plans to make fully-electric cars available in the early 2030s.


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