RE: PH Meets: Swindon Powertrain

RE: PH Meets: Swindon Powertrain

Monday 25th March

PH Meets: Swindon Powertrain

We head to Swindon Powertrain, manufacturer of BTCC engines and, now, electrified Minis, to find out, well, why...



It isn't every day that you arrive somewhere to drive an all-electric city car, only to be greeted by the inimitable sound of a BTCC engine revving to its redline. But that's exactly what you get at Swindon Powertrain, yet another example of a small British engineering firm that has established an enviable reputation thanks to the quality of its (often uncredited) work on the much-vaunted projects of larger OEMs.

Certainly you'll have heard of a good number of those projects concealed beneath an NDA. They include supercars that you'd know by name - as well as smaller, more specialist projects which you may not. Arguably the firm's greatest success, however, resides entirely in the public domain, even while it still flies largely under the radar.

Located on an outer-Swindon industrial estate amongst a haulage firm, Sikh temple, and Jolly Roger Adventure play centre, the company's unassuming facility is packed - almost literally in some cases - to the rafters with cutting-edge tech. It's here that the engines for over half of the BTCC grid are designed, manufactured and tuned before being shipped out to teams. It's thanks to these TOCA units, which are engineered to last for an entire season's worth of racing, that teams at both ends of the grid are able to keep entry into the championship affordable.


No matter a team's ability or budget, the option of a turnkey crate engine from Swindon has ensured that the grid remains full and the action bumper to bumper. It isn't only generic engines which the company produces, either, with the BTCC Subaru Levorg's flat-four also developed and manufactured here (and the source of the soundtrack upon entry).

Having been shown through the CAD, CAM, assembly and testing areas by Managing Director Raphael Caillé, we eventually arrive at a cavernous space towards the back of the facility. It's high ceiling and whitewashed walls only serve to make the tiny, bright red classic Mini parked within look even, well, Mini-er. But appearances can be deceptive, and all is not necessarily as it seems.

First things first: this is not a Mini. Thanks to the perils of intellectual property, it's a Mini which has been electrified to become a Swind E Classic. To that end it has been completely stripped of its original engine and running gear, the fully-restored body now encapsulating a bespoke electric powertrain to provide drive to the front wheels. On this subject, Raphael is clear; while he doesn't see the merit in converting the majority of classics to EVs - cars which draw at least part of their appeal from a sonorous straight-six or burbling V8 - the prospect of an electrified Mini just makes too much sense to ignore. It doesn't take long to come around to his way of thinking.

The new 80kW motor puts out the equivalent of around 110hp, while the lithium-ion batteries are good for a 125-mile range. Their packaging lowers the centre of gravity by over 50mm, while also improving weight distribution to a 57/43 split versus the previous 68/32. Unsurprisingly there is a 75kg weight penalty for the addition of all that tech, but the car still comes in at a featherweight 720kg. With no need for a fuel tank boot space is increased to 200 litres, but aside from that and the new three-option gear lever, the interior is virtually indistinguishable from that of a tastefully restored original.


To drive, the E Classic turns out to be an absolute blast. Its 110hp output is 40hp more than an original Mini Cooper S and, while its 0-60 time of 9.2 seconds may sound sluggish in this day and age, it certainly doesn't feel it. It's also over four seconds quicker than that original S could manage, statistics which set the tone for the rest of our short go. The E Classic still feels like an original Mini, but one made better - i.e. more practical and nicer to drive - by its 21st century enhancements.

Not that it is intended as a solution to the problems of mass transit in inner cities, and nor is it a virtue-signalling attempt to cure our current addiction to fossil fuels. No, the creators of the Swind E Classic fully recognise that it is a niche product and, at £79,000, an expensive one at that. What it does do though, is allow the company to hone its craft in an area of automotive engineering which is set to become predominant in the coming years. It also creates a fleet of future-proofed electrified Minis, equipped to carry the car's inimitable charm into a future where combustion engines can't.

Perhaps most importantly, however, it enables Swindon Powertrain to finally enjoy a little of limelight that its exploits so richly deserve. The Swind E Classic is a well thought-out, well designed and well manufactured machine which showcases the ability and dedication of its creators no less well than the high-performing, long-lasting racing engines upon which they made their name. We expect to be seeing a lot more from the firm in the future, hopefully with their name front and centre - where it belongs.






Author
Discussion

Nerdherder

Original Poster:

583 posts

38 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Lovely showcase for what a full EV can be. Now someone go and produce a similar product for the mass market at a sensible price!

Aletsch

73 posts

84 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Great project and showcase for the firm, but jeepers, £80k!! When reading the story I was expecting £40k and hoping for something less

Hugh Jarse

3,151 posts

146 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Great stuff.
That 0-60 time Mini really does seem slow given the weight must be on the front wheels.
Lovely stuff.

mrclav

785 posts

164 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Aletsch said:
Great project and showcase for the firm, but jeepers, £80k!! When reading the story I was expecting £40k and hoping for something less
Price would be lower if it wasn't effectively bespoke and I think, for the money, it's actually quite reasonable given the fact it's being built here.

On another completely unrelated note, what great photography!

Hugh Jarse

3,151 posts

146 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
mrclav said:
Aletsch said:
Great project and showcase for the firm, but jeepers, £80k!! When reading the story I was expecting £40k and hoping for something less
Price would be lower if it wasn't effectively bespoke and I think, for the money, it's actually quite reasonable given the fact it's being built here.
On another completely unrelated note, what great photography!
Low volume handmade stuff costs, I agree its not silly money for what is something quite amazing.

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JerryF

96 posts

115 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Well done, Swindon Automotive, some good news coming out of Swindon for a change.

Love the car and the technology. Like others I wish it was somewhat cheaper and I think there would be a trail of customers banging on their door.

big_rob_sydney

2,294 posts

135 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
80k for a toaster on wheels!

WTF has the world come to...

sideways man

606 posts

78 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Great city car!
Most recent EV articles have stated you need an SUV sized vehicle to accommodate the architecture for such a vehicle.
This reimagining of a proper mini obviously proves that’s not the case.

Glosphil

2,633 posts

175 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Would still be too expensive at half the price. A real niche product.
I am still waiting for a well designed affordable EV to make sales really take off.

C.A.R.

3,492 posts

129 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
big_rob_sydney said:
80k for a toaster on wheels!

WTF has the world come to...
Again I don't think you've really read the article.

It's effectively a one-off. If you commissioned one to be engineered and built by a specialist, the cost would be similar. You're paying for hours and hours of development and design; it's not like K-swapping a Lotus Elise where you just make it fit and line all the oily bits up!

If you commissioned another 10, 20+ for production now that the product has been realised, I'd expect the costs to be rather less...

Motorsport3

293 posts

133 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Amazing how they come up with the pricing. Who in his right mind will pay for an electric 50yr old mini more than brand new Tesla S ?!

moorejam

12 posts

61 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Do you still die if you have a front end collision over 30mph?
Why leave the ashtray? It could be a great spot for a phone to be hands-free with a charge point.

Looks fab though.

T-195

458 posts

2 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Great.

£80k to pay someone to ruin a Mini.

What happens when the batteries fail?


T-195

458 posts

2 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Hugh Jarse said:
Low volume handmade stuff costs, I agree its not silly money for what is something quite amazing.
It's a Mini with a milk float engine.

martin12345

52 posts

30 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
I work for one of those OEM's on projects that Swindon can't talk about
Nice bunch of people who do good quality work for a fair price

I think Swindon will find a small number of customers for this Mini with "car nuts" who live in London for whom £80k is "loose change" - likely will be a 6th, 7th or even 10th car and loved for occasional use in London avoiding the Emissions hassle, each to drive, easy to park etc etc
The pricing is no doubt targetted to make a profit on 10's of sales, not hundred's or thousand's as they will know the market is small.

I am sure they know what they are doing as they do in everything else they do

cidered77

505 posts

138 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
T-195 said:
Hugh Jarse said:
Low volume handmade stuff costs, I agree its not silly money for what is something quite amazing.
It's a Mini with a milk float engine.
Some really top quality insight in your last two posts T-195. Please do continue to share.

cidered77

505 posts

138 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Motorsport3 said:
Amazing how they come up with the pricing. Who in his right mind will pay for an electric 50yr old mini more than brand new Tesla S ?!
they will sell them out i am sure, and most will live in West London. Where a Tesla Model S is even more massive, and where this would be even more fashionable.

Why people don't understand that this is bespoke, and that it won't be priced the same as a Nissan Leaf is beyond me. It's conceptually really simple to understand. As others have said - 80k seems about right to me. I don't want one - but others will...

4oClock

47 posts

119 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
mrclav said:
On another completely unrelated note, what great photography!
My thoughts too.
Why doesn't Pistonheads credit photography anymore? I'm sure they used too.

nicholasm

138 posts

126 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
cidered77 said:
they will sell them out i am sure, and most will live in West London. Where a Tesla Model S is even more massive, and where this would be even more fashionable.

Why people don't understand that this is bespoke, and that it won't be priced the same as a Nissan Leaf is beyond me. It's conceptually really simple to understand. As others have said - 80k seems about right to me. I don't want one - but others will...
...such as me. I'd take one over a Model S if I lived in the city and had the means.

Good write-up, Dafydd - I don't suppose Swindon Powertrain would be up for hosting a Sunday Service, would they? biggrin

85Carrera

1,818 posts

178 months

Monday 25th March
quotequote all
Saw this at the Classic Motor Show recently. Massively overpriced.

Also saw these which could tempt me as a city car -

https://electricfiat500.com


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