I have a thing for the Ford Bronco, not the one O.J. Simpson drove but the old timer one from 1965. Although, my love for this car can’t really compare to the love Zero Labs throws at these amazing restorations. They turn out of style and forgotten cars into modern electric SUVs that reflect the spirit of the Bronco.
Zero Labs does not manufacture new cars. The cars they sell, which were a limited edition of only 150, that had to be reserved, are detailed restorations of Broncos that no one drives anymore. The company even said that they don’t try to restore cars that are in good condition and cars that are unaltered. “We think they should live out their lives first,” CEO Adam Roe says.
The company put effort into redesigning and reengineering old Broncos, but they use new materials and parts that they custom-designed. Those parts include a 100% electric engine and batteries, a 70 kWh lithium-ion power pack that gives a 190-mile range with a 400 horsepower. They give refurbished seats that are hand-stitched and leather, panels made out of the finest wood like walnut and bamboo, the cars were carefully retrofitted. Which in the end looks like a car that looks like a modern version of the original.
When I spoke with Roe through email he told me that their decision to choose the Broncos was somewhat out of love and partly because there are already quite a lot of incredible Broncos out there.
The work they do has brought some very mixed opinions from car lovers. To some people how good a car restoration is how true they look like to their original design and spirit: “There are still some really emotional discussions about noise and rumble defining a car’s soul,” he says. Because electric cars are pretty much silent there is no way they can go against the sound of a gas-powered engine. But it’s very rare that a car has an unaltered stock engine. Even restored cars like Ford, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, and Jaguar don’t have the old sound with the new engines, so they use an emulator to sound like the original versions.
The real debate comes to when you think about what’s better living in the past versus living in the future: “The world is trying to move more and more into a driverless, automated robot car army future,” Roe says. “We think classic cars should have a say in this conversation and well beyond their archival value.” He thinks that old cars that become electric keep the feeling of old timers but still manage to make them a part of the modern vehicle design.
Retro-electric vehicles are pretty popular in Europe, a movement that happened by accident. Some car makers in Europe make cars at scale, like Jaguar and its E-Type Zero and the Morgan EV3. You can also find some manufacturers that make limited models, for instance, a Russian copy of the Ford Mustang, the Nobe and the Microlino which was inspired by the BMW with the same name.
But when it comes to the US, especially the mainstream car makers, it hasn’t become popular yet. “We are committed to changing that [and] taking it to scale,” Roe says. But in order to do that, they have created a robust assembly line and make their own custom parts with efficiency and not just take an old truck and change the power supply. And it has to be done with modern manufacturing methods like CNC machines.
We don’t know the price, options, final specs or delivery times. The one you see in the photo is just a test model so Zero Labs is still optimizing the manufacturing process in order to make the cars more affordable.