Nissan unveils Bluebird conversion to mark Sunderland plant anniversary

Nissan has commissioned a fully electric conversion of the Bluebird to celebrate 35 years of production at its Sunderland plant.

Called ‘Newbird’, the one-off project car is powered by the 100% electric drivetrain of a Nissan Leaf, and marks the shift in Nissan’s acceleration to electrification, particularly at the brand’s Sunderland plant which will be a hub for electric vehicle production.

Earlier this year, the Japanese manufacturer launched the new electric vehicle hub as part of a £1 billion investment, of which up to £423 million will be for the production of new-generation electric vehicles in the UK.

Alan Johnson, vice president of manufacturing at 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 rich heritage of building great cars, right from the original Bluebird model, and our fantastic team is now leading the way as we drive towards an exciting electrified, carbon neutral, future.”

The ‘Newbird’ has had its original petrol combustion engine and gearbox were removed and replaced by a Leaf motor, inverter and 40kWh battery pack, with the battery modules split between the engine bay and boot for optimised weight distribution.

Updates and modifications were made to the power steering, braking and heating systems to enable them to be electrically powered. A custom suspension was also installed to support the additional weight from the battery packs.

The battery can be recharged at up to 6.6kW and the original driver instrument panel has been connected to the EV system to enable the fuel gauge to show the battery state of charge.

For the exterior of the vehicle, Nissan Design Europe, based in London, created a new graphic motif inspired by design cues of 1980s consumer technology, combined with a 21st century aesthetic.

As a nod to the car’s electric updates, the original Nissan bonnet badge also received a LED backlight.

The conversion was project-managed by Kinghorn Electric Vehicles, a family-run company based in Durham, North East England (just 15 miles from the Sunderland plant). Kinghorn EV specialises in the conversion of classic cars to full electric using second-life Nissan LEAF motors, inverters & batteries.

George Kinghorn said: “Given our location so close to the Sunderland plant, working on this Bluebird conversion was a great project to be part of. When Nissan opened the Sunderland factory it gave the North East a big economic boost. The Bluebird was first off the line, so it represents the start of that optimism, progress and global industrial footprint that’s continued to this day.

“Electric vehicles are not just the future, they’re the now! Converting older vehicles to electric gives you everyday use of these iconic vintage models, but they’re just as enjoyable to drive, they’re more reliable and importantly don’t produce harmful emissions when driving. With this project we think we’ve created a car that captures the soul of the Nissan Bluebird, with the heart of a Nissan LEAF.”

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