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'Goofy' '70s-Era EV Finds New Life with Colorado Hobbyist

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May 18, 2022—An electric vehicle from the 1970s that can best be described as "goofy" and "unique" has found a new home in Colorado.

Featured on Colorado Public Radio's website earlier this month, 19-year-old Declan Kavanaugh of Monument, Colorado, discovered a Unique Mobility Electrek for sale on Craigslist. 

Marketed as a panel van, the Electrek is far from a normal looking car, featuring a bulky, awkward cabin and overly large features for the overall size of the vehicle. 

Though Unique Mobility was founded in 1967 as a fiberglass products manufacturer with the hope of producing small sports cars, founder John Gould turned to EVs following the heightened awareness around pollution that came from the 1973 energy crisis. 

The Electrek was the result of that endeavor into electrification. Described by the report as looking "like someone melted a Ford Pinto," the quirky car looks both futuristic and like a relic of the past "with sagging windows and a fiberglass body too big for its wheels." 

Per the report, Gould says the Electrek was never meant to be an aesthetically pleasing vehicle; instead, it was a prototype designed to test the reliability of the build. A lot of the odd and quirky design choices, such as the windows or the fact that its defroster is just a hairdryer, "were necessary to cut back on costs."  

Since purchasing the vehicle, Kavanaugh has since devoted time and resources to help preserve the legacy of the Electrek. He has made a website dedicated to finding more Electreks and fostering a community to keep the history of the vehicle alive.

Though Unique Mobility never made a mass-produced electric vehicle, Kavanaugh said they played a key part in getting the concept of an electric drivetrain to where it is today.

"They were Elon Musk before Elon Musk," Kavanaugh said in CPR report. "Even if not a lot of people know about them, they’re a big reason electric cars are still on the road today."

Image: Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite per Colorado Public Radio

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