To celebrate 35 years of production at its Sunderland plant, Nissan
recently commissioned a special conversion of a Nissan Bluebird — the first car off the factory’s production line in 1986. Called ‘Newbird’, the one-off project car is powered by the 100% electric drivetrain of a Nissan LEAF — the ‘mass-market EV that kick-started the global trend towards electrification of mobility’.
Alan Johnson, vice president, 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 rich heritage of building great cars, right from the original Bluebird model, and our team is now leading the way as we drive towards an exciting electrified carbon-neutral future.”
Andrew Humberstone, managing director, Nissan Motor GB Ltd, added: “There is a huge pride in our dealer network that so many of the cars we sell have started life right here in the UK. Nissan’s Sunderland plant has produced ‘home-grown heroes’ for millions of UK customers with models like the Juke, Qashqai and LEAF among the country’s best-sellers. This ‘Newbird’ project is a wonderful tribute to the enduring presence of high quality manufacturing that Nissan has enjoyed in the UK for more than three decades.” Electric drivetrain
The Nissan Bluebird was extensively modified to integrate the LEAF’s electric drivetrain. The original petrol combustion engine and gearbox were removed and a LEAF motor, inverter and 40kWh battery pack installed, 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 of the battery packs. The car is recharged through the original fuel flap, which provides access to the charging port. 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.
The conversion was project-managed by Kinghorn Electric Vehicles, a family-run company based in Durham, 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 and batteries.
The Sunderland Plant was officially opened in September 1986 and has been in operation ever since.
Total output from 1986 to the present day stands in excess of 10.5 million cars. The number of staff employed at the plant has grown from 430 in 1986 to 6,000 today. There are 19 staff who started in 1986 still working today on Nissan LEAF.