CANADIAN hot rodder Chris Webb has made something of a career out of taking the ubiquitous small-block Chev and disguising it as something it’s not. He is most famous for his Webb Motorworks line of flathead conversions, which allow punters to dress up the humble SBC as either a sidevalve V8, V12 or V16. The idea is to get the classic looks of a flathead engine with the horsepower and reliability of the more-modern Chev.
Chris’s latest project has taken that thinking to the next level. This time, the SBC is the disguise, concealing an electric motor.
Chris creates the patterns for his faux blocks and heads using wood and bog, then has them cast in aluminium and machines and drills them before they are welded up and assembled
“My daughter came to me with an idea that she wanted an electric hot rod,” says Chris. “I began to do some research and realised how phenomenal electric motors are: no moving parts and immediate full torque. She was onto something.
“I didn’t like the look of the raw electric motors and controllers, and I had previous experience of making a modern engine look different with an aluminium casing over it,” he continues. “I saw that if I were to produce this idea for other enthusiasts, there would be a larger market with the iconic small-block Chevy.”
The air filter on top of the artificial SBC is still used with the electric motor as a clever way to hide a cooling fan. Chris says the fan can also be moved if customers wish to run a different-looking intake system
What resulted was a complete SBC camouflage built specifically to house electric motors – from air cleaner through to artificial sump. And don’t be fooled: the kit isn’t just a dress-up; it’s a conversion that’ll bolt in place of an existing small-block and onto the transmission of your choice.
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Chris has designed the conversion to work with any existing GM transmission already used behind a small-block Chev, meaning you won’t have to redesign your entire driveline to run the electric donk
The block and heads are hollow, concealing dual electric motors in the bowels of the engine. The controller (computer) sits on top in a water-cooled heat sink, the latter aided by a fan positioned on the inlet manifold in place of a carburettor.
To keep things looking ridgy-didge, you can bolt on whatever dress-up gear you like to preserve the illusion, including headers, plug leads, rocker covers, alternator and more. “You could move the cooling fan inside the block if you want to go to the extent of sitting a real carb on top,” says Chris.
Much like a normal SBC crate motor, the specs and power levels are also fully customisable. “For this prototype, I am using a 96-volt dual motor known as the AC-35x2 from a company called HPEVS. It has 258ft-lb of torque at zero rpm and 126hp.” Before you scoff, Chris says there is plenty of room for improvement. “I have enough room in the casing to put 1000hp in there if someone so desired.”
He acknowledges that the cost of both the batteries and the motors will be barriers to entry for some, but expects this to come down as time goes by.
Chris is fitting the first engine to his ’36 Hayes rat-rod truck, and plans to have the package available soon. “I would like to get it out there and available to the public as soon as possible,” he says. “I’ve gained an overwhelmingly positive response to it; I am thrilled that people see and understand my vision. They’ve embraced my idea.”