Like it or not the automotive world is moving towards electrification. But does that mean we have to give up our muscle cars or simply change them?

Both General Motors and Ford are working on plans to ensure that regardless of laws or changing tastes muscle cars can live on in an electric world. The American giants both unveiled plans for electric crate motors at the 2021 SEMA Show.

SEMA (which stands for Specialty Equipment Market Association) is a showcase of all things designed to make your car special. While GM and Ford aren’t ready to give up V8s just yet, they are offering a futureproof alternative in the form of electric motors that can be installed in any classic car.

To demonstrate both brands unveiled custom creations which produce plenty of power but without using a drop of petrol.

Chevrolet hopes to sell this electric crate motor soon.

GM joined forces with MotorTrend’s Hot Rod publication to convert one of the most famous hot rods in the world - Project X - to electric power. Project X is a 1957 Chevrolet that has been a test bed for dozens of custom powertrains, most recently a supercharged LSX V8. 

Now, thanks to Chevrolet and with the help of Cagnazzi Racing, the V8 has been replaced by an electric motor that makes 250kW and 447Nm.

“Project X has always served the car community by pushing the envelope with groundbreaking technologies,” explained Douglas Glad, from MotorTrend Group. “As the auto industry shifts rapidly toward electric vehicles, this Project X build is just the latest in its celebrated legacy of adapting hot rodding to the powerful technology of tomorrow.”

While not yet available to the general public, GM is aiming to have an ‘eCrate’ package ready for sale in the near-future through its Chevrolet Performance catalogue. In theory it should be capable of replacing any GM motor, which means Holden owners locally could electrify a Monaro, Torana or Commodore.

“The reinvention of Project X is a reminder that our vision for a world with zero emissions includes classics like the Tri-Five Chevys,” said Prashant Ahire, eCrate chief engineer. “As General Motors rolls out its trailblazing EV technology, Chevrolet Performance plans to offer EV propulsion solutions for enthusiasts looking to modernize their project cars.”

The Ford F-100 Eluminator concept.

Ford is further down the road, with its new electric crate motor, dubbed the Eluminator, ready for customers.

To give people an idea of what to expect, Ford converted a 1978 F-100 pickup into an electric vehicle. Underneath the old-school body is the same dual electric motor powertrain from the Mustang Mach-E. 

“Ford owners have personalized, customized and enhanced their vehicles since the beginning – from changing looks to bringing the power,” said Eric Cin, global director, Vehicle Personalization, Accessories and Licensing at Ford. “Our F-100 Eluminator concept is a preview of how we’re supporting customers as they go all-electric and embrace zero-tailpipe emissions performance, even for our heritage vehicles.”

The Ford F-100 Eluminator has the same powertrain as the Mustang Mach-E.

While the idea of swapping a V8 or six-cylinder engine for an electric motor is understandably unappealing for some, the fact that the battery-powered F-100 is capable of making 357kW and 859Nm is hard to dislike.

Mark Rushbrook, the man in charge of Ford Performance globally, which covers its racing projects including Supercars, believes electrification will be attractive to many muscle car owners as more people experience its potential.

“The fact is, electric performance is fun, and as the industry moves toward electric vehicles, motorsports and the performance aftermarket will too,” Rushbrook said. “Just as Ford is committed to leading the electric revolution on the product side, Ford Performance is equally committed to winning on the performance and motorsports front.”