Making Your EV Your Own
The Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas is one of the auto industry’s largest trade shows. It focuses on the automotive aftermarket, with large sections devoted to off-roading, vehicle customization, and performance.
Electric vehicles had a big presence at SEMA this year. As they sell in ever larger numbers, owners are starting to look for ways for their EVs to stand out. Aftermarket tuners and manufacturers themselves are eager to cash in; the SEMA floor was full of customized EVs. Two of the coolest custom EVs at the show this year were from Nissan, who brought the Leaf to market in the U.S. more than a decade ago.
As Nissan launches its all-new Ariya electric crossover, the company partnered with Tommy Pike Customs, of Greenville, S.C., to bring two electrically-powered concepts to SEMA, giving showgoers inspiration for their own custom rides.
Leaf-Powered Retro Truck
The first of the two electric concept cars is a 1987 Sunny Truck that has been converted run on electric power thanks to the powertrain from the all-electric Leaf.
The 1987 Nissan Sunny, owned by Tommy Pike Customs owner Tommy Pike, swaps in an electric drive motor and 40-kWh lithium-ion battery pack from the Nissan Leaf hatchback. While its 147 hp and 236 lb-ft don’t seem like much in an age of massive EV power outputs, the little electric motor has around twice the horsepower and more than three times the torque of the gasoline four-cylinder engine originally fitted to the Sunny pickup.
A right-hand drive model from Japan, the 1997 Sunny is wrapped in historic Brock Racing Enterprises livery – an homage to Nissan's heritage in racing as well as to its modern-day innovations.
While the Sunny features an electric motor from the Leaf, it’s still connected to the original factory-fitted manual transmission by a custom motor-to-transmission bell-housing, making this truck really fun to drive. Its exterior is fitted with a body kit inspired by the original “Hakosuka” Nissan skyline, and the suspension comes from a Nissan 240SX. The Rotiform wheels and Toyo Extensa tires give sporty handling.
Woody Electric Ariya
While the retro pickup concept takes an old vehicle into the future with an electric conversion, Nissan’s Ariya Surfwagon takes a brand-new 2023 Ariya crossover back to the past, thanks to a restyling that makes it look like a California-style "woodie" wagon.
Also created by Tommy Pike Customs on behalf of Nissan, the Ariya Surfwagon features a distinctive interior with a custom vinyl wrap, wood paneling, and chrome trim that bring to mind the beach cruisers from the fifties. Sitting low to the ground on a custom suspension, the Airya Surfwagon is all about on-road looks. While the wheels are modern in size at 20 inches, they are a “smoothie” design with polished stainless-steel center caps, and there are white wall tires and a custom roof rack to complete the look. Two seven-foot surfboards sit atop a custom roof rack.
Sure to provoke conversations with EV owners about how to customize their vehicles, the Ariya Surfwagon retains all of the standard vehicle’s utility and space, with a look and a purpose that are all its own. It’s an inspiring look at how EVs will still allow us to express our own personalities and style in our wheels, even in a zero-emissions future.