Hot rodding has its roots in a fringe group of auto enthusiasts who made radical engine and styling modifications in the pursuit of speed. But there is a new breed of hot rodder out there, who are taking everyday automobiles and converting them to a variety of alternative fuels, and they’re not all content to just putter around town at golf kart speeds. Todd Perkins wants to go fast, and his all-electric hot rod called “The Inhaler” has lofty goals…somewhere in the 200 mph range.
What was once a bunch of crazy, greasy guys racing on a dry lake bed is now a multi-billion dollar industry with fans from all walks of life. Many of these fans and enthusiasts are prepared to drop hundreds of thousands of dollars into big money projects that compete for a variety of awards. Others are content to cobble together a few parts from this car, a few parts from that car, and before you know it you’ve got yourself a rat rod. Todd Perkins knows all about hot rods, having been in the custom motorcycle and hot rod industry for 30 years. But he found himself wanting to design a car from the ground up, something unique, that had never been seen before. That was when he started sketching out the rough idea of a vehicle based on the design of a 1923 Ford Model-T pickup, but with a very unique snout. “I love 20’s, ‘30’s automobiles, the styling of them, and the idea was to take ’23 Ford styling and try to bring it forward, make it a little more art than automobile,” says Todd. “But a lot of the styling was influenced by the lofty performance goals too,” he says. “The car has to be low and level to achieve the speeds I was after.” That was when Todd ran into a wall; there was no internal combustion engine small enough to fit the unique profile of what he had in mind. Rather than sacrifice the design, Todd explored electric motors, and to his surprise found that electric motor and battery technology had come a long way. Once he was ready to build his car, he found Alex Bandar, an engineer by trade who also runs the Columbus Idea Foundry. This became the home of the Inhaler project, as this is where Todd welded up his frame, and CNC machined his foam core for fiberglass layup. Inhaler and the Foundry go hand in hand, and both have lofty goals. “The goal for the Inhaler is a 1,200 pound car, 600 horsepower all electric,” says Todd. “We want to achieve over 1 g. in lateral acceleration, with a 0-60 time of around 2 seconds for sure, and a 200 mph top speed.”
“I was enthralled with the vision,” says Alex, who was introduced to Giorgio Rizzoni, Director for the Center of Automotive Research and the leader of the Buckeye Bullet electric land speed record team. When Rizzoni heard about the Inhaler Project, he offered support in the form of motors and batteries from the Buckeye Bullet 2 that weren’t in use to Todd’s project, as well as invaluable technical support…in return for a chance to drive the Inhaler once the project was completed.
“There’s something in the Inhaler that isn’t in the Buckeye Bullet,” says Alex. “The Buckeye Bullet is built to break records (and it does), but it isn’t designed to operate like a conventional street car, or pull into a school for educational outreach.” That battery packs were good enough to push the Buckeye Bullet past the 300 mph mark, so it should have plenty of juice to get Todd and the Inhaler past a more modest 200 mph, as well as allow the Inhaler to be driven on the street like any normal car.
Indeed, the Inhaler has an appeal far beyond the normal confines of the electric car community. Todd is an EV enthusiast himself, and has plans for future EV’s, though he admits that he is no “tree-hugging Save the Earth environmentalist” (his words.) But this project has a much broader appeal than granola-munching yoga teachers. It’s a custom hot rod with a personality all its own, and the project isn’t even finished yet. Todd plans to have the Inhaler on the road by the end of the year, and is hoping to start chasing his 200 mph goal sometime next summer. In its current state, the Inhaler has had its unqiue front clip framed in foam, awaiting a final fiberglass coating.
We’re going to keep in touch with Todd, and hopefully have a few guests posts to update on the progress of the Inhaler project, and he also keeps a blog on the progress of the Inhaler. But Todd represents a new breed of hot rodder, who takes into consideration options not available to the founding fathers of hot rodding. How would they feel about the Inhaler project? I don’t know, but as long as it goes as fast as Todd hopes, I think they’ll be proud. That just about concludes our first project car feature, but first I want to ask you readers a favor. Do you, or someone you know, have an alternative fuel project in the works? If so, we’d love to hear from you, and give you a chance to tell the world about your project. Send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Alt Fuel Project” so I can keep it sorted from my daily collection of crap mail. Finally, let me know what you thought of this new feature. What kinds of conversions and vehicles would you like to read about? Sound off in the comments below.
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.