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Back in 2019, Rory Baldrey was looking for a new challenge to take on. The longtime owner of Throttleworks, a performance shop based in Boise, Idaho, Baldrey certainly is no stranger to LS swaps, turbo tuning, and big blower setups. This time around, though, he wanted to find a project that would take him into uncharted territory and help to nurture his latest automotive venture, Conductive Classics.
“For the first decade and a half or so, we were solely a traditional hot rod shop,” he explains. “All 30s and 40s stuff. After my dad decided to retire in 2000, we noticed that the import market was really picking up, so we started focusing more of our efforts on fuel injection and forced induction – late model M3s, Skylines, Civics and that kind of stuff. At that point we added a dyno and I continued my education on the tuning side of things while we were running the business. These days Throttleworks covers pretty much everything performance-related. Between my partner and I, there isn’t a whole lot out there that we can’t get our heads around.”
While the team was in the midst of putting together an LS-swapped ’58 Chevy Apache for a client, Baldrey decided to pick up a second Apache in a very similar spec for an in-house project, but he wasn’t entirely sure what they were going do with it. “I personally prefer the Fleetside trucks, so that’s how we ended up searching for another Apache. We wanted a project truck with a nice patina, and we eventually found this one through Craigslist in Great Falls, Montana. But we initially didn’t have a specific plan going into it, so it ended up sitting for a while.”
By the spring of 2021, an idea began to take shape. “We knew we weren’t going to keep the inline six cylinder engine, but with it running and driving as it was, it allowed us to do some before and after comparisons regardless of the drivetrain we went with,” he notes. “The stock engine made all of 36 horsepower when we tested it. It clearly wasn’t running great to begin with, but that kind of gave us a baseline to work off of.”
After nixing the obligatory modern small-block swaps, Baldrey thought the Apache might be a good candidate for an EV conversion. But there was one small problem: They didn’t know where to start.
“Going into it, we admittedly knew very little about how to approach the project,” he says. “But after being in the automotive business for as long we have been, we knew what we wanted out of the relationships with the suppliers we were going to work with. Our basic criteria came down to customer service and technical help – we wanted someone we could count on to help us through this first build. We didn’t have great luck with that early on, so eventually we went directly to a NetGain Motors, an EV controller and motor manufacturer.”
Baldrey wasn’t looking to reinvent the Apache as a tire-melting ground pounder, though. “The goal was to have something with similar power to what the stock truck had when new – torque somewhere in the range of 160 pound-feet. The motor only makes 120 horsepower, but it’s hard to compare the output to a traditional internal combustion engine because the power is so linear with an EV.”
A battery pack sourced from a Tesla Model S delivers roughly 90 miles of range and came as part of the kit that the team selected. “Once we had everything, we started deliberating over where we were going to put the batteries,” he tells us. “We didn’t really like the idea of raising the bed because we weren’t going to C-notch the truck or anything like that. Then my partner suggested that we put them in a bed tool box. And it turned out that we were able to fit not only all of the batteries in there, but also all of the controllers, converters, and just about everything else. It worked out brilliantly.”
Although the original three-on-the-tree gearbox was tossed out during the conversion, the team chose to keep a manual transmission in the mix. “There’s some different perspectives on that in the EV world, but we’re glad we decided to keep a manual transmission in the truck because it’s still engaging to drive it,” Baldrey says. “The motor revs to 8000 RPM and we have a tachometer in the truck. But you can also tell when to shift by ear, just like you would with an internal combustion engine.”
The team chose an AR-5 five-speed gearbox from a GMC Canyon for the job. “We use these transmissions behind 800 horsepower LS engines, so we knew it could easily handle the power. More importantly, though, we also knew there was an adapter plate available to mate this transmission to the electric motor.”
Lowered but otherwise more or less stock aside from the EV-related components, the Apache was back on the road by early November of 2021, so the team decided to bring the Chevy out to the inaugural Holley High Voltage event at Sonoma Raceway. “We chose to do High Voltage instead of SEMA last year,” he says. “And it was the right choice because we got to meet all of the heavy hitters in this space right now. To have this open dialogue with these folks about where things are going in EV performance and how these companies can better support builders like us was incredible. I expect that the next High Voltage event is going to be enormous.”
In the months since the High Voltage event the Apache has settled into its shop truck duties and has also become an effective promotional tool for Conductive Classics. “We brought the truck down with us to drive around Scottsdale while we’re at Barrett Jackson this week, and we’ve been answering a ridiculous amount of questions about it everywhere we go,” Baldrey says. “The truck kind of transcends generations; there’s a lot of kids out there who really seem to dig this. The acceptance and excitement that the younger crowd has shown for this truck – and this idea in general – has been amazing. I built a ’70 F100 for my daughter a while ago, and now she keeps asking when we’re going to EV swap it.”