Nissan’s Sunderland Plant in the UK has now been churning out cars for 35 years, and to mark the occasion the first model to roll off the production line has been given a modern electric makeover to create the one-off Newbird.

Since officially opening in 1986, the Sunderland Plant has output more than 10.5 million vehicles. The first vehicle to roll off the production line was a Bluebird, with some 187,178 units being manufactured at the facility from 1986 to 1990. That first car – known as Bluebird Job 1 – is now on display in a local museum.

Out of the 430 staff originally employed at the Plant in the mid-80s, 19 continue to work there to this day – now on the Leaf production line.

“The ‘Newbird’ represents all that is great about our plant – past, present and future – as we celebrate 35 years of manufacturing in Sunderland,” said the Plant’s VP of manufacturing, Alan Johnson. “We have a rich heritage of building great cars, right from the original Bluebird model, and our fantastic team is now leading the way as we drive towards an exciting electrified, carbon neutral, future.”

Under the hood of the Nissan Newbird custom build

Under the hood of the Nissan Newbird custom build

Nissan

The Newbird conversion project was managed by family-run Kinghorn Electric Vehicles based just down the road in Durham. As well as giving an original 1986 Bluebird an extra splash of color that mirrors consumer tech design cues from the 1980s, the team has also ripped out the combustion engine and gearbox and installed an electric motor, inverter and 40-kWh battery pack from a Leaf EV – with the latter component split between the engine bay and the trunk for optimum weight distribution.

The conversion led to the custom build to put on a few pounds, so that additional weight was countered by custom suspension. A charging port has been placed under the original fuel flap and the battery can be charged at up to 6.6 kW.

Rather than replace the original instrument cluster, the fuel gauge has been connected to the EV architecture to now show charge state of the battery. The car’s original hood badge has been treated to LED backlighting, and Nissan tweaked the power steering, braking and heating systems for electric power.

The colorful paintjob is a hat tip to the bold designs of consumer electronics back in the mid-1980s

The colorful paintjob is a hat tip to the bold designs of consumer electronics back in the mid-1980s

Nissan

The tribute vehicle is meant as a show piece only and has not undergone homologation, though the company reports that it is capable of around 130 miles of per-charge motoring, and can go from standstill to 62 mph (0-100 km/h) in a somewhat leisurely 15 seconds or so.

With its focus now firmly on the future, Nissan announced its Ambition 2030 mobility vision at the end of last month, when it was revealed that the company intends to launch 23 electrified models as part of a move toward having a 50 percent electrification mix by the end of 2030 – and 15 of those will be pure EVs. Sadly, this Newbird won’t be one of them but the 2022 Ariya crossover will.

Source: Nissan UK