024: Product

Vintage Conversion EV

A vintage school-days BMW becomes a beautiful electric vehicle

As companies focus more and more on specs and production efficiency, products like smartphones, smart home appliances and automobiles are becoming commoditized. As a result, many people seeking to adopt new technology have difficulty finding designs that really attract them.

One of these people is Shogo Jimbo, director of an online motoring magazine called DRIVETHRU. With the maturation of automotive technology, he began looking for a more exciting automotive future and launched a project to explore the possibilities of adopting today’s technology in old cherished cars.

The first generation of the BMW 3 Series, known as the E21, was released in 1975 as the successor to the BMW 02 Series, which featured sporty, compact sedan models immensely popular with enthusiasts. BMW E21 models combine a lightweight body with a responsive engine and agile handling. Originally only available as 2-door sedans with round headlamps and a strongly inverted slant nose, they were pioneers in the premium compact sedan category.

Jimbo bought a BMW E21 model while a university student working part-time for a used imported car dealer. From then on, he considered it his beloved school days “buddy”. After graduating, however, he canceled its registration, studied abroad and left it in a friend’s garage with the dream of one day restoring it to its former glory. Over ten years later, he started converting his vintage BMW into an electric vehicle to make it even better than the original.

He named this conversion project “E21”, but his “E” stands for “electric” and “21” refers to the vehicle being suitable for the “21st century.” In collaboration with Osamu Furukawa, a representative of OZ Motors, which specializes in the EV conversion of vintage cars, he decided to restore his cherished buddy rather than simply transform it into a more efficient means of transportation.

First they painted the exterior sheet metal to complement the body styling. Then they replaced the vintage seat fabric with Ultrasuede® featuring a similar comfortable, body-gripping texture. Just like the original fabric, it’s a smoky blue color that matches the exterior. It was also expertly aged to complete the vintage BMW 3 Series atmosphere. All interior restoration was handled by Hideki Izumi of “Is Me”, who possesses unrivaled seat replacement technology.

“Now I don’t have to worry about anything breaking down”, says Jimbo with contentment after finishing the EV conversion. “It’s environmentally friendly and runs quietly so I can relax.”

Society and lifestyles are always changing, but we can find ways to spend special time with our old buddies as we age.


Shogo Jinbo

Born in Fukuoka City in Fukuoka Prefecture. Following graduation from the School of Law of Fukuoka University, he joined the UK-based car magazine INTERSECTION and studied overseas in London. In the course of his studies, he mastered both video editing and graphic design. He returned to Japan for the launch of the Japanese edition of INTERSECTION JAPAN, and joined the company that published the magazine, CAELUM Ltd. In 2014, he launched the online motor magazine DRIVE THRU where he presently works.

The project-based online motor magazine shines a spotlight on a diversity of mobility. The featured lineup of cars and motocycles can actually be ordered by interested purchasers. Under the theme of “Moving”, the publication promotes a creative life of mobility.