To mark the 35th anniversary of production at the Sunderland plant, Nissan has commissioned a very special conversion of the Nissan Bluebird – the first car that rolled off the production line in 1986.
The unique project car called “Newbird” is powered by the 100% electric drivetrain of a Nissan LEAF, the groundbreaking electric vehicle for the mass market that has sparked the global trend towards electrification of mobility.
The Newbird combines 35 years of manufacturing tradition at Sunderland, while Nissan is aiming for an electrified future with Ambition 2030, the company’s long-term plan to empower mobility and beyond.
Alan Johnson, Vice President, Manufacturing, Nissan Sunderland Plant said, “The Newbird represents all that is great about our facility – past, present and future – as we celebrate 35 years of manufacturing in Sunderland.
“We have a rich tradition of building great cars, straight from the original Bluebird, and our fantastic team is now leading our path to an exciting electrified, carbon-neutral future.”
Andrew Humberstone, Managing Director of Nissan Motors UK added: “We are very proud of our dealer network that so many of the cars we sell have been put into service right here in the UK. Nissan’s Sunderland facility has produced “home heroes” for millions of UK customers, with models such as the Juke, Qashqai and LEAF among the country’s bestsellers. This Newbird project is a wonderful tribute to the continued presence of high quality manufacturing Nissan has enjoyed in the UK for more than three decades. “
The Nissan Bluebird has been extensively modified to incorporate the LEAF’s electric powertrain. The original gasoline internal combustion engine and gearbox were removed and a LEAF motor, inverter and 40 kWh battery pack were installed, with the battery modules split between the engine compartment and trunk for optimized weight distribution.
The power steering, braking and heating systems have been updated and modified to allow electric propulsion. A custom suspension was also installed to support the extra weight of the battery packs.
As a nod to the car’s electrical updates, the original Nissan hood badge was given an LED backlight (for when the vehicle is static).
The car is charged via the original fuel filler flap, which provides access to the charging port. The battery can be charged with up to 6.6 kW and the original driver’s instrument panel has been connected to the EV system so that the fuel gauge can show the state of charge of the battery.
Although not homologated, the vehicle’s range on a single charge is estimated to be around 130 miles (depending on environmental factors and driving style) with a time of 0-100 km / h of just under 15 seconds.
For the exterior of the vehicle, London-based Nissan Design Europe has created a new graphic motif that is inspired by design elements from consumer technology from the 1980s, combined with the aesthetics of the 21st century.
The conversion was project-driven by Kinghorn Electric Vehicles, a family-run company based in Durham, North East England (just 15 miles from the Sunderland plant). Kinghorn EV specializes in converting classic cars to fully electric vehicles with second-life Nissan LEAF engines, inverters and batteries.
George Kinghorn said, “Given our location near the Sunderland facility, working on this Bluebird conversion was a great project. When Nissan opened the Sunderland factory, it gave the Northeast a major economic boost. The Bluebird was off the assembly line for the first time and thus represents the beginning of this optimism, progress and global industrial presence that continues to this day.
“Electric vehicles are not just the future, they are the now! Converting older vehicles to electric means you can use these iconic vintage models on a daily basis, but they’re just as comfortable to drive, they’re more reliable and, more importantly, don’t produce harmful emissions while driving. We believe that with this project we have created a car that captures the soul of the Nissan Bluebird with the heart of a Nissan LEAF. “
Nissan Sunderland: Then, Now and Tomorrow
The Sunderland plant was officially opened in September 1986 and has been in operation ever since. Total production from 1986 to the present is over 10.5 million cars.
The number of people employed at the Sunderland plant has grown from 430 in 1986 to 6,000 today. 19 employees who started in 1986 are still working on Nissan LEAF today.
The first car produced in Sunderland in 1986, Bluebird Job 1, is the centerpiece of a local museum exhibit commemorating the importance of that first vehicle.
Bluebird’s production was 187,178 units from 1986 to 1990. When production ramped up, it took over 22 hours to build each Bluebird. Now 35 years later, the stellar improvement in manufacturing technology has cut the Nissan LEAF production time to 10 hours and has produced over 200,000 units.
As part of Ambition 2030, Nissan aims to become a truly sustainable company that drives a cleaner, safer and more inclusive world. The vision supports Nissan’s goal of being climate-neutral over the entire life cycle of its products by fiscal year 2050.
As part of the recent announcements, Nissan has unveiled the Chill-Out, a “near future” concept that previewed the new generation of electrical crossovers slated for future production in Sunderland.
By the early 2030s, every new Nissan vehicle offering in key markets will be electrified, introducing innovations in electrification and manufacturing technology.
A proud producer of sustainable electricity, Nissan began integrating renewable energy sources in Sunderland in 2005 when the company installed its first wind turbines on site. These 10 turbines contribute 6.6 MW of power, whereby the existing 4.75 MW solar park was installed in 2016.
In December, an extensive expansion of renewable energy generation was confirmed in Sunderland and the installation of a further 20 MW solar park was approved. Construction work will begin immediately and installation next to the facility’s existing wind and solar parks should be completed by May.
The new 20 MW installation will double the amount of renewable electricity generated at Nissan’s Sunderland plant to 20% of the plant’s needs – enough to build every 100% electric Nissan LEAF sold in Europe.
This is the first of a potential 10 additional solar parks planned as part of the Nissan EV36Zero announced in July.