Vintage Johnny Cash Rolls-Royce Converted to Tesla EV

photo: John Friedlander/ Shift EV / Joel Baldwin

A classic long-wheelbase 1970 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow originally owned by and customized for Johnny Cash has been completely morphed with a 2016 Tesla Model S to make a one-of-a-kind electric vehicle. The piece of country music history was originally purchased by ABC Studios, and given to Johnny Cash for the success of his now legendary The Johnny Cash Show shot at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville that ran from 1969 to 1971. Cash’s initials were embossed in gold leaf on the back doors, and all options were included on the black-colored Silver Shadow.

Johnny Cash originally sold the car in 1985 to a private collection. Before the modification, the car was previously featured on an episode of Pawn Stars and on Speed when it was sold in Las Vegas in 2014 at auction for $80,000.

Eventually the car ended up in the hands of an anonymous owner who happens to be both a big Johnny Cash fan, and a fan of Tesla, and the vintage car was handed over to Shift Electric Vehicles of Albany, Oregon to make a one-of-a-kind Tesla “resto mod.” What makes the Rolls-Royce especially unique is that unlike some other classic car/Tesla conversions, everything about the Rolls-Royce was kept original except for the motor and drive train. The exterior and interior are all the same. Even the shifter and gauges were integrated with the Tesla system, so you use the original shifter to put the car into gear, the fuel gauge is the battery gauge. All of Tesla’s famous computer systems and display? They were moved to the trunk.

At first the owner approached Tesla to do the conversion, but they declined, partly due to the fact that the 50-year-old Rolls-Royce which had 130,000 miles on it was in need of restoration itself even before the Tesla modification. Rolls-Royce’s are already known for their smooth handling and quiet operation. That is why they’re given names such as Shadow, Phantom, and Ghost. After the custom job, the Rolls-Royce runs even smoother and quieter, and the horsepower for the car was doubled.

Taking many custom modifications and 3-D printed parts, Johnny Cash’s 1970 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Tesla is now road ready once again. We still don’t know who the owner is, but they deserve credit for restoring and maintaining this piece of country music history, but in a unique way that will keep it a point of interest for years to come.

“They’re a fan of Johnny Cash. He loved this car, he drove this car a lot, and I think he’d really like our approach to this project if he were here today,” says Kirk Swaney of Shift EV. “It’s still the classic car that he drove. But it’s more reliable, takes off faster, stops faster, and we built it one piece at a time.”

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