There’s a Pristine GM EV1 Saved By a Secretive Caretaker in the Depths of a University
It’s quite possibly the nicest EV1 left outside a museum—or Francis Ford Coppola’s garage.
One of the very first practical production EVs made by a major automaker, the GM EV1 was the future we're experiencing now, only with a mid-1990s sheen. And it's something of a legend these days, not just because of its pioneering ways, but because of the way GM supposedly killed the electric car—there's a bit more to it than that—by recalling every EV1 and crushing them in 2003 when the multi-year experiment leasing the coupe to consumers ran its course.
But there are still some out there in the world that escaped the crusher. Outside a few museum pieces, a handful were saved and given to universities as educational tools for engineering departments; we caused a bit of a stir when we tracked down a surprising EV1 survivor abandoned in an Atlanta parking garage in 2019 that slipped through that donation program. Predictably, most of those college-educated EV1s got completely trashed or stripped for parts over the years. Now The Drive has learned of an absolutely pristine GM EV1—the nicest example left outside of a museum—that's hiding out in the depths of an unnamed university building under the watchful eye of an anonymous, dedicated protector.
Still buried deep within a college campus in the US—afraid we can't be more specific than that—the time capsule EV1 is said to have been protected from marauding engineering students by a caretaker "who cherishes the car deeply," according to a source who gave us permission to publish these photos. The caretaker's devotion is clear; the thing is completely spotless inside and out. But as with other notable vehicles we've covered, he's staying quiet.
What's clear is the EV1 is legitimately owned by the university, so this isn't a case of someone sneaking one out the back door in the chaos of all the crushing. And unlike with Chrysler and the Dodge Viper, GM hasn't made any attempts to take the cars back from schools except a few times where kids got the cars working again and drove them on public roads. As for why this one didn't get used for its intended educational purposes, chalk it up to the caretaker.
Powered by a 137 horsepower electric motor drawing energy from a lead-acid or nickel-metal-hydride battery pack, the experimental coupe had 142 miles of range decades ago. Just over a thousand units were built and leased to eager consumers for a few years, but in the end GM pulled the plug for a number of reasons, none of them great.
Our source added this one hasn't seen daylight in a decade, which helps explain why the plastic body, very '90s GM interior, magnesium wheels and custom Michelin tires are all in great shape. It's not known whether the vehicle is still functional, or how much work it would take to get it there.
Yes, all of the EV1s were sent to the schools deactivated—important hardware such as the controller for the electric motor, brakes, power steering and other important functions were all removed. Some schools were reported to have reactivated theirs over the years, however. And as you can see from the under-hood shot above, things look to be completely intact.
Another thing suggesting this one is at least close to operational is the static ride height looks correct, indicating that it wasn't gutted completely, if at all. Of course, important pieces could still have been removed or destroyed, but we can't tell if any significant weight is missing.
And that's the whole story for now, unfortunately. We know that there's a Smithsonian-quality EV1 still out there, and that it's being maintained and protected by someone who cares deeply about both the car and their privacy. That'll have to be enough for now.
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