DIY Project: Salvaged Tesla Model S to Underpin Stretched Volkswagen Vanagon Body (w/video)


Let the journey begin.

Remember Joe Dovi’s wrecked Tesla Model S?  You know, the Tesla that saved his life?

That Model S was written off by Dovi’s insurer as totaled and then slapped with a salvaged title.

The damage was extensive, though mostly cosmetic and limited to the driver’s side, mostly in the frontal area.

A man by the name of Otmar Ebenhoech is now officially (confirmed via email from Otmar to InsideEVs) in possession of that exact Model S.  Before jumping into the story, let’s first turn to Dovi and the thoughts he conveyed to InsideEVs when asked if he was aware of where his former Model S ended up:

“Yes, I’m aware of this project. Otmar contacted me a few weeks ago with the idea and some questions about the car he had just won at auction. I think it’s a fascinating project and asked him to keep me in the loop as things progress. I feel like a satisfied organ donor, it would have killed me to know the car would be junked!”

Donor Model S - Image Copyright Joe Dovi

Donor Model S – Image Copyright Joe Dovi

Camping In A Tesla Model S With a Uniquely Different Body May Soon be Reality

Camping In A Tesla Model S With a Uniquely Different Body May Soon be Reality

Joe’s “donor” Model S will be brought back to life by Otmar in the form of a stretched Volkswagen Vanagon called Strechla.

The Vanagon will exist only on the outside.  On the inside, underside and everywhere in between, you’ll find Model S.

According to Otmar, the story starts like this:

“It was last spring when the Stretchla project started to take shape. It all started when the young TDI engine in the Stretch threw a connecting rod through the block coming home from California on I5, ironically it happened not long after I passed a car carrier full of new Teslas heading north for delivery.”

The thought of buying another internal combustion engine and spending a greasy week installing it was depressing to me. I parked the Stretch in the yard. Later I was camping in my electric 914 when my friend Jon suggested converting the Stretch to electric power. After all, he reasoned, most of the camping was within 100 miles and many campsites have power for charging.”

He was right, but that wasn’t going to get me from my home in Oregon to my favorite winter camping in Death Valley. At some point I noticed that Tesla was planning to put a Supercharger station just outside of Death Valley on Hwy 395. If I could only get the Stretch to plug into Superchargers I’d have it made.”

“I’m sure you can all see where this is headed now. I love VW bus camping, EV’s and modifying cars. It’s simple really, I’ll buy a Tesla Model S and graft it onto the bottom of the Stretch.”

Otmar’s “donor” Model S was purchased at auction for $38,100.  After fees and transport costs, Otmar spent $42,000 to get the Model S and, as he tells InsideEVs, “I’ve got my work cut out for me just fixing basic functional damage.”

Now, the tear apart and rebuilding begins.

Otmar’s journey can be followed at his own personal blog – Cafe Electric Stretchla Blog

While we see several hurdles standing in the way for Otmar, perhaps the biggest ? is whether or not Tesla will allow the finished vehicle to still use the Supercharger network.  It’s this hurdle that we hope Otmar is able to overcome and, with that in mind, Otmar says the vehicle will use virtually every part/component found in a Model S except for its body panels.  If that holds true, then should Tesla still allow use of the Supercharger network?  Or are there other grounds on which Tesla could flip the switch off for Otmar?

Regardless of the final outcome, we applaud Otmar for his efforts and hope that Strecthla proves to be everything he hopes it is.  We see a lot of blood, sweat and tears going into this project.  Good luck!!!

Video below shows removal of VW’s old drivetrain in preparation for Model S fitment.  Just this task is claimed to have taken 7 hours:

Source: Cafe Electric Strecthla Blog, Plug In Cars

Category: TeslaVW

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19 responses to "DIY Project: Salvaged Tesla Model S to Underpin Stretched Volkswagen Vanagon Body (w/video)"
  1. Ocean Railroader says:

    This thing is wild it would be really funny to see the look of a Tesla owner when this thing pulls up next to him to charge up. But at least now Tesla can’t say they can’t make a van or a RV now.

  2. kdawg says:

    “We see a lot of blood, seat and tears going into this project. Good luck!!!”
    That brings up a question, how many seats?

    1. Otmar says:

      Number of seats? Good question! Seating is probably going to be weight limited on the road, but when hanging out at camp (especially in these wet Oregon winters) I see at least 9. It looks like the Tesla back seat may fit on one side of the stretched part with the kids dual jumpseat on the other side, still leaving room for the portable freezer behind the drivers seat.

  3. Ambulator says:

    It’s a very clean design, but it must have much worse aerodynamics than a Model S. I wonder what the range will be?

    1. Kiki says:

      Agreed. I wonder what the weight difference is between the two as well as aerodynamics. (Weight is easier to compare. 🙂 )

    2. Otmar says:

      I’m hoping for a best case on warm dry day of 200 miles at 62 mph with the 85 kWh pack, but that will take some lightening and aerodynamic improvements.

      1. Jay Cole says:

        Hiya Otmar!

        Thanks for popping by and giving out some 411! That is a heck of a project you are undertaking!

      2. kdawg says:

        Are you going to put solar on the roof? I see the one part angles. May be good to point at the sun.

  4. Anon says:

    Technically, the “buy in” cost of using the Supercharger was paid for by the original owner… This might be a fun bit of PR for Tesla, to assist with the restoration.

    1. Rick Danger says:

      Good idea!

  5. jerry rooney says:

    A huge and challenging project. I wish you the best!

  6. Martin T says:

    It’s going to a lot of work – but it will be the best and most reliable VW stretched Kombi / Transporter of ALL TIME
    Be cheap to run.

    Best wishes as this is going to be amazing !

  7. JP says:

    I agree with Anon. This can be AWESOME PR for Tesla. It shows EXACTLY how the Tesla drivetrain can be used for “any” type of vehicle. I aslo agree that the supercharging should be allowed.

  8. Brennan says:

    But if Tesla can connect to each car wirelessly and activate different components… Couldn’t Tesla control whether the Van will actually run?

  9. Bill G. says:

    I can just imagine Elon Musk reaching for the nitro glycerine as soon as he sees this. (To forestall a heart attack–or blow the thing up; works either way)

  10. Don R says:

    I assume that you will be stretching the frame. I’m interested in shortening the wheel base for the vehicle that I want. I’m assuming that if I can be satisfied with a 60kwh or lower battery I might be able to cut 10 or 12″ out of the chassis frame. I really, really want to hear of your experience in grafting all the tesla electronics to your car.

  11. KO says:

    I can tell which one is Otmar! He’s the one who is mainly a blur!
    It’s great the donor car owner is still interested… as we all are, and wish Otmar the best and a speedy conversion.
    It is so heartwarming to see another ICE taken off the road!

  12. Ludus says:

    I think it would great PR for Tesla also. It doesn’t pose any threat to Tesla or Tesla owners use of the Superchargers. Ultimately I think it would be great for Tesla a to sell bare skateboard powertrains to anybody who wants to put on different bodies, whether ultra ambitious hobbyists like Otmar or companies. Maybe they could eventually engineer in the ability to stretch the skateboard somewhat to match a larger range of bodies.

    The project is a fabulous proof of concept for this. If this huge, not very aerodynamic, steel body can still get 200 miles of range with the 85 kW battery, this would work with almost any-body 🙂

    Take it to Burning Man 2014?

  13. peter K says:

    Been thinking of doing something somewhat similar, but just salvaging the motor and electronics and retrofitting them to a rolling motorcycle frame.
    You could start with a donor Tesla that had much more physical damage, so the buy in cost would be a lot less. Just need to make sure the battery pack is still in tact.
    Could it be done? In particular, would it be possible to take individual sections out of the battery pack so they could be reconfigured to fit on a bike?