HFL contributor crosses to dark side, designs car

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We’re privileged to have some extraordinarily talented contributors here at HFL, including JT Nesbitt, who just designed, then built this CNG-powered roadster by hand. It’s the first vehicle of its kind that’s been designed from the ground-up to incorporate the clean-burning fuel, allowing JT to enjoy all the thrills of internal combustion while emitting 40 percent less CO2 than an equivalently fast gasoline-powered car. He plans to drive it from his New Orleans home to New York, then to LA this fall, joined by our friend Max Materne, who helped with the build.

You can read all about it on Wired.

Photo: Amy Jett Photography, New Orleans

  • Peter88

    Beautiful car. And he makes very good points about the current state of automobiles and being green. CNG and hydrogen would allow clean burning yet preserve the passion inherent in machines: levers, belts, springs, the sound, etc.

  • HammSammich

    This would look even better parked next to a CNG powered Brough Superior inspired custom bike…just throwin’ some ideas out there for you JT. :)

    Seriously though, I love this car. I definitely see some Auto Union influence…I think I’m gonna swoon.

  • JVictor75

    I’ve wanted to convert a vehicle to CNG (or Propane) since I was first learning about cars, engines, and “hot-rodding”. Not for any environmental reason, really. It makes the engine last longer and you can’t really argue with 85 cent 130 octane fuel. Being “green” is just a bonus.

    Current lofty dreams are to take my beloved 1968 Chevy longbed CST and convert the 396 currently in it to a Hydrogen enriched, CNG-fed, nitrous injected, twin turbo feeding an LQ9.

    But I don’t have more money than God so I guess I’ll have to “settle” for a mere CNG conversion on the existing 396.

    Any recommendations for where to find a decent conversion kit for a big block Chevy? And what would you suggest for fuel tanks?

  • Joel

    “you’ve got to concede that the future is not going to be a videogame. Things will still be mechanical, people will still work with their hands. There will always be room for craftsmen.”

    I sure hope he’s right. “Shop Class as Soul Craft” makes a convincing argument for the value of that type of future (not that it’s hard to see the value), but unchecked capitalism seems, so far at least, to be moving toward a video-game future.

    • Beale

      Unfortunately, I think craftsmen will equal model railroad enthusiasts in the future. Quaint, eccentric geeks.

    • ursus

      Very fantastic and beautiful work. I hope there is always room for craftsmen and they find themselves well regarded and handsomely rewarded.

  • NickP

    Wow. I had looked at the build pics a few times and I’m amazed at the finished car. Incredible work, JT.

  • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

    That is dead sexy. Incredible and inspired, JT.

  • Thom

    DAMN ! JT

    Who the Hell do I make the deposit check out to ?

    This makes Morgans look like a hand me downs . More like Steve Moals roadsters of late ( Licorice etc )

    Damn !!! Me likes muchly !!!

    Seriously I hope he finds a way to put this into production

    @ Joel ……. + 1 on “Shop Class as Soul Craft ” Thats a book everyone here should have in their library . Fact is if this were my site I’d make it mandatory for subscription/membership . Elitist Bastard that I am !

  • jason McCrash

    What the Plymouth Prowler could have been.
    Nice job JT. Take it to Pebble Beach and give some old money jerk of a heart attack.

  • slowestGSXRever

    Holy steam punk batman.

  • Gene

    Damn. Man has TALENT. And dedication and the ability to follow it through, which is even rarer.

  • Scott-jay

    Yawn. Everyone remembers sprint cars & TD3′s. Maybe JT’s gunning for a job at Chrysler?

  • Chris

    That car is b e a u t i f u l! amazing work!

  • super20

    Nice to see it performs as good as it looks. Proof that retro styling doesn’t have to have retro performance.

  • clickeye

    Hunk of junk.

    • JT Nesbitt

      Fuck you Tim, get back to building your goofy-ass whatever-it-is thing that you are working on. — JT

  • JT Nesbitt

    As for the rest of you, thank you for the comments and interest. Building a car from scratch in a small shop with only a couple of friends to help (Tim and Max) is a huge undertaking and it is great to have people appreciate the sheer amount of work involved. — JT

    • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

      Congrats on the car, it looks amazing and i love the philosophy behind it, the love of craftsmanship and the refutal to turn to technology as the obvious solution.

      What amazes me most is that you “started sketching the car in 2008″. That, considering the conditions you described above is amazing, what a tremendous achievement is such a short time.

      And as a 30 years-old nerd who spends ~18h/day in front of a computer, i envy the tangibleness of a project like that, bulding a real object with form and function (apparently equally regarded here) with your own hands.
      I don’t want to be that thousandth urban idiot who dreams of a retro café/bobber/whatever and never finishes it (late congrats on that article by the way) but that sure is inspiring to do (build) something real with those girlishly soft hands of mine…

  • Joe

    JT, it’s a very neat concept. I think it’s very well executed.

    What is the efficiency of a CNG engine? The article shows 700 mile range, but no mention of how many gallons/cubic feet that is. Would it be comparable cost-wise to a gasoline powered car?

  • wwalkersd

    Nice update of the propane-powered Morgans of the 1970s and 1980s (he said, ducking for cover). :)

  • clickeye

    You better get to designing your next project JT. I am having a party on the 17th on the launch of my new car endeavor. I bet I could peal away though for some mid engined love if you wanted some company in New Orleans. Going to the Mullin Museum at the end of the month for inspiration. Wanna meet up in Oxnard?-Tim

  • Sebastian

    How much? I just got a payrise and I’m too much of a modernist to commit to an MGA, too cheap to buy a morgan.

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    What in the hell is “CNG”?? I think I’d better read that article at Wired…

  • Steven

    next on the list: CNG Battleship and CNG Scottish Terrier

  • Will

    If anyone gets a chance to see this thing up close, you should check it out. There’s a ton of little details all over this thing. It’s really one of the most beautiful machines I’ve ever seen. Just stunning.

  • HolyHandGrenade!

    Beautiful car no doubt, but isnt this just a little bit similar to what JT derides Victory for doing with Indian? I would assume that if this car was for sale it would compete with the same target audience. I dont think Gen X, and Y are looking for art decco hot rods, no matter how perfect or green they are in execution.

    Vintage style updated with modern parts?

    Sure the car is great looking and Indian’s are ugly but there seems to be some similarities in execution. Im sure this car is not the fastest or best handling vehicle in the world, its not even the first CNG vehicle. Why are motorcycles given one metric to qualify as good or bad but cars are given much more latitude? Im sure the old Indian pushrod motor achieves pretty good MPG as compared to other bikes – would it be better if it ran on CNG?

    Again, steller accomplishment with the car. I hope it achieves its purpose and convinces more OEMs to consider CNG as an alternative to Gasoline. It seems to be popular in other countries with Taxis and Honda does do ok with the CNG Civic.

    How is fuelling in the winter? My experience with CNG in the winter was a bit of a pain in the butt.

  • Michael

    Looks great JT!!! When you make it to NY, come to Classic Car Club and we’ll have a PBR-fest for you to celebrate it.

  • Scott Jameson

    “Looks familiar.”