To say that electric cars in 2023 have come a long way is an understatement. Although the likes of Tesla, Rivian, and Hyundai look as sleek and modern as can be, it was only a few decades ago that electric cars looked like this teeny, tiny Comuta Car.
Now, if you’re the kind of person who’s into DIY YouTube channels, then it’s entirely possible that you’ve seen another DIY YouTuber’s very similar late 1970s electric car: Simone Giertz’s Cheese Louise.
If you're familiar with it, that vehicle is a Sebring-Vanguard CitiCar. That's the company that originated this design. However, the Comuta Car you see in this video was made slightly afterward, in the early 1980s. It came about after the original company went bankrupt and another company bought its design assets (a long and messy story that's outside the scope of this piece).
Why are we talking about a car on RideApart, though? If you’ve guessed that it’s because someone decided to swap a bike engine into it, you’d be correct. While Simone Giertz entertained herself by simply transforming her CitiCar into an electric, road-going cheese wedge, YouTuber Vasily Builds bought his Comuta Car with full intent to swap in a Suzuki Hayabusa engine.
Vasily is based in Tennessee, and he says that he drove seven hours each way to West Virginia to pick this Comuta Car up. The guy he bought it from is a true character, too—a 90-something year-old guy who still wrenches on motorcycles, is very into that DIY automotive life, and is hoping to learn to TIG weld sometime soon. (Don’t worry, you’ll get to spend a little time with him in this video. Guys like him are one of the things that makes the enthusiast world such fun.)
Since this is just the first video in the series, it covers getting the Comuta Car back home, getting it running with its stock electric motor, testing it out on a bit of off-road duty against a Honda Acty kei truck, and then starting to roughly figure out how to fit that ‘Busa engine in the back. Physically, some changes are in order. The frame on the Comuta Car is apparently aluminum, Vasily says—but luckily, he has previous fabrication experience on his side.
The engine in question is a liquid-cooled, 1,298cc inline four-cylinder unit that made a claimed 175 horsepower at 9,800 rpm and 102 pound-feet of torque at 7,000 rpm when new. In bike form, it was mated to a six-speed gearbox—but Vasily hasn’t indicated what he plans to do about shifting with his Comuta Car swap.
That’s probably because he was mostly concerned with the physical challenge of how to get the Hayabusa engine mounted in the rear of the Comuta Car at the end of this video. The frame and suspension modifications he was going to have to perform also loom large.
Since he’s switching from electric power to gasoline power, he’ll also need to accommodate a fuel tank somewhere. Although he briefly explains some of the ways in which the Hayabusa is seriously thrashed, it’s not yet clear if he plans to use its fuel tank or something else for this purpose.
Another factor to consider is the curb weight difference. A Gen One Hayabusa tips the scales at roughly 549 pounds, fully fueled and ready to ride. Meanwhile, the Comuta Car reportedly weighed about 1,400 pounds.
While that’s next to nothing for a car, it’s more than double the weight of the Hayabusa it came in. Even figuring that some of the weight will be lost by removing the electric motor and batteries, it’s not clear how much weight saving (if any) there will be once the Hayabusa engine, fuel cell, and any other parts are installed in Vasily’s build.
We don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but Vasily has a bunch of build series on his channel if you want to get a feel for his project style. It seems like he’s basically keen to swap anything with a motor—from bikes to cars to go-karts to boats. There’s even at least one lawn mower in there, so we look forward to seeing how this one progresses.