Sears XDH-1

Car of the Day #31: 1977 Sears XDH-1

Sears XDH-1
Sears XDH-1 • via tessa2.lapl.org

Tesla rightfully gets a lot of shit for its quality control, data protection, treatment of workers, environmental record, investor maneuvering, political angling, selling environmental credits, and aggressive moves to “feature” drivers away from safely operating their own cars.

I’ll never give it shit for one thing, however: making its business about building and charging electric cars.

Say what you will, but that’s quite the feat. I’ve written about hundreds of electric cars at this point, and the results are most often crap (like the Sears XDH-1).

“Oh, Michael, it’s 1977 and it’s just a promotional project and it’s just Sears and…” 

Look, Sears, Roebuck & Company reported total net sales for in 1977 of $17.2 billion Usd., so it’s not like it couldn’t have hired a decent design house for its exterior or devised a better way to get that coveted, “gee they’re using DieHard batteries just like in MY CAR!” reaction from onlookers.

News reports in period claim it took $25,000 all-in to make the car—where’s the $50,000 version? Scoff all you want, but in 1974 the company had just completed the then-World’s Tallest Building, the Sears Tower in Chicago. 

For a company of that renown, surely the DieHard batteries could have been crammed into a Maserati…

Sears XDH-1 • via tessa2.lapl.org

Correct, anorak, this is not a Maserati but a humble Fiat 128 Coupé. Its Italian engine and gas tank, gone, and replaced with 1977-spec deep cycle lead acid marine batteries and an electric starter from an old aircraft repurposed as its electric motor.

As you can see from the car’s spec plaque, its performance was decent but, as we have since learned, would not have held up to serious real-world scrutiny. More than 45 years later, a reliable not-Tesla charge network here in North America is still a dream. 

• via Wikipedia

Would Sears’ DieHard batteries — which necessitated a stretched front clip and filled where the rear seats had been — have jump-started battery advancements decades earlier than the 2000s?