Nissan Has Built A One-Off ‘Newbird’ With A Leaf Drivetrain

Nissan Newbird
Nissan 'Newbird'

Nissan has built a one-off Newbird powered by the 100% electric drivetrain of a Nissan Leaf in celebration of 35 years manufacturing motor cars at their Sunderland plant in the North East…

Why the Bluebird? In short, the trusty old Nissan Bluebird was the first car to roll off the factory’s production line back in 1986. The original white 2.0SGX now resides at the Winter Gardens museum in the city center.

Sunderland Winter Gardens Museum - The First Nissan Bluebird
Sunderland Winter Gardens Museum – The First Nissan Bluebird (JOB 1) ©CCC

The transition from Bluebird to ‘Newbird’ involved extensively modifying the car by removing the original petrol combustion engine and transmission, then fully integrating the Leaf’s electric drivetrain including motor, inverter, and 40kWh battery pack. Battery modules are split between the engine bay and boot for optimised weight distribution.

Nissan Newbird

Upgrades and modifications were made to the power steering, braking, and heating systems to enable them to be electrically powered. A custom suspension was also installed to support the additional weight from the battery packs.

As a nod to the car’s electric updates, the original Nissan bonnet badge received a LED backlight (for when the vehicle is static).

Nissan Newbird

Alan Johnson, Vice President, Manufacturing, at Nissan Sunderland Plant:
“The `Newbird’ represents all that is great about our plant – past present and future – as we celebrate 35 years of manufacturing in Sunderland.

“We have a rich heritage of building great cars, right from the original Bluebird model, and our fantastic team is now leading the way as we drive towards an exciting electrified, carbon-neutral, future.”

Nissan Newbird

Project managed by Kinghorn Electric Vehicles in Sunderland, the flamboyant ‘Newbird’ can be charged via the original fuel flap, which provides access to the charging port. The battery can be recharged at up to 6.6kW and the original driver instrument panel has been connected to the EV system to enable the fuel gauge to show the battery state of charge.

Although not homologated, the vehicle’s range from a single charge is estimated at around 130 miles (subject to environmental factors and driving style) with a 0-62mph (0-100kph) time of just under 15 seconds.


For the exterior of the vehicle, Nissan Design Europe, based in London, created a new graphic motif inspired by design cues of 1980s consumer technology, combined with a 21st century aesthetic.

Andrew Humberstone, Managing Director, Nissan Motor GB Ltd:
“There’s huge pride in our dealer network that so many of the cars we sell have started life right here in the UK. Nissan’s Sunderland plant has produced `home-grown heroes’ for millions of UK customers with models like the Juke, Qashqai, and LEAF amongst the country’s best-sellers. This `Newbird’ project is a wonderful tribute to the enduring presence of high-quality manufacturing that Nissan has enjoyed in the UK for more than three decades.”

The North East site has seen major investment recently with major roadworks and network changes to improve access and movement to the vast production plant in Washington, near the Nightingale vaccination center.

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