When it comes to classic car builders in the modern era, few names carry as much weight as Jim and Mike Ring. Together they are the Ringbrothers, and have garnered immense attention in recent years for the SEMA build projects that arise from their Spring Green, Wisconsin, body shop. With electric cars and EV conversions growing in the industry and at SEMA alike, Road & Track sat down with show legend Mike Ring to gauge the pair’s interest in electrifying the custom car.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Mike Ring isn’t an EV evangelist. The hot rodder lives and breathes V-8 engines, with all four of Ringbrothers’ SEMA Show 2022 entrants featuring a high-powered eight-cylinder engine under the hood. Of course that is to be expected when you’ve made your name building some of the nicest custom muscle cars in the world. That passion for American performance machines has stayed with Ring since his youth and remains centered around the character of old-school combustion engines.
“Show me a guy who doesn’t like a carbureted V-8,” Ring told R&T at SEMA Show 2022. “It’s like the thump of your heart. That sound is part of who I was growing up.”
Despite his predilection for internal combustion, Ring acknowledged the growing interest surrounding electric conversions for classic cars. More specifically, Ring said that the younger members of the Ringbrothers team have always helped to push new technology on the older staff but that shifting mindset hasn’t come without some hesitancy.
“I think we want to,” said Ring. “Our shop is full of young people, which we’re really excited about, which has pushed technology to us in all different ways. We’re excited to embrace it, but we just don’t want to be the guinea pigs.”
Part of that hesitancy from Ring comes from the current lack of OEM support as far as EV conversions are concerned. While Ringbrothers create a ton of unique hardware for every car they build, Ring is open about the fact that the team relies on factory engineering wherever it can. You can turn to an OEM crate engine program or a time-tested engine builder for a modified small-block, but Ring says the same luxuries don’t exist yet in the world of EVs. Don’t expect to see a Ringbrothers EV build until automakers start to expand their EV swap catalogs beyond the current offerings. GM’s long-awaited eCrate kit has yet to arrive for customer sales due to supply chain constraints, while Ford’s current Eluminator kit from the Mach-E only provides 281 hp to work with.
“We’re kind of waiting for the technology to catch up where we feel safe to put out a safe product,” Ring told R&T. “With the batteries and the electrical part of all that, I don’t want that burning down in my garage. We’re not certified or really qualified to build something like that yet. Until GM can, and I believe they will, give you a turn-key piece that is tested, we’ve kinda stayed away.”
Another major factor keeping a Ringbrothers EV off the market for the time being comes down to Ring’s own conflicted feelings about EVs. Living in a small town in Wisconsin, EV infrastructure is all but nonexistent in Ring’s daily life. This reality surely tempers some of the excitement of EVs. Furthermore, Ring isn’t convinced that EVs will become collectible machines in the same way as internal combustion cars.
“I don’t want to embrace it just to embrace it,” Ring told R&T. “We really want to be passionate about what we do. I can’t lie to you; electric is not in me yet. Being in Wisconsin, we can’t charge. We don’t have good systems in place there. There are no Teslas because our community has 80-amp service to your house. So I haven’t embraced it yet because I’m just kind of old, but I want to. I just don’t want to go bankrupt trying to do it.”
While we might not be seeing a Ringbrothers EV in the near future, don’t expect more of the same from the famed shop. Ring mentioned that the team is getting a little worn out on their typical Mustang and Camaro projects as of late. Trying to find new ways to reinvent the same platform over and over is a taxing experience and one that can lock a shop into a business plan. That works fine for a company like Singer, but Ringbrothers and their employees don’t view their work that way.
“Well you know honestly, Jim and I are getting up there and we want a change,” Ring told R&T. “We’ve done a lot of Mustangs and Camaros. We love every one that we do, but it’s hard to change a car completely from another one that you’ve done. You know, Singer’s got it where they just crank them and make bank. I’m excited for them, but I couldn’t keep an employee if that is what I did. I couldn’t do that myself. Money is one thing, but when you’re truly passionate, you want something different.”
The Ringbrothers are looking for that change in some interesting places. Ring confirmed to R&T that the team is actively working on an Aston Martin project, which has created a ton of excitement at the shop. Don’t expect the team to give up on their American roots entirely, though. Ring made sure to mention Aston Martin’s previous relationship with Ford and hinted towards the interesting ways they will be able to incorporate some Blue Oval into the build. All we know for certain at this point is that the build is not battery-powered.