January 18, 2013untitled-35

Bob Libow runs Elco Welding – a West LA temple of metal work and machines. He custom built many of the parts essential to Mike Pethel’s green car. Photo: Hugh Hamilton


By Alex Chadwick

If you heard or saw our Marketplace story from last week – the one about an old BMW transformed into a very fast green car by Mike Pethel – I have a confession. I got it wrong.

Mike had the lead on this, yes, but no one takes on a project like this alone. Much of the work was done at Elco Welding on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice, California, under the guidance of Elco’s Bob Libow. Bob is an artist with fire and metal – I think he could make anything. And Elco is a kind of shrine to machines and tools, and what they can do. If you’re remaking a car as radically as this one is changed, you’ll need someone who can craft all sorts of adjustments and supports and fittings. Bob can do anything, and he does it with generosity. I should have acknowledged Bob’s contribution.

And about those amazing motors: they are built to design standards that Mike suggested and evolved with a company called NetGain Motors, in Lockport, Illinois. George is a ‘retired’ engineer and computer hacker who owns and runs a company that makes electric motors. His products are popular among the devotees of the sub-culture that transforms gas cars to electrics. He and Mike have worked and consulted with each other for years, and George deserves a lot of credit, both for making the motors and for listening to Mike’s ideas and being willing to try them.

Okay. Now maybe I can drop by Elco again and see what Bob’s making this week.