Back then. . . .1980 Marathon electric

The 2,300-pound Marathon electric is powered by 12 six-volt heavy-duty batteries. (Photo by Bud Wells/1980)

The 2,300-pound Marathon electric is powered by 12 six-volt heavy-duty batteries. (Photo by Bud Wells/1980)

Thirty-five years ago this week, in May 1980, I reviewed in The Denver Post the ’80 Marathon electric automobile. Excerpts:

Choosing between the use of 3rd or 4th gears – a tradeoff between range or speed – is one of the few decisions to make while driving a Marathon electric. Its operation is smooth but slow and limited, and marked by simplicity.

Testing of an electric seems appropriate since several models have recently become available in Denver.

The Marathon, sold by John and Josie Fetters of Alternative Autos on East Colfax, is called a utility vehicle. It is a two-passenger type with rear deck for cargo, and has jeep-like doors and canvas top. Selling price, like all automobiles, has shot up, going from $6,800 last year to $8,500.

Builders of the Marathon claim a minimum range of 30 miles between charges. My first-day test ran 24 miles.

Hills proved to be the biggest challenge for the Marathon, with speed falling to as low as 15 on some of the steeper ones. Second gear held the speed at 18 going up the hill at the 20th Street viaduct; the relatively slow pace riled many motorists following me in the 5 p.m. rush hour.

The company claims top speed of 30; the Marathon actually ran easily at 35 in 4th gear. It isn’t fast enough, though, for use on the Valley Highway.

Below the cargo deck at the rear is the power source – 12 six-volt heavy-duty batteries. They supply the 72-volt, 8-horsepower electric motor at the front of the auto. Lights, horn, windshield wipers and washers are supplied by a separate 12-volt battery. The car is absolutely silent at idle.

The 2,300-pound vehicle has good braking from its front discs and rear drums. The ride is on the stiff side. Suspension includes coil springs in front and leaf springs at the rear. Wheels are 13-inch.

The company says an overnight charge of the batteries costs less than 30 cents. Battery life should be sufficient for approximately 20,000 miles of driving, according to Marathon officials.