GEM Project - Should i do it?

Hello All,

First post here and looking for advice.

I would be able to pick up a 2 seater aprox 2001 GEM car for very cheap. It would b a garage find in that it has next to no use other then sitting outside under a tarp for the better part of 20 years.

Batteries are long dead. The onboard charger has been taken off and used on a different GEM car, one wheel appears seized.

My use case would be very short mileage (maybe 4 miles on days its used) but will include steep hills (Lake Tahoe). In addition, winters it will be parked outside in pretty cold weather for the winter and not being used. I would also want to add a rear facing golf cart seat for two more seats.

If i can get the cart for virtually free can i get some advice on some challenges i would be up against and project costs? What would be the best mods to handle the hills? Range is not really a factor to me but enough power to get up the hills. Speed is also not a huge factor to me as round trip is 2 miles to where I would want to use this cart.

Some general questions i have but also happy for other advice i haven’t thought of:

  1. From my research on this board it appears that the drum brakes will sometime seize if left sitting. Do you think that could be causing the seized/stuck wheel?

  2. Battery- Looks like i have a decision to make. For the hills is the recommendation to go w/Lithium? I understand i will need to compensate fort he loss of weight.

  3. Battery charger - Since the previous one was removed i will need to replace. I assume this will be dependent on the battery chemistry i end up with. Is there any setup that allows me to use my EV home charger to feed an onboard charger for a quick charge?

  4. Brakes- This is the older model w/drum brakes. I only have a very short commute but since its hilly would it be recommended up grading to disc brake conversion to stop?

  5. Rear facing seat- i see a lot of rear facing golf cart seats for sell. Is there a recommendation that works well with an older gem car?

Again, my biggest concern is the hills and what it will take (cost wise) to get the cart to be able to go the 1 mile of hills.

Any Opinions on this project? Will this be a money pit or is it possible to get an awesome gem car that can handle the hills?

Yeah, don’t. Just don’t.

You’ll be $5-6k in the hole on that POS before you even realize it. And it will will still be a shitty 01, with shitty brakes, shitty steering, shitty suspension, shitty motor, shitty fiberglass…

Only thing on an 01 that’s worth a crap is the 8.9:1 gearbox if you are on level ground


2nd jrjava. I bought a 2000 4 seater from a local airport which got me into the GEMs - $1600. By the time I was done, I probably had 10k into it… And the suspension still wasn’t right. I learned a TON so I don’t regret it.

Spend a little more and go 2005+. It will be a much better upgradable platform.

Just know if you go with the 2001 , you’re going to be wrenching on it all the time and dumping $$$ into it. If you enjoy that type of thing, go for it. Kind of like a boat. Have to like maintenance.


As an owner of a 2002 2 seater, I will echo portions of @JarJarJava and @Erniea15 points. It rides like a dump truck, and things need wrenching. They desperately need the disc brake upgrade and lithium is the only way to go.

That being said, when I bought with 600 miles on it, some upgrades had been done. The blue motor, wheels and tires were upgrades. I installed @Inwo LiFePo4 batteries (which I think he’s out of), a QuikQ charger and had Polaris do the safety recalls. It now runs like a rabbit, hills are no issue and battery maintenance simple. I dive all year around so no issue with battery storage, that maybe the hardest thing to deal with.

If you can do the wrench work yourself and aren’t too concerned about how it looks or rides then you may enjoy. Best to run the VIN thru and see if the recalls are open.

But like a boat, the happiest days are usually when you buy and when you sell. Good luck.

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Yeah, but Dave has a setup for up to 24 SDI 94Ah cells where all of them are over the front wheels in the existing battery tray. It’s a little DIY, but the best solution so far for those who really want to deal with the 00-04 GEMs.

Personally, I was glad to send to send the battery tray from my 02 to Dave for further testing and am really looking forward to pulling the last of the decent parts off my 02 LB in the next couple weeks and then finally getting to take my plasma cutter to the frame so I can sell it for scrap aluminum.

Hands down, if the batteries are dead or non existent, skip the lead and go with lithium. You won’t regret that even if you need ballast to make it ride right.

Thinking back… When I bought that 2000, I knew very little about GEMS and hadn’t found this forum yet. I liked them because they were street legal and had 3 point seat belts I could put car seats in for the kids. Buying a cheap car to test the waters was a good entry point for me. I could throw more $$ at it over time and as the budget allowed.

When I found the forum, I really started to understand the potential these cars had. I enjoyed seeing how the mods made a difference in how the car performed. Blue top vs factory motor, 8:1 vs 12:1 gears, lithium vs lead, DC motor vs AC. As an extra bonus, I’ve built some good relationships with folks on the forum and even met some lin person which is cool.

100% it will be but if you want to tinker, not necessarily a bad thing. Just know what you’re getting into.

100% yes… As long as you have an appetite for spending $$ and are willing to put in the sweat equity. With help from the forums, I’ve gotten my 2000 and 2016 to scream up hills.

If you push forward, just keep in mind the threshold of how much you’re willing to spend. If you like the car and want more performance, sell it and get a 2005+ or 2016+

No batteries are going to like that treatment.
Rear facing seats might not be street legal, or maybe it’s carrying passengers in them that might not be legal on the CA side. I have no idea what the laws are in NV.

8.9:1 gearbox isn’t great for hills. If you go to larger rims and tires than the stock 21" tire height, it’ll scream in the flats and might struggle on hills

Programming the controller for heavy regen on accelerator pedal lift is more effective than the brakes on every GEM I’ve driven. T1 and T2 controllers (00-04) don’t do regen well though. The T3 sucks (05-06?) Best to look for something newer that has a T4 controller 2007+


I agree about what other forum members said about Early gems.
My wife didn’t want to drive my old 2002 E2 because it was hard to steer when the car was stopped
Steering has been improved , speed controller improved, suspension improved, brakes improved, even the digital dash.

I would not buy another early gem. Tbh

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Thanks everybody. I really appreciate the NO BS type of responses. If i go forward with this project there will be no shortage of “I told you so”.

At this point i know its not a good deal and likely a lot of headaches but from a learning experience I’m wondering if it still would be worth it. The only 2006 I’ve found was over 7k and that one looked pretty rough…

I will keep my eye out for a newer model but since the 2001 is free from a family member i might start tinkering to learn some new stuff!

Thanks all

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The '01 is worth grabbing just for the gearbox…

… then pull it out and throw the rest of the cart away,

The 8.9:1 that should be in there is easily resalable to anyone who just wants to go fast on relatively flat ground with light loads. Stuff it in a later model e2 with a lithium pack and a hi-revving motor and it will go like a scalded ape.

Nothing outrageous or hard to achieve there, just need enough battery to launch it and sustain it, ideally without adding too much weight. 100lbs of Li-Ion will easily outperform 500lbs of lead in those regards

Don’t try that in an 01. You’ll die. And that would be embarrassing… dying in a solo vehicle golf cart crash.


I think this member is ready to give up on his 2005 e2

Buy his, take the free one, and piece them together to make a sweet ride.

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That e2 has a 10.35 in it. I would leave it in there. That’s a better gearbox ratio for the GEM IMO, especially with a few hills or if you want to put larger rims & tires on it. 23.5"'s with an 8.9 can make for a sluggish launch.

And it’s the dreaded T3 controller.

I purchased an 2002 4 seater with 400 miles on the Odometer, in 2006. Batteries needed replaced and at the same time GEM was running a $1999 upgrade kit. This included Deka gel batteries, new controller, DeltaQ battery charger and all the wires and cables and instructions. Took me about five hours to install. The GEM has been driven for 15 years by a number of different people at our lake house, for just over 10,000 miles total. In this time I replaced the gel batteries twice. Welded broken rear fender brackets three times.

Last few years the Drive train started getting very noisy. I decided to take the GEM home over the winter and fix the noisy drive train and the brakes. After I got into it, the following items I found needed fixed or replaced, and the costs involved.

Worn input shaft $150 (Old HouseBoater)
Motor (splines worn/ new blue motor). $750
All shocks. $551
Rear brake lines. $45
Master cylinder $108
Rear brakes drums $116
Brake lever boot. $65
Disk brake kit. $750
EZ steer system $450 (Old HouseBoater)
Steering rack boots. $50
Broken rear swing gate. $100
Needed tires/Upgrade 14” wheels tires $1000
Pedal wornout $200
Misc. $200

Grand total of: $4500 all parts

My gel batteries were new last year. I did all the work myself.

End result is fantastic. EZ steer system makes it steer more like a car. Taller wheels and tires makes it ride better, more stable and faster. GEM will run up to 30mph, then the controller won’t let it run any faster then that. I am not getting controller modified. Roads at the lake house are all 25mph. Disk brakes are a must and you will never wear them out.

All and all a fun project to work on. If I can get another 15 years out of the GEM it will be more the worth it.

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