1960 Lea-Francis Lynx
One of just three complete cars built (one prototype and two production models), this eye-watering model should have been powered by a MkII Ford Zephyr 2553cc six-cylinder producing either 130 or 150bhp in optional factory tune. The prototype reality though was a mere 107bhp, due to the car’s triple 1.5inch SUs.
Designed to be streamlined, it featured a high-performance engine (originally LeaF’s own 2.5-litre, but its tooling had been binned) with ample air-feed to the radiator, all around Dunlop disc brakes, a novel collapsible steering column, rack and pinion steering, overdrive Moss four-speed ’box, and an exceptionally rigid chassis. Buyers though, were put off by the Ford engine. Remember, this was before Fords were widely accepted in the UK and instead, were regarded as being a bit cheap ’n’ cheerful and foreign…
This car on the Lea Francis Owners’ Club, chassis No.2 – the engine-less 1960 Earls Court Motor Show car – was bought from the Works (well, the receiver) partially dismantled by two brothers. They managed to obtain enough parts to get it running again, but by the time Keith Tricker obtained this car in 1971, it had been vandalised after a spell in a carpark. Sadly Keith could not afford the time nor the cost of restoration, but after 10 years of professional attention, the Lynx will be completed in 2013.
Delightfully quirky or aesthetic suicide? We’d have to go with the former.
1962 AHC Daimler
This unique Daimler SP250 ‘Dart’ was built by Hampshire company, Antony H Croucher, featuring a modified tail which accommodated two adults in the rear and the hard-top, via a manual mechanism, when its driver fancied some al fresco action.
Indeed, with the top stowed, it is said to resemble Jack Wickes’ original SP250 prototype due to its modified rear wings. A new rear bumper and MkI Mini lamps finished the masterpiece which has since been dubbed the ‘Fish Tank SP’.
As Autocar reported: ‘Although one could hardly describe this body as pretty, it does fulfil a definite need and appears to be functional’.
Sadly, they were wrong, as this is the only car built. Having said that, we do love its sheer barking bravery.
1970 Trident Clipper
Based on a TVR prototype – the 1965 Trident Coupé – which had been styled by Trevor Frost. However, TVR was in financial trouble so the project was passed onto one of TVR’s dealers, Bill Last, who established the Trident Car Company in the premises where he had built the Viking Minisport (a former Peel Mini-based special).
The Clipper featured a chassis which was very similar to that of the Austin Healey 3000, with the first cars being powered by a Ford 4.7-litre V8 (followed later by a Chrysler 5.4-litre). The big difference between the steel and alloy TVR and the Trident, was that the Clipper’s bodywork was made from GRP.
The prototype of the Clipper Convertible was unveiled at the 1966 Racing Car Show in Olympia, with the Clipper Coupé making its debut at the 1967 event. Supposedly capable of 0-60mph in five seconds and a top speed of 150mph, the cars were rather expensive at £1923 in kit form.
The company traded between 1966 and 1974, before being briefly resurrected in 1976. Although arguably, its styling influence lived on in TVR’s ‘Wedge’ series.
1952 Ferguson R4 Prototype
Underneath its homely Fifties’ British styling, Harry Ferguson’s R4 is a radical design which is genuinely light years ahead of its era.
Not only does it feature the Ferguson Formula 4WD system (stick that in your pipe Audi Quattro) which was used in everything from F1 (in the race-winning P99) to the Jensen Interceptor ‘FF’, it is powered by a 2.2-litre ‘boxer’, rides on all around independent suspension, packs Dunlop disc brakes on all four wheels and features the Maxaret anti-locking system.
It might have a body which looks like a cold lump of repressed porridge, but underneath lies the spirit of a visionary. Yet another wasted British opportunity, which can be found at the excellent Coventry Motor Museum.
Jensen C-V8 Concept
Unlikely as it may seem, the Jensen S-V8 owes its creation indirectly to Chrysler’s hot-rod tribute, the Plymouth Prowler. In 1996 Creative Manufacturing Systems, based in Redditch, had been subcontracted by Chrysler to produce the Prowler’s tooling, and buoyed by the success of this, the company was inspired to produce its own sports car.
Initially, the Healey name was considered for the project, but negotiations eventually fell through and thoughts turned to Jensen. However, this did not happen before the initial concept, which bore strong Healey design cues, had been designed by Howard Guy and Gary Doy. Dubbed Project Rio, the car was to be a traditional British sports car, a steel monocoque skinned with alloy panels, powered by GM’s 208hp X30XE V6; but following customer clinics and the demand for more power, the car was renamed Project Vulcan with the adoption of Ford’s Triton 4.6-litre V8 from the Mustang Cobra.
After stunning the crowds and creating much excitement at the 1998 British International Motorshow and at the 1999 Earls Court Motor Show, soon Jensen Motors Ltd had an order book brimming with well over 300 orders. A new factory in Speke, Liverpool had been established, the striking new C-V8 coupé concept – this car – had been unveiled at the 2000 British International Motor Show and the car was officially launched in summer 2001.
However, just as the plant reached break-even point of 3 cars per week, in mid 2002, the investors got cold feet; fed up with the continual financial demands they pulled out after just 23 S-V8s were built. The receivers were called in and the remaining cars and stock of parts sold to SV Automotive, some of which were later built into complete cars (approx eight to 10).
1967 WSM MGB
It was nice to see the WSM – or ‘Wuzzum’ MGB – at the NEC show, because it reminded us of the loss of founder Douglas Wilson-Spratt, a chap who earnt his reputation by racing and building rebodied (by Peel Coachworks) go-faster Sprites.
A typical ‘garagiste’ of the period, he had an engineering background and worked for the Bristol Aeroplane Company. Although noted for his Sprites – which resembled a baby Ferrari 250GTO – he did rebody other cars, including a one-off Jaguar XK150, MG 1100 and Austin Healey 3000. This MGB was the last of the original Wuzzums.
1967 Alvis Burns’ Special
Jim Burns was a designed and maker of electric guitars – for the likes of The Shadows and Eric Clapton – he was also an Alvis customer who came up with the idea of a Corvette V8-powered coupé.
Work began on redesigning the TD/TF with Jim Keeble (as in Gordon Keeble) in 1966, the aim being to make the car look more modern. The car was built on a new mildly-altered Alvis chassis and the TD body was taken to Williams & Pritchard, where the design was finalised by Tony Gibb. The notable differences are: a steeper rake to the windscreen, a shallower glasshouse and an Alfa Romeo inspired dashboard using dials left over from Gordon Keeble production. Final trim and paint was undertaken by Wood & Pickett with work being completed in 1967 – all of which brought the bill to £10,000.
Production wasn’t pursued because by the time the car was completed, Alvis had ceased car production in order to concentrate on building military vehicles.
1939 Aston Martin Atom
Claude Hill’s design is one of the reasons why David Brown bought the Aston Martin company.
Powered by Hill’s 2-litre ‘four’ (which would be replaced by Lagonda’s ‘six’ at Brown’s behest in future Aston Martins) the Atom may look gawky and ungainly, but the importance of this car is its chassis. It formed the basis of the Aston Martin DB2, DB2/4, DB2/4 MkII and DB MkIII.
1993 De Tomaso Guarà
Available as a coupé, spider or this – the highly unpractical barchetta – the Guarà was based on Carlo Gaino’s 1991 Maserati Barchetta stradale and is the last car launched by founder, Alejandro De Tomaso.
It features a composite body fitted to a tubular chassis and came with either a 4-litre BMW M60 B40 V8 (pre 1998) or the 4.6-litre Canadian Ford V8 (1998-2004).