Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Forgotten cars... Or do you know where there is one?

I have read about, written about or filmed cars since the early 1980's when I started reading car magazines instead of Marvel comics. It's funny how I'm watching Marvel films these days. Anyhoo, I love most things car related, but thanks to my Father who liked to drive something a little different where possible I have always been drawn to low volume cars, kit cars, or just the plain strange and unusual.

At some point I'll do a blog on the golden era for kit cars in the 1980's, which brought about an incredibly diverse mixture of models. Some were great, some less so, but these fibreglass bodied cars wouldn't just rot away, which leaves me wondering where they are now. Cut up and scrapped? Stripped for the running gear to restore a classic used for the donor? Or taken off the road needing some minor work doing, which never got done? The latter must be heartbreaking for a builder or their family if they can't finish the job. Maybe these owners would like to see their car find a new owner who would restore the car and bring it back to life?

That's what I thought I would do in a series of blogs where I mention some of the cars from the 1980's and 1990's to see if someone out there gets back with a comment to say they know where one still resides?

So to kick off in no particular order by talking to you about Moss Cars. John Copperthwait was a little genius of a guy who was around at just the right time to ride on the crest of the 1980's kit car boom. His first model, the Roadster, was very mildly influenced by the Morgan models and yet had a timeless beauty all of it's own, the GRP body sat on a Triumph Herald chassis prior to Moss offering a new chassis to give the option of Ford Escort running gear. A 2+2 version offering seats for small children in the back followed and was called the Malvern.

Moss then Came up with the Mamba, another attractive two seater with a 1950's mediteranean style, again sitting on a Herald or new Escort powered chassis.

Finally came the magnificently bonkers Monaco, which looked like a 1950's racer built from riveted oil barrels and sat on a Triumph Spitfire chassis, or the aforementioned Escort chassis. I can only applaud them for producing it and the hardy souls who bought them.

I've seen Roadsters, Malverns and Monaco's at Stoneleigh, but there used to be LOADS at car shows and I can't remember last time I saw a Mamba. Do you remember your grandad had an old kit car years back that still sits in his garage? Go and take a look and see if it has a Moss badge on the bonnet and leave a comment below.

So it wasn't a Moss eh?

What about a Nova? Not Vauxhall's asthmatic hatch, but the exotic looking kit car based on Volkswagen's asthmatic Beetle. Designed by Richard Oaks it pre-dated the Lotus Esprit and Lamborghini Countach, being launched in 1972.

The Nova stayed on the market well into the 1990's and still looks good now. With companies now offering Electric conversions and replacement mid-engined chassis, this could be the perfect time to dig out the old Nova and get it back on the road.

There were other exotic looking kits that flattered to deceive in the late 1970's and early 80's thanks to their VW Beetle underpinnings, the Avante, Eagle SS and Charger to name but three. The Eagle went on to get the option of a chassis to take Ford Cortina running gear. Unfortunately the roof on the SS tended to sag on early cars, so unless the roof was re-inforced by a rollbar so be wary of cars without the doors fitted. Chances are they won't close.

As an aside the Cimbria SS from the United States which sired the Eagle is still in production and the current custodian of the model recently took over the Sterling, which started out as a Nova produced under licence across the pond. Good news for both models and we hope to travel over to pay a visit when the planets align and we can put together a US trip.

I'll come back to cars we'd like to see back on the road. Meantime go and have a look at that unusual or exotic looking car Dad or Grandad built, or Bob down the road has in his garden. If you don't know what it is take a pic and post it on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/EnwinsMotors and unless you found something really left-field, I'll tell you what it is... Try and catch me out!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Stoneleigh Part 2... Episode 1 The Alternative Car Show

Here it is, at last, Episode 1 of The Alternative car Show from The National Kit Car Show at Stoneleigh 2017.

The programme brings a mix of the old, with not one but two very different Rochdale Olympics...
We also have the new, with this beautiful car and it's new sibling...
...and more besides.

All this is funded by crowd funding, so you can play a big part in helping to make this happen and in return we give a little extra to our supporters. All this you can find out by clicking on this link and pledge $1, $3 or $10+

$1 pledges get you to see new videos before we post the links publicly. Right now you can see
 Episode 2 of The Alternative Car Show presented by Charmaine Sinclair and featuring the new SSV Bug-R and Exile models by Lee Noble.

$3 pledges get extended and exclusive features. Right now there's an extended version of the Keith Hamer Rochdale Olympic Feature.

$10+ pledges will get completely new, exclusive programmes and there is already a Stoneleigh Extra programme waiting for you. We are already working on another exclusive show too.

So without further ado, here is the link you've been waiting for. Episode 1 of The Alternative Car Show. Click on this link and enjoy the show.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Enwin's Motors Update and Programme Guide... May 2017

Hello Peeps,
I know there are lots of you out there waiting to see The Alternative Car Show Episode 1 from Stoneleigh 2017 and Charmaine Sinclair making her channel debut in Episode 2, but there are already plenty of videos already waiting for you to discover.

So for this blog I thought I'd post all the links and a quick guide to what you'll see. Just click on the link to watch a video...

First, and needing least explanation is the link for the channel itself...
You'll find all the videos here.

Next is the other one that needs little explanation...
An Introduction to Enwin's Motors
Here I introduce the channel and the programmes we aim to provide.

Next is an introduction to our Quantum Saloon car for life experiment.
Complete with a guide to the difference between a car that handles well and one with just good mechanical grip...

Sweden Road Trip 2016 Part1...
Neil embarks on his epic journey only to discover a big problem en-route. Along the way we visit The Kitcar Collection and go for a ride in two fantastic cars...

Sweden Road Trip 2016 Part2...
My friends take us on a boat trip and we join a parade of cars.

Sweden Road Trip 2016 Part3...
A visitors guide to Vastervik.

Sweden Road Trip 2016 Part4...
The return journey home.

Two Quantum Convoy...
A little extra filmed on the way home

Tornado (McLaren) M6GT Replica
Another great memory from the Sweden Trip

Introducing our Jeep KJ Cherokee
Do I really need to explain this one?

Now the big news...
As you will have seen from the second link introducing the channel... What, you didn't watch it? Give me strength! ...we have been planning a new proper series like thingy which will include more professional presenter types. Episode 1 of The Alternative Car Show can be seen right now (at the time of writing...) by anyone who pledges support on www.patreon.com/Enwin as a thank you. Please click on the link because we cannot make as many programmes or invest in new equipment to make them better, without you guys helping us.

For those who like teasers, here's the one for Ep1...

...and now the very big news..!
Episode 2 has the beautiful Charmaine Sinclair join us, presenting this episode and coming back in future episodes too! It also has the new cars by Lee Noble, who created the Ultima, M10 and M12 among other gems!

Here's a teaser for Ep2...

Now the sad bit. We are all really keen to build this until every month there is a new episode of The Alternative Car Show, A new Enwin's Motors feature and a new Road Trip episode. That's the least we want to do, but as I write we only have 2 Patreon supporters, so it will be a real struggle to deal with the backlog of planned shoots we already have!

Charmaine Sinclair was utterly fantastic and really loved working on the show. I know she's eager to do more and her fans are eager to see her, but again we need to get more subscribers and patrons to help. There are other exciting presenters waiting too, so please tell friends about the channel and do please, please, please click on www.patreon.com/Enwin  and even pledging $1 a month will make a HUGE difference.

As a thank you all the new videos are available for our Patreon supporters before they go public, $3 Patrons will get extended versions of features, as well as some exclusive videos and $10 Patreon supporters will get exclusive programmes, like the Stoneleigh Extra show already there at the time of writing.

We thank you for sharing this journey with us and hope you enjoy the videos we post for you.

Further updates can be found on Twitter @EnwinsMotors
...and on Facebook https://m.facebook.com/EnwinsMotors/?ref=bookmarks

Monday, May 8, 2017

Stoneleigh Show 2017 Report 1

Stoneleigh 2017 was like returning to the good old days for me with filming of Episode 1 of The Alternative Car Show. It's now live for supporters www.patreon.com/Enwin to see now so if you can't wait to see it click on the link and follow the instructions to pledge $1, $3, or $10 or more. This is how we will pay for the programmes, but the full video will go public on Saturday 10th June and I'll post that link in a future blog.

Meantime here's a little teaser preview for those who want to get an idea what you're missing https://youtu.be/Eav6UuVAtJI

So what will you see in Episode 1? Well we take a look around The National Kit Car Show at Stoneleigh 2017. New cars (To us) include the Batho and Lee Noble returned with two great looking cars which we look forward to taking a closer look at. An old favourite, the Cox/GTM Coupe returned as the Hambly Coupe and again we hope to take a closer look.

Outside in the Owners clubs we find the heartbeat of the industry and Andy Heaton from the Quantum Owners Club spoke to us about a crisis emerging regarding under-valued cars being written off by insurance companies and those wishing to strip them from parts.

It's an important feature and something we will come back to.

We also look at not one, but two Rochdale Olympics...

...as well as a new body kit for the MX5.

We also take a look at some of the other cars there for the weekend.

On top of all that we have an extended version of the feature on Keith Hymers Rochdale for $3+ patreon supporters and a whole programme, Stoneleigh Plus for $10+ patreons. Again you can do this through www.patreon.com/Enwin

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Panther Solo

This is a story very close to my heart, having worked for Panther Cars and being trained as a car upholsterer while helping with development of the Solo 2.

The story begins a few years earlier though. Bob Jankel had started Panther Westwings after requests for some of his somewhat eccentric designs led to small scale production runs. Although the Panther 6 and J70 took the headlines, the most successful model by far was the Vauxhall based Lima 1930's style two-seater. This evolved into the Aluminium bodied Kallista, using more Ford components.

Around this time Korean industrialist Y. C. Kim bought the company and started work on a modern mid-engined  2-seater designed by Ken Greenwood who was head of vehicle design at The Royal College of Design.

With the Ford 1600 CVH engine mounted to a steel chassis and clothed in Greenley's beautiful body it looked set to be a popular alternative to the new Toyota MR2.

Both the press and public alike were enthusiastic, and it looked all set to be the beginning of a bright future for the company.

Yet at the last minute Y. C. Kim took a test drive in the rival Toyota MR2 and decided that little Panther with the Solo couldn't compete with the might of Toyota and it's excellent free revving sports car. Development of the Solo was halted.

Ken Greenley was asked to stretch the design into a bigger supercar. The theory being that the more expensive car would be more profitable per unit and secure the company's reputation alongside brands such as Lotus with it's Esprit.

Starting again at such a late stage would have expensive consequences. The press were impatient, wanting to have a date when production of the Solo would begin, So the company responded by taking a show car to let everyone see the new 2+2 layout to be powered by a longitudinally mid-mounted Cosworth turbo from the Ford Sierra.

This merely intensified pressure to bring the car to market and fatal mistakes were made as the costs mounted. Instead of simplifying the design from what was essentially a body buck on wheels the design of the bodywork evolved from this and an ever more complex multitude of panels morphed from the initial buck to the prototypes.

Exotic Kevlar was used for the main central tub atop a steel backbone floorpan to create an incredibly stiff structure. The running gear was further complicated by the decision to include four wheel drive from the Sierra Xr4x4 as well as the Cosworth engine, which was mounted to one side to accommodate the drivetrain.

Unfortunately for Panther the 4x4 system had not been mated to the turbocharged turbo engine by Ford and at great cost the small manufacturer was forced to develop the upgrade to allow the 4x4 system to cope.

Y. C. Kim sold a majority share in the company to Korean giant Ssangyong who were looking for a flagship brand to help build the image of their expanding car range.

The company moved to a new factory in Essex with only a handful of their previous production line employees making the move across from Surrey, so a whole new set of production workers needed training to produce the Kallista while a small team continued development of the Solo.

The press continued to push for a production date, management made promises, took deposits, before turning to the engineers and telling them to get on with it, rather than asking if it was possible first.

Ford, grateful for the development on their 4x4 system went on to use the system on the new Sierra Cosworth 4x4, while Panther struggled on with their complicated Supercar.

Eventually four prototypes were built, chassis number 3 was yellow, 4 red, 5 blue and 6 silver, if memory serves me right. Number 3 was the development hack which covered many miles, but word came back that the grip, ride and handling were exemplary. The work in wind tunnels resulted in an impressive 0.33 CD with positive downforce by now.

I remember being taken right up to the transporter in the red prototype upside down fitting an under dash carpet to the car after yet another 29 hour motor show shift. It was among the most rewarding times of my life though.

The red car, if I remember right was initially dogged by minor glitches, the swiveling headlights were one and other electrical maladies another time. The blue car fared a bit better and that is the car most of the written press drove, but Top Gear got the red car and Noel Edmonds was brought in to drive it taking exception to the offset driving position. He seemed less than impressed. The other press were a little kinder, although we at the factory knew these were little more than prototypes.

There was so much to like about the car, but just like the four cylinder Esprit comments were made about the even gruffer sounding Cosworth power plant not befitting a potential Ferrari rival. The 140mph top speed was not competitive either. The handling and ride were indeed praised but we all felt it needed another 12 months of development as well as a bigger engine.
(The middle pages from the Solo2 brochure)

The yellow prototype was modified back to 2 wheel drive, with a Rover V8 and everyone was raving about it who had driven the beasty. My only experiences were a couple of rides in the red prototype which will stay embedded in my memory to this day! I remember the incredible sense of solidity which is hard to explain unless you've experienced it.
(I still have a copy of this poster)

My part of the story ends here. I decided to leave Panther just as the first production cars were being put together. Only 12 Solos were built before the factory closed its doors. I would dearly love to drive one someday or better still own one by some miracle.

Ken Greenley was to go on to become head of design for Ssangyong, leading the team behind the Korando, Musso and other... classics. The importer once told me he tried to persuade them to import the cars using the Panther name. I'm relieved they didn't.

The Solo was reborn as an updated show car but disappeared among a lot of rhetoric from pundits about an overdue, under-developed car, non of whom could have an idea of the true story of that lost supercar.

Please check out out youtube channel where we bring you other rare and special cars https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYRT4HuKXl5eEtpyVq9IwpQ

Please subscribe and to see the videos before everyone else and help us produce these programmes for you support us on www.patreon.com/Enwin and follow us as well on Twitter @EnwinsMotors and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/EnwinsMotors/ too!

(All links on this blog are my own and safe to use. Photo's are lifted from the internet but can be removed if copyright is felt to be breached)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The First McLaren Road Car (and it's replicas)

Bruce McLaren wasn't just an incredible racing driver, but a great engineer in his own right and his name lives on in the McLaren race and road cars.

Many think the incredible McLaren F1 designed by Gordon Murray and built by the current regime was the first McLaren road car, but there was one way back that is incredibly beautiful and has inspired several magnificent replicas.

The original McLaren M6a was a racing car built by Bruce McLaren and his Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Team to replace the teams M1B's in the American Can Am series. In 1967 this Chevrolet powered machine brought the team their first of several Can Am series championships.

When the M6a was replaced by the M8a for the 1968 season, McLaren and technical partner Trojan developed the M6B as a customer car for other teams in Can Am and other racing series.

The M6 name resurfaced again as the M6GT, a closed-cockpit racing prototype for the Le Mans 24 Hours and other endurance races.

However, the homologation process for the FIA's Group 4 regulations wasn't completed and McLaren and Trojan were left with a handful of prototypes on their hands.

Two cars were converted to road cars, and one of those became Bruce McLaren's own personal transport.

There the story could have ended and the car slip into the annals of history as a forgotten nearly car, but in 1973 brothers Brad and Tim LoVette founded Manta Cars with the Mirage, which looked a little like the M6,but by the late 70's they brought the Montage to Market, which was a stunning M6GT replica.

It even became a TV star being used in the action series Hardcastle and McCormick, which drilled it into my youthful memory as it did for many others.

About 1000 Mirage and Montage kits were sold by 1986 when the company folded, but by then UVA in the UK had become an agent before continuing to develop their own version.

A composite monocoque centre tub with steel subframes front and rear and power provided by the classic Rover small block V8. While not matching the power and performance of the original McLaren M6 it certainly made the right noises and didn't shame it's inspiration. Inside was more luxurious with leather being adopted by most of the few builders who completed one before UVA too went out of business.

These were probably the closest replica to the McLaren original however and are now sought after classics in their own right.

Yet again though this wasn't the end of the story. Tornado, a kit car manufacturer from the UK brought out their own M6 look-alike. At first it bore little more than a passing resemblance to the original M6GT, but evolved gradually to look closer to it's inspiration.

Under the beautifully moulded bodywork is a spaceframe chassis with double wishbone suspension front and rear.

I was lucky enough to be taken for a ride in one by Bas from The Kit Car Collection in The Netherlands. Again powered by a Rover V8 producing in the region of 200 bhp driving through a Renault transaxle, just like the Lotus Esprit!

If you'd like to come for a ride in this lovely car click on this link

Do check out the other videos on the channel and to see the new videos first and help us to make more click on www.patreon.com/Enwin

(All pictures lifted from the internet are used with no knowledge of copyright and can be removed if requested. All links are my own and are placed here by myself)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Going off the Rails

The VW Beetle, designed in the 1930's produced since 1946 and a cult car since the 1960's has been the basis of many trends and forms of motorsport.

You could argue Porsche started it all off with the 356, but the Americans really diversified the potential first with the beach buggy, imitated around the World including various designs here in the UK.

Initially they were found to be great for what they were designed for, hooning around on beaches and in sand dunes, but it became clear that the lighter bodies enhanced the Beetles already impressive ability off road and racing in the deserts suddenly became a thing.

As well as the buggies, modified Beeltes with wild fibreglass bodywork, exposed engines and often boasting wild rear wings competed and took their name from the Baja desert on the Mexican border where they made their name. Again versions of these Baja bugs came to Europe, with companies such as Albar in Switzerland, and UVA in the UK among others selling their versions.

Motorsport being what it is the limitations in weight and innovation moving boundaries, led to the invention in America of sand rails. Replacing the Beetle floorpan completely with a steel tube frame incorporation a roll cage as part of the cage around the driver and trick suspension these lightweight wonders proved as adept in gloopy mud as they were in the desert, and again made their way around the World.

In the UK Kingfisher Kustoms were the first to bring a sand rail to market with their Kommando, but UVA soon followed in 1984 with their own interpretation the Fugitive 2 amid accusations from Kingfisher Kustoms of it being a direct rip off of their design.

Regardless the Fugitive seemed to be the winner in the sales war and a new short dirt track racing format developed where they could fight it out for honours, incorporating huge yumps where these crazy machines could get seriously airborn.

The fugitive proved to be UVA's most successful product and the company explored new variations to increase the appeal. First came an extended four-seater, the Fugitive 4. It didn't find the same number of buyers as the 2 but certainly opened the door for the variation I love and covet most...

Alan Arnold of UVA had already started importing the Manta Mirage McLaren M6 replica from the United States. The McLaren was a road going version of their incredible Can Am racers, and must have been an influence on the new Fugitive variant.

Taking the extended Fugitive 4 frame and dispensing with the rear seats, UVA reversed the gearbox to make a mid mounted engine layout. The frame was certainly strong enough to take more power, so they dropped in a Rover V8 cooled by side mounted radiators from a VW Golf and fed by side straked intakes reminiscent of the Ferrari Testerossa.

The first version kept the cycle wings and pointy nose of the rest of the Fugitive range, but that soon made way for a fully enclosed front end fitting perfectly with the name it was given The UVA F33 Can-Am!

With lowered suspension, pop up headlights and all pretence at off-road ability clearly absent, this was a road or race track machine and wonderfully, fantastically wall poster breathtaking! This is surely what the best kit cars are all about and fills the brief of producing cars no mainstream manufacturer could even contemplate.

Performance figures were a claimed 150mph top speed and 0-60 in the 4 second bracket. It's impossible to verify, but the light weight and shape screamed speed and they must have been very rapid indeed!

Sales figures are unknown, but if anyone out there knows an owner get in touch, we would love to film a feature for The Alternative Car Show. Leave a message below and we'll set something up.

Please do check out Enwin's Motors to see our videos and if you want to see videos first and be a big part of helping us make these programmes possible please check out www.patreon.com/Enwin

(All photo's in this blog are lifted from the internet without any intention of harming copyright. If you own the rights to any pictures used and want them removed we will be happy to do so.)