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.)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Blast from the past... Albar Sonic

With the National Kit Car Show 2017 in Stoneleigh fast approaching and plans to film the first Episode of The Alternative Car Show from there I thought I'd post something from the golden age of kit cars.

Back in the 1970's the kit car industry mainly consisted of designs surviving from the 1960's, beach buggies, a few 1930 style roadsters and the lightweight Caterham Seven and its cheaper impersonators from the likes of Dutton with the B-Plus and Malaga, which merged to become the Phaeton. 

It was also an era when some pretty wild designs stood out like concept cars on the road. They may not have been as polished as the concepts from the Italian design houses, but stood out on the road even if their performance flattered to deceive with VW Beetles and Mini's providing the running gear for most of these weird and wonderful machines.

King of these exotics was the Nova designed by Richard Oaks which found it's way around the World in various guises and is till on sale in a much developed form as the Sterling in the USA, but that is a story for another day.

What set Alois Barmettler and his Albar company apart was that he didn't produce kits in the UK or USA but in Switzerland. This is a land of mystery so far as the car enthusiast is concerned and they have form when it comes to outrageous specialist designs with that other bastion of automotive madness Sbarro.

Albar started out as a VW specialist offering dune buggies and other performance off road kits and parts, but in 1978 he launched an attractive coupe design called the Jet, with styling cues giving a hint of Lamborghini Espada about it he had an entry into the exotic kit arena.

If the Jet wasn't exotic enough the company went all out concept crazy with their next product. Launched in 1982 the Sonic looked mid engined and was guaranteed to get the owner noticed. The front was a wedge with a flap in early examples in the middle flipped down to reveal a bank of headlamps while the rear

 featured light units from the Porsche 928. Exotic stuff! The VW running gear of early examples meant the wheels sat well within the wheel arches giving a strange top heavy aspect to the proportions. Yet no-one could deny 

that it was striking and it came to the UK via an importer alongside the Jet to an excited reception from the kit car press.

In time the spaceframe chassis became available with VW inline four cylinder engines or Renault 25 alternatives, but it never became the Countach rival the looks promised, although a fixed head coupe version became available as well to add year round practicality.

I have no idea, unfortunately, how many were produced or if any examples still survive. If there is at least one still out there the World is a better place for the addition of such a wonderfully wacky design bringing pleasure to anyone who claps eyes on it.

If anyone who reads this knows where there is one still on the road we;d love to hear from you in the comments below and we'll definitely come and film the car for The Alternative Car Show. In fact we want to hear from anyone with a unique car, be it a kit, custom or low volume car.

Meantime go onto Youtube and subscribe to our Enwin's Motors channel to see more cars that will surprise and delight you. Also check out www.patreon.com/Enwin where you can help be part of our adventure and get to see new features and programmes before anyone else as well as some extras as well.

There's more on Twitter @EnwinsMotors and Facebook and there will be lots of news including the most glamorous, gorgeous presenters joining us.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Enwin's Motors

First of all, apologies for neglecting my blog for way too long. There's a lot to catch up on.

Fist up I have created not one but two youtube channels, but work has begun on posting videos for the first, Enwin's Motors which focuses mainly on motoring and travel programmes.

The videos will be split into four main series. Enwin's Motors will focus on our cars. Updates on our motors and project cars.

We will also go on road trips and post videos on those, and a future blog will cover last years road trip to Sweden. There will be many more road trips to come for travel fans.

The other main new series will be The Alternative Car Show which will be as alternative as it sounds. Featuring specialist cars, low volume cars, kit cars, hot rods, and even the specialist cars from major manufacturers such as BMW's i3 and i8, Nissan's Leaf... well you get the picture. We'll also bring lifestyle features such as off-roading, green laning, track days... So all the fun stuff, basically. Also all the stuff the mainstream motoring programmes won't do.

Anyway, never mind me TELLING you about the programmes why not click on the link below.


In case you're wondering where the Alternative Car Show is we're filming the first episode at the Stoneleigh Kit Car Show on May 1st. We even have a super glamorous presenter coming and there's more... but we'll come back to that in a bit.

If you want to see the latest public episodes subscribe clicking the box below the videos saying... subscribe. Click on the like button too and leave a little comment and let us know what you think.

There is an even quicker way to see the videos first... but I'll come to that a little later...

Those wishing to keep up to date can like our new Facebook page https://m.facebook.com/EnwinsMotors where I'll also post the links to all the videos I post, as I will on the Twitter page @EnwinsMotors

We are going to fund all this using crowd funding. In order to invest in better cameras, presenters and to make more programmes we are relying on enough people to support us through www.patreon.com/Enwin and please click on the link and take a look.

There are three levels of support that people can offer, $1 a month, $3 a month or $10 a month. There are special rewards to thank our supporters. All patrons can see the videos a few weeks before they go public. $3 a month supporters get the above plus a few exclusive short features. $10 patrons get all that plus an occasional exclusive programme, which could be an extended version of The Alternative Car Show or a completely unique programme.

Every so often we will have an exclusive additional thank you. For example right now we have some Enwin's Motors pens for $3 patrons and Mugs plus pens for $10. First come first served while stocks last. Just leave a message on Facebook or Twitter to claim once you've made your pledge.

Plus we have an even more exclusive thank you for the first 5 patrons who say hi to me at Stoneleigh we'll have goody bags including a T-Shirt, pen and mug. First come first served, but you must complete your pledge before April 30th so I can take a list of patrons with me for verification.

Enjoy the programmes and please, please, please check out www.patreon.com/Enwin you really can make a massive difference and be part of something very special.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Long Time

I thought I ought to post something to prove I'm still alive.

Fear not dear friends, I have just been having computor problems, but I shall return with news and other wonders very shortly

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Book Update 2015

2015 promises to be a great year and an important one for me. Some of you may have noticed that my previous high output of books has tailed off a little bit of late. This isn’t anything to worry about. It is all part of the plan, and there are two very good reasons for the tail off.

I always intended to get a few different books out there to give new readers something else to come back to if they enjoy one of my books. It’s a little lighter on the comedy titles than intended, but these are the more complicated and difficult to write.

However, the plan was always to pause and concentrate for a while on marketing to get my books known. This isn’t just using social media, although you will have noticed more activity from me, but also by getting involved in book signings, for which I am also arranging merchandise, including these Eva T-Shirts.

So what about the books?

Religious Pursuits

My first title and dedicated to my little Emily, is Religious Pursuits. A comedy novel very much in the Tom Sharpe mould which tells the story of a village policeman who sees his world fall apart after an accident and the village change forever as incompetent detectives, the paparazzi and even the army descend upon them with hilarious results.

Wicked Perspectives (Red Edition and Black Edition)

This was my first erotic title, and the eagle eyed among you will notice that the two versions have different authors and slightly different prices. It IS the same book, but there are subtle differences inside. The black edition has links and samples from other erotic authors, as do all the I. T. Heurtze books. All my future self published erotic titles will be I.T Heurtze books by the way to differentiate my titles more.

Wicked Perspectives is a collection of erotic short stories based either on real events, or in the majority of cases story requests from girls about their fantasies. This book puts you in the role of the lead lady and you experience everything she does in delicious detail!

I am looking now at story ideas to start work on Volume Two, and if any of you are brave enough to tell me your fantasies you might find you influence the contents.

Ages of Sin

The clue is in the title, but again is an anthology of short stories focusing on the theme of age differences. Not just older guys with younger girls, but more imaginative and there is a cougar on the loose here too!

The Young Wife

This novella came about after a brief but very strange chat with a bloke on a chatroom when I couldn’t sleep and boredom had kicked in. What if the guy got what he was looking for? Well I make sure there are a few surprising twists along the way to keep you turning the pages.

Bollywood Nights

This is my first novella published by a publisher, and thanks to House of Erotica for having faith in me. Currently only available as an ebook, but if enough people say they want me to I shall get it released as a paperback in time for summer.

It is a completely made up story, but came after I promised my friend and real Bollywood Star Bhairavi Goswami a story set in India, and behind the scenes in Bollywood. Thus the book is dedicated to my gorgeous friend, and you should take time to check out her films and comedy sketches posted on her Youtube channel BhaGoTV.

Bollywood Nights tells the story of Prya a rising star in Bollywood and her adventures of a passionate nature after meeting a mysterious English man.

So that’s most of my books and you will find all the above except Bollywood Nights at my first book signing event of the year in March, The Orchard Book Club #PeterboroughAuthorEvent2015

You can find links to all my Neil Winnington books on my Twitter page @NeilWinnington or using the following link...


...and the I.T. Heurtze books on the following link...


Of course I will be taking some books, but if you want to ensure a copy of your favourite title let me know by pre-ordering using the link below…


To round things off, there will be announcements to follow about other book signing events I shall be attending. All to be confirmed, but the other reason I alluded to earlier for the reduction in output is that I am helping a very special lady called Amanda China to write her own first novella called Bruna.

It is a very steamy erotic story and I don’t need to give any plot away to convince you just how sexy this tale of a lustful Brazilian girl who uses men as disposable pleasure toys will be. Amanda isn’t disappointing, and she just sent this pic of Ipanema Beach which features in chapter two to give you a flavour of the locations.

So 2015 will be a major year and I hope to meet as many of you as possible at book signings in the coming couple of years or so.