Monday, December 8, 2014

Living with a Quantum Saloon Part One

Back at the end of the last Millennium (come on... It wasn't THAT long ago!) I produced the Worlds first TV series dedicated to kit cars or custom cars, pre-dating The Cars the Star by a year, and we're STILL the only magazine show to drive and review them.

The kit car market has been squeezed from its diverse heights in the 1980's back to it's strongest sales areas of track day cars and replicas as the major manufacturers have entered more and more niches. So what has become of the practical alternatives the industry used to offer up?

Recently I decided to look at how some of the cars we covered have held up in second hand values, and was shocked when I visited the Quantum Owners Club website to find how cheap the Saloons have become.

Before I go on, you can see our report on the car in part two of this episode (and all the Kits 'n' Cruisin episodes can be found on the Men and Motors youtube channel)

To put this in perspective, Quantum were (and are) at the zenith of the high quality kits lifting the industry reputation and designed with real engineering flair. The saloon was a composite monocoque, essentially replacing the bodyshell of a Mk2 Ford Fiesta with a more stylish and stronger shell that wouldn't rust.

Most saloons benefitted from XR2 running gear, making them quicker than their donors, and a combination of lighter weight and subtle changes to the suspension geometry meant better handling too, while losing none of the practicality of the donor car... In fact the interior re-used the dashboard, seats and door panels from the Fiesta, so you were essentially sitting in a production car interior.

The saloon body added even more strength as well as a bigger boot, so if anything a Quantum is even more practical than the donor Fiesta.

It's aged well too! Look at the car in these photo's... Does it look 19 years old? Most people I have asked in a non scientific straw pole also thought it is worth £5000, £6000 or £7000 yet this engineer built example, with a factory fitted sunroof and interior was for sale on the Quantum Owners Club website for £1,200!

At the same time Robin Hoods, Dutton Pheatons and other two seaters, which don't match the Quantum for quality are selling for £3-5000 because people are looking to kits for track day use, and ignoring the more practical designs.

I was so shocked I told my Father, cursing my luck for not having the funds to buy the car before it probably gets sold, but he too thought it was ridiculously cheap and decided to buy it for himself.

It was always our intention to do running reports on the kits we were building as the series went on, but it wasn't to be, so this I suppose is my chance to put that right, and we really are putting our money where our mouths are... or at least the old fella is.... For now, I am an interested if slightly guilty bystander.

The club put us in touch with the owners son, who was very concerned about finding the right owner for the car. Once satisfied with my Kits 'n' Cruisin credentials, he put me in touch with his father and I in turn introduced my father and they arranged a test drive.

It was then that Alan, who built this excellent example explained that recently some younger car "enthusiasts" had started buying these rare kit cars to scrap them and use the mechanicles to restore Fiestas!!! I commented along the lines of they probably go into art galleries with Stanley knives too!

He also seemed relieved that we genuinely loved the car, and the deal was done, and today I went back to collect the car for the old man.

First impressions back up my memories of the car. These things are much stronger than most steel monocoque cars due to their composite construction (70% stiffer per KG than steel) and you can feel that rigidity on the road. It's hard to explain, but you just feel it.

The CVH engine, which was always a gruff little engine growls through a sports exhaust, and compared to a modern hatch with so much sound deadening material you can barely hear anything you do realise you're in a car from another era. The same applies to the gearbox and non assisted steering, but I prefer the latter anyway because this car really does communicate through the helm like no modern hatch does.

You can still hold a conversation inside, and if you wanted you could always fit sound deadening material yourself. I like the car as it is personally.

It feels completely stable in cross winds, and trucks fail to blow this featherweight off line too, so you really could enjoy a long run, although adults would feel a bit claustrophobic in the back.

I was under strict instructions from owners old and new to take it easy as the car had not been run much recently, so I really did take it easy, and stuck to motorways. I rarely ventured past 65 miles an hour except to overtake fueding artic's, and I noticed the car came together and settled down even more around 70-ish. As time goes on I could comment more, but all the signs are good for this rust free classic kit to last another 19+ years with us!

So every so often I will post an update on living with the Quantum, to show that there really is no reason why it wouldn't make a good alternative to a family wanting a strong, safe and distinctive car. I have also asked Alan, who built the car to write a guest blog on what it had been like living with it for the first 19 years.

Watch this space and you never know there may be more announcements to come... The number of looks the car got driving back... IF I put my Amazon author page on the side.... Hmmm I need to think carefully how I could sell that idea to the old fella haha!

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