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.

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(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.)

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