Monday, July 17, 2017

Forgotten Cars... Part 2

Carrying on from my last blog let's go back to the 1980's to the golden era of kit cars when you could find every conceivable kind of car you could imagine in kit form... No?

Well actually you could, not only find niche vehicles we think are modern, but in fact cars that pre-dated cars we now think are recent inventions.

How about this little beauty? A smart replica? No, this is the Alto Duo and it pre-dated the Smart by about 10 years. It's based on the classic mini, so spares will always be easy to find. It never set the world alight and only sold in very low numbers. You look at it and think how with hindsight it was so ahead of it's time, but the reality is that it came too soon. If you know where there is one of these rare city cars there are mini enthusiasts who would love to know...

How about an MPV? they came and went as the next big thing for families, but back in the 1970's William Towns, designer of the original Aston Martin V8 Vantage and Lagonda wedge saloon, came up with the idea for a new kind of luxury car, with lots of glass, space and looks way ahead of it's time.

He took the idea to Jensen first, but having financial difficulties themselves they decided to let the design pass. Not one to give up easily he modified his design to use Mini components, then Austin 1100/1300, then Mini Metro components.

With an upper frame mounted on a lower frame designed to take the subframes from the donor it proved versatile, with six wheeled versions, and even a wood version in plan form. Unfortunately William was a great designer, but you needed to be a bit of an engineer to build the kit. Nowadays any on the road would make one hell of an advertising tool for a small business.

Oh and if you really do want that family saloon how about a Ginetta? The G26 looks a little like a Lotus Excel from the front, had a galvanised steel chassis and affordable Cortina running gear. It has a GRP body and room inside (just) for 4. There was a squarer version called the G28 to make room for V6 engines, a shorter coupe version called the G31 and yet another version matching the square snout with the coupe rear.

Ford Fiesta Mk2 doors were used intact, which meant all the benefits of wind up windows, and a solid thunk, but on the flipside the one part of the package prone to rust. Ginetta is a well known brand with a rich racing history, but the G26 is still good value for money if you can find one. The family Ginetta's never hold their value as well, even though they offer more practicality than the company's more popular 2-seaters.

If you know where any of the cars above lie unloved in a barn, garage or field leave a comment below. I'm certain there are collectors who would love to restore them...

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