BL Push Further into Conversions Market
It was a really hot summer morning as we conducted the editorial Lotus Seven ever further into the aromatic Berkshire countryside in search of the British Leyland venue for a day of even faster testing. Having rejoined the signposted method of approach we began to wonder why BL had suddenly decided to emphasise this side of the business. Undoubtedly they were helped in their decision by Ford’s announcement of selected AVO dealers, or was the choice of 36 BL Special Tuning dealers really a complete coincidence? The Special Tuning Department has co-existed alongside Comps for some time at Abingdon having a pretty good record, one would think, for selling what has been proven in action at a reasonable price.
When we arrived there were 14 converted cars to try, plus sundry other non-standard-looking saloons crammed into the forecourt of a genuine olde worlde public house. Most of the modified cars had simple bolt-on “goodies” added costing between £50 and £75, emphasising that there is a big portion of the D-I-Y customer in the performance field at present.
An RAC-signposted road circuit of just over 12 miles was used for journalists to try out the wares over both tight B-road bends and a decent length straight. As we had arrived in a Lotus we felt honour bound to keep up the sports-car feeling and our first choice for the day was an MG-B GT with experimental cloth-covered seating and Porsche orange-shade paintwork, coupled to the £81 10s. Stage 2 kit. The primary engine changes are the adoption of 1 3/4-in. choke SU carburetters and a modified cylinder head with compression ratio boosted up to 9.6:1. We also tried an open MG-B Automatic with the same parts fitted and were thoroughly impressed by both.
The manual car (with overdrive) seemed content to cruise above an indicated 100 m.p.h. with acceleration that fell only a little short of the racing-engined Midget we tested this month. Both cars were docile in their low speed manners, the automatic being a little slow away from a standing start but thereafter romping up to an indicated 120 m.p.h. in a very convincing manner. Overall these were two of the nicest converted cars I have driven this year, being good value and satisfactory performers, seemingly without the fuss normally found in converted cars.
Continuing the sporting theme we also tried that Midget, which sprayed petrol from the float chamber on this occasion, and a rather nasty Triumph Spitfire which seemed incapable of exceeding 90 m.p.h. on the speedometer even in modified form. The Spitfire can be made into very sporting transport, but for this demonstration someone had mistakenly allowed the car to go out on the standard wheels, tyres and suspension. As always, this means that any sudden change of plan in mid-corner is best forgotten; if circumstances dictate a quick change of direction or braking, then it is safest to apply corrective lock at the same time!
We drove a number of saloon cars, probably the most interesting being a rally-flavoured Maxi and a 1275 Mini Clubman GT with a 90 b.h.p. plus engine (similar to the one installed in the Midget, lacking merely the sports cars’ race camshaft).
The Maxi reinforced my views that with adequate, in this case 6-in., rims it is a car to be respected in all matters concerning fast country lane travel. The engine was to the same specification as the Maxi we tried for Motor Sport some months ago and our conclusions were much the same: from a competition viewpoint, slow but pretty sure with vast reserves of road-holding for the tarmac sections. The only thing that would worry me as a rally driver would be the thought, “will it fall over ?” After all, there has to be a limit of some sort!
The Mini was simply great fun with terrific low speed punch which stays up to 6,500 r.p.m. with ease. The brakes and handling were up to the performance and there was no doubt that it was the quickest car around the “circuit” on that day. The acceleration was even fiercer than one would have expected, partially because a 3.9:1 final drive ratio has been chosen to give 100 m.p.h. as the decibel threshold of pain.
We hear rumours that Crayford Automotive of Westerham in Kent are about to commence an official link with Alpina in Germany, the well-known BMW saloon car race preparation and conversion specialists. One of our staff has now tried the V8-powered Crayford Capri over a very short distance, but as all we can obtain from him in the way of comment is “super, I loved the car, etc.,” readers will still have to wait still longer for a road test. – J. W.