A Day With Downtons

Towards the end of November last year we were able to visit the Automotive Products Group’s splendid Shenington test track near Banbury to try some of the recently announced Downton Stage conversions to front-wheel-drive B.M.C. cars. The whole day was most enjoyable, albeit a little confusing for there were 14 Stage 1 and nine standard cars, with and without automatic transmission. In addition B.M.C.’s Special Tuning Department had on hand Group 6 and Group 2 Austin 1800s and a Group 2 Mini-Cooper S, all developed with rallying in mind.

The conversions use in the main standard parts which have been produced in conjunction with Downton, the well-known West Country tuning firm. The heads are prepared to give better combustion charge and the compression ratio is raised to 9¼ to 1. They are then sent to the Special Tuning Department, who supply them to the distributors and dealers when customers place their orders. The fitting is carried out by the distributors and dealers.

At present these kits, which—most important—carry the full B.M.C. Warranty, are available for the 850-c.c. Mini, the 1100 and 1800 models, although in due course kits for the 1,000-c.c. Mini and 1300 model will also be available. B.M.C. say that there is a general increase in power of between 16 and 21 per cent., depending upon the model concerned. One car that was particularly impressive at Shenington was the manual gearbox 1300, so much so that we immediately put our names down for a short road test.

The respective prices for the models available, with their part numbers, are as follows: 850 c.c. (C-AJJ 3343), £44; 1,000 c.c. (C-AJJ 3342), £56; 1,800 c.c. (C-AJJ 3141), £66. The conversions not only include the work done to the cylinder heads but also include fitting appropriate springs, valves, gaskets, etc., and new manifolds and exhaust systems, depending on the model chosen.