On the Clan Crusader and Mazda 818 Coupe

Road Impressions

Clan Crusader

Forming a new company to build Imp-based sports cars in the present climate ot increased motor vehicle legislation and the coming of Value Added Tax would seem to be a foolhardy venture. But Clan Motor Company’s Managing Director Paul Haussaner had rather better credentials for doing so than the majority of under-capitalised optimists who try to break into motor manufacturing. Now, twelve months later. Clan are certainly accepted amongst the Gilberns, Ginettas and TVRs and are already showing every sign that they will be leaving these types of rivals far behind in the near future. There is one very good reason for this, their only model—the Clan Crusader—is a motor car of enormous appeal and one which we thoroughly enjoyed testing after a rather long wait to get our hands on it.

Paul Haussauer at 30 has packed a fair amount into his life before turning car constructor. In the past is a degree at Oxford in Engineering Sciences, gained during an apprenticeship with General Electric, a period with a plastics firm and then a move to Lotus where he started on the shop floor at Cheshunt, soon progressed to the drawing office, and later became Assistant Projects Engineer working on the yet to be announced Lotus four-seater. In January 1970 he left Lotus to go it alone and with the aid of his Swiss lather, who had the right contacts, started to put together the idea of the Clan Crusader. Working out of a small hut in Norwich. a far cry from the present modern and spacious factory in Washington, County Durham, the idea of an all-glassfibre GT car. using mainly Imp engines and parts, was formulated. He soon had a band of helpers around bins including some ex-Lotus personnel.

The idea of an all-glassfibre monocoque was borrowed from the Lotus Elite although that classic car had a total of 57 moulds to make up the shell and the Clan, thanks to modern techniques. has only two. The styling was by John Frayling and the angular shape, with its prominent headlights, attracts plenty of attention. Personally 1 find it attractive in an ugly duckling sort of way. One of the philosophies of the Clan Crusader was that, while it would sell to the enthusiast, it was also aimed at the second-car market, for the young wife or similar. Thus the Crusader had to have a quality and reliability about it that rivals— and one obviously thinks of the Ginetta G15 – did not have. With specification similar to a G15, but a much higher price tag, it needed to offer a good deal more in comfort, and finish.

Our recent test with the car would indicate this to be so. One is immediately impressed with the glassfibre finish of the car, not a ripple in sight, and 14 coats of paint help to add quality too. Inside this little two-seater there is plenty of room and the tiny 13-in. dia. steering wheel comes easily to hand. There is a full complement of instruments and the test. car also had a radio which worked no better than one would have expected it to in an all glassfibre car. An Imp gear-change which works well falls easily to hand, and grouped around it are a number of ancillary switches and the choke which hides in its own little cubby-hole. The trim is of a good standard ffir this kind of car. One complaint, however, was the fact that the windows would wind down easily enough but presented a major challenge when they needed winding up again! The seats were a minus mark too, being rather skimpy and tend to creak, particularly when the car was being cornered fast.

The car is a joy to drive on the road for its road-holding is right in the Lotus Elan category and inspires confidence in doing so. Apparently, when it does let go, it does so extremely quickly and one finds oneself quickly facing the opposite direction; according to a gentleman rather braver than myself who had good knowledge of these cars. But even the more sporting motorist is unlikely to reach this absolute limit. Take it as read that you will be amazed when exploring the ultimate limits of the road-holding. The springing is relatively soft, which helps the ride considerably although it means that Clan does roll a little but, due to its low height and centre of gravity, this is hardly noticeable. The steering is not particularly light but once one has the hang of its directness through the little wheel, it shows itself to be ideal. In side winds on the Motorway one does find that one has to work rather hard with the wheel to keep the little car pointing in a straight line.

The braking is by an Imp-derived servo-assisted all drum brake system, rather unusual in this day and age, but certainly the brakes do their job very well, stopping the car Squarely and efficiently. Personally I did feel that they lacked a little hit of bite but they were possibly out of adjustment. The handbrake is very efficient too.

The Clan Crusader is undoubtedly one of the lightest cars offered to the British public, tipping the scales at 11.1/2 cwt. (wet) and this certainly helps the performance which, for an 875-c.c. car, is phenomenal. It will accelerate from 0-60 m.p.h. in under 13 sec. and reaches 80 m.p.h. in 25 sec. (about 12 sec. faster than the Imp Sport). Top speed is just about 100 m.p.h. but by then the little engine is throbbing away like mad and the rev.counter is well into the red, which starts at 6,000 r. p.m.

Traction is undoubtedly one of the little car’s good points for it is almost impossible to spin the back wheels even with the fiercest drop of the clutch. In the wet it is amusing to scorch off the line leaving Jaguar XJ6s and the like struggling for grip. The test car was fitted with the optional 5-in, aluminium wheels from Cosmic which are certainly worthwhile at an additional £50 and Goodyear G800 tyres.

Obviously the Clan has a great deal of competition potential and just to prove that the Crusader is robust (it has already passed the MIRA crash tests with flying colours), a works-hacked car has been driven on several rallies by rising rallyman Andy Dawson who formerly did well in Imps. In its debut on the Manx Rally, Dawson finished second and subsequently has logged up more success while a second rallying Clan is winning lesser events. It looks as if the Clan could he Britain’s answer to the Alpine-Renaults. Racing versions will also be Seen next year in the Modsports category, where they should give Ginetta something to think about in the up-to-1,150-c.c. class, at present, dominated by the Suffolk firm. Clan have a separate competitions and development department run by Haussauer’s brother-in-law Arthur Birchall, a former chief mechanic with Lotus’ successful Indianapolis team and a person who knows motoring sport backwards.

Obviously it would be nice to see a Clan with some more power and probably a 998-c.c. Imp-engined option will be offered in the near future, which would make the car even more attractive to the enthusiast than it is at present. In a very short length of time Clan have built up an extremely healthy reputation and are selling through their distributors all the cars they can make, which at present is about seven a week.

The Clan is a little pricey at £1,396 but running costs are extremely low for it will return a fuel consumption in the region of 40 miles per gallon driven normally and even better if driven with a light foot, while maintenance hills should be also low.—A.R.M.