What are the small firms doing? (Part 2)
Continuing our survey into the activities of some of Britain's smaller motor manufacturers. This month we deal with Deep Sanderson, Ginetta and Marcos.
Last year (September 1962 issue) we carried out a road test on the Ginetta G4 and found this little space-framed car to be very much to our liking, having Lotus Seven handling and acceleration together with a pretty full-width, weatherproof, glass-fibre body which makes it a better proposition than the Lotus for every-day motoring. That this complimentary report had had a beneficial effect on sales was evident when we recently re-visited the works of Ginetta Cars in the pleasant Essex town of Witham, near Chelmsford, for the workshops were full of cars in all stages of preparation, and in fact over 70 cars have left Witham, bound for all parts of the country.
The design of the Ginetta has not altered in its basic concept, retaining its multi-tubular frame with low side rails, wishbones and coil spring front suspension, and rigid rear axle located by trailing arms and an "A" bracket. However, various details have been cleaned up over the months to improve the car. The most important change has been to replace the Ford rear axle with the B.M.C. unit which is some 40 lb. lighter and has a far wider range of final drive ratios. This has enabled different spring rates to be used, resulting in a much improved ride. The facia panel has been modified slightly and A.C. instruments are now used instead of Smiths, which were previously used. The detachable rear body panel has recently been re-designed, deleting the Lotus XI-like tail fins which serve no practical purpose, giving the car a sleeker tail. The opportunity has also been taken to improve the boot capacity so that the luggage of the two occupants can be stowed in safety, although the fuel filler cap is still inside the boot.
When we tried the car the 1 1/2-litre five-main-bearing Classic engine had only just been announced but now it is available for the Ginetta and is being chosen by quite a large proportion of buyers as it costs little more than the 105E engine and endows the car with a "long-legged" stride without employing tuning aids. Although the drum brakes have proved to be perfectly satisfactory front wheel discs are now available and can be incorporated into the specification at very little extra cost. This will be appreciated by owners who are entering competition. Several Ginetta owners have purchased cars with a view to taking part in racing and some of them have been supplied with thinner bodyshells although this is slightly frowned on by the Walklett brothers as the shell can easily be damaged if someone sits on it!
One car is being fitted with a 1 1/2-litre Ford engine as a works experimental car which also incorporates one or two other modifications. On the front suspension, to reduce weight slightly, the long leading arm of the top wishbone has been shortened considerably, its mounting point being transferred to another frame tube which has enabled several tubes to be deleted. The coil spring has also been lengthened to give improved spring rates but it is not expected that this layout will be used on production cars as the front end of the car would not be so strong under impact.
A 1 1/2-litre version of the standard car is being sent to an American who has never even seen a Ginetta! This one will be used for racing and as under American rules it has to have an roll-over bar this has been incorporated by cutting holes in the top of the rear body panel and bolting it to a plate inserted into the frame tubes.
Development work is continuing rapidly at Witham and Ivor Walklett who is mainly responsible for suspension design has come up with an independent rear suspension layout which will be fitted to another chassis for testing purposes. The layout has been designed so that it can be incorporated into the existing chassis without too much alteration and is of very ingenious double wishbone design. The hub carrier is fabricated from steel and the upper wishbone is offset so that the coil spring can be fitted into the layout as compactly as possible. The lower wishbone has three arms, two of them acting as normal wishbones with single inboard mounting point and the other giving a wide base to take braking and torque stresses. The suspension is fully adjustable for camber and toe-in. The disc brakes will be inboard mounted alongside the final drive unit and the drive shafts have double universal joints, the outboard ones being constant velocity joints.
This development looks promising but for homologation purposes the car will be standardised for competition purposes with the 105E engine and rigid axle, in which form the majority of cars have been produced by this small factory.
Ginetta do much of their own engine development including such items as camshafts and the modification of crankshaft main bearing caps as well as the more normal cylinder head and carburation work. Without a dynamometer it is difficult to tell what is being attained but a customer who is racing a Ginetta with a works modified engine is doing well enough to justify the belief that something over 75 b.h.p. is being achieved; and at a cost which would make a Cosworth customer envious!
Once again we were tremendously impressed with the careful work which goes into the making of a Ginetta, the standard of workmanship being of a very high order while the finished cars standing in the workshop would do credit to any manufacturer. A lot more will be heard of Ginetta in the years to come.
Details are available from Ginetta Cars Ltd., Witham, Essex.
Started by Frank Costin and Jem Marsh, from whose surnames the name of the car is derived, the all wooden Marcos has survived those terrible jokes such as "It's not rust you worry about with the Marcos but woodworm (or warping or dry-rot depending on your sense of humour)" and in the competition sphere has made its mark in no uncertain manner. Having designed and developed the car Frank Costin departed, leaving Marsh to carry on alone. Recently he has been joined by Commander Cavendish as a director and on the design side he has acquired the services of two brothers, Dennis and Peter Adams. Even more recently the company has acquired premises in the very pretty Wiltshire town of Bradford-on-Avon in a large factory which was previously used by Royal Enfield for the assembly of motorcycle engines.
The first Marcos was frankly an ugly car with its V-windscreen, cycle-type mudguards and gull wing doors. Improvements over the years have made the car better looking but not until the introduction of the latest Spyder model could the car be called attractive. Now, many people liken it to a smaller edition of the E-type Jaguar; at the moment the designers are not sure whether to be flattered or annoyed about this.
Marcos occupy three of the four available floors at present, the lower floor being used for the final assembly, trimming and painting of near-complete cars, the first-floor for all glass-fibre work and the second floor for the assembly of the chassis/body unit. Marcos occupy another building close by on the bank of the River Avon which is used for the manufacture of Catamarans, a contract which Commander Cavendish, being an ex-Naval man, looks after, although he professes to have much more interest in motor cars, being the owner at present of a supercharged Jensen, an E-type Jaguar and several pre-war Mercedes.
Marcos are still having to overcome a large degree of sales resistance to the idea of a wooden car and it has so far only sold in any quantity to the racing community who revel in its light weight and excellent handling properties, which makes it a formidable proposition in any company. The car has won the Autosport Trophy two years running as well as the team prize in this Championship and in the hands of John Sutton and Steve Minoprio has won many races outright, Minoprio holding seven lap records in the 1,000 c.c. G.T. class last season, while at the Brands Hatch Boxing Day meeting Tommy Webber lapped the short circuit in exactly a minute before crashing. Jem Marsh feels that this crash resulted in bad publicity for Marcos as several pictures were published, showing the car in various stages of disintegration. He pointed out to us that this particular car was undoubtedly repaired much more cheaply than a conventional metal car would have been in similar circumstances mainly because the wooden structure does not bend and crumple in a crash but breaks up in the area of the impact and does not transmit the shock right through the car. Therefore all that was needed was to glue (literally) a new front box section on and the car was as good as new. Several other cars have been involved in road accidents and have been repaired equally simply. One can imagine the surprise of a country Bobby on seeing a crashed car which is full of splinters rather than bent metal!
The Marcos chassis/body unit is built up on a low mounted table which is set absolutely level. On this table is laid the plywood undertray on which is marked out the positions for the various uprights. The majority of these are set at the vertical angle so it is merely necessary to check that they are at 90 deg. to the base plate. With the low mechanical strength of plywood, especially along the grain, it is necessary to have a quite complicated structure with very deep side boxes, similar to those used on the Lotus 25 monocoque car. The chassis is built up quickly by gluing parts together with "Aerolight" glue, the process being assisted by stapling joints together to ensure that the glue is in full contact all along the joint. There are several curved panels in the chassis but Marcos have found that the ply can be formed to shape easily either in a jig or in situ without recourse to steaming. Modifications have been made recently to stiffen the chassis even more at the front while it has been widened slightly to enable two identical foot boxes to be incorporated so that cars can be built up with left-or right-hand drive as desired, as well as giving the passenger more leg room. The facia panel is symmetrical, with a glove locker at each end so that no change is required for different steering layouts.
Originally the plywood chassis unit was also designed to form part of the body but it was discovered that with normal cellulosing the grain of the ply would begin to show through after a year or so and although this problem could be overcome with the use of a special and rather expensive paint it was felt desirable to make as much of the body as possible from glass-fibre. Therefore the complete bonnet section which hinges at the front is made of glass-fibre as is the rear body section complete with boot lid which fits snugly over the plywood chassis and is not stressed in any way. The gull wing model has now been discontinued due to various problems connected with the hinges and sealing against the weather and the car is now available in open form with a hood or with a new hard-top which looks very attractive. Both the hard-top and the small doors are made from glass-fibre. Marcos have developed a technique in which the primer coat is sprayed into the mould before the gell coat so that glass-fibre parts come out of the mould fully primed, ready for spraying.
Mechanically the Marcos uses a large proportion of Standard/Triumph parts. The front suspension utilises absolutely standard Herald wishbones, coil springs, brakes, rack and pinion and anti-roll bar. These are mounted on a triangular tubular steel frame which carries brackets to mate up with the normal Herald pick-up points. To avoid local stresses this frame is tied to the frame on the other side of the car by a steel tube. The rear suspension uses the Standard 10 axle with a 4.1:1 ratio, to which is welded large box section carriers at each end which provide mounting points for the coil spring/damper units and the long leading radius arms. At the chassis end they are mounted in the plywood hull with large rubber bushes. A full width Panhard rod takes care of lateral movement.
The car is homologated with the 105E Ford engine and drum brakes so that the purchaser who requires the car for National or International competition would have to have it in this form. With the 105E engine fitted with twin 1 1/2 in. S.U. carburetters a kit of parts costs £750 for the open version including the hood or £799 for the G. T. version with the hard-top. This kit comes in a form which enables it to be completed very quickly and many people have done the job in a couple of days. The interior is very lavishly trimmed, in fact this aspect of the car is better than many production cars.
For the owner who is not interested in competition work or who requires the car only for Club use a set of disc brakes is included at no extra charge and alternative axle ratios cost £8 10s. each, close ratio gears £35 per set, light alloy oil cooler with nylon piping, £10 10s., Wooler remote control £9.2s. 6d., 5-speed Hewland gearbox £120, and so on. The 1 1/2-litre Ford engine fitted with twin S.U. carburetters on a special manifold costs an extra £35, or tuned to give 100 b.h.p. by Cosworth a further £150.
At the time of our visit the works car was being prepared for the Easter Monday Goodwood meeting to be driven by Tommy Weber. This has been carefully prepared in every way, having the Hewland 5-speed gearbox (on which the rules permit only the top four to be used!) with lightened bell housing, large finned drum brakes and a Cosworth 105E engine giving 85 b.h.p. This new car should certainly uphold the tradition of the Marcos as a "Lotus Elite eater."
Independent rear suspension has been designed and tested but Marcos are loath to change over, for their rigid axle is well located and on the smooth tracks of Britain is well able to hold its own with all-independently sprung cars and Dennis Adams would prefer not to change from a good rigid axle layout to an inferior independent suspension as so many other firms have done.
Of future developments little can be disclosed at present but there is no intention of abandoning wooden construction and the next model from Marcos will undoubtedly utilise laminated plywood for its chassis unit, and having seen something of this new model we can say that it should make a sensational debut. However it will not replace the present model, a road test report of which will appear in a future issue. Details of the Marcos are available from Marcos Cars Ltd., Greenland Hills, Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts.
Chris Lawrence, who is the proprietor of Lawrencetune Engines Ltd., has been connected with the speed equipment business for a number of years and after racing various different cars first came into prominence when he began tuning and racing Morgan cars. This was so successful that the Morgan Company asked him to tune Triumph engines for their Super Sports model and he still produces this engine in fair quantities. The latest project in this field is a new cylinder head which has inclined overhead valves in hemispherical combustion chambers operated by modified pushrods from the normal camshaft. He hopes to obtain power outputs up to 150 b.h.p. with this cylinder head.
When Formula Junior came into operation he designed the Deep Sanderson car based largely on VW parts but it had little success against the lightweight Lotus and the project was abandoned. Development of conversions for Ford, B.M.C. and Rootes cars took up a great deal of time but in 1961 the Deep Sanderson sports car was announced. This odd-looking machine had a Mini engine mounted at the rear and was not received very enthusiastically but it was raced by Lawrence and Len Bridge who works for him and a good deal was learned, especially during the Nurburgring 1,000-kilometre race. With suitable strengthening this chassis was utilised for the coupé version which was announced at the Racing Car Show this year and which attracted much favourable comment on its attractive shape.
The basis of the chassis of the Deep Sanderson is a large diameter steel tube running down the centre of the car to which is welded box section structures at each end for the mounting of the running gear and engine. A flat aluminium undertray is fitted, being supported by a light tubular steel frame. The front suspension is called Lawrence Link, each side comprising two fabricated steel arms trailing from the front box section member into which are incorporated the normal Mini wheels unit except that special screwed-in king posts are required. Coil spring/damper units are mounted on the lower arm of the suspension, the damper being of Koni manufacturer. The rear suspension uses single arms trailing from the rear box section which are located laterally by swinging links. Springing is by a Mini-type rubber cone which is located in a recess in the box section. A small threaded arm on the end of the trailing arm operates against the rubber spring and is easily altered to adjust the riding height of the car. Koni shock-absorbers are fitted towards the rear of the trailing arm.
At the moment normal Mini wheels and brakes are being used but a magnesium wheel with cast-in brake drum will shortly be available to reduce unsprung weight. The engine of the car will be the Mini-Cooper in standard form except for the fitting of a single 42DCOE8 Weber carburetter on a suitable manifold. The petrol tank is mounted under the bonnet along with the spare wheel, and a Bendix electric fuel pump is standard equipment, as is an oil cooler. Naturally various other engine conversions are available to order.
The body of the prototype was carried out in aluminium but a mould is being taken from this by Microplas of Mitcham and production bodies will be made from glass-fibre. The solution to the problem of access to the rear engine has been solved by splitting the body behind the seats and hinging it from the rear so that it tilts back to reveal the complete rear end. Glass-fibre panels are bonded into the rear section to help deaden engine noise and to form useful luggage space. There is little luggage space in the front boot, although it is claimed that a total of 3 cu. ft. of luggage space is available in the car. An interesting innovation on production cars is the introduction of hydraulic operation for the gear lever which, it is claimed, dispenses with the uncertainties and complexities of the necessary long linkage to the gearbox.
Orders have been received for a number of Deep Sanderson coupés which has created a problem as the small works at Acton is already overcrowded with work on tuning and consequently the Deep Sandersons will be assembled at Staines, when bodies become available. Chris Lawrence has also purchased most of the remaining stocks of Peerless and Warwick cars and will assemble as many cars as possible under the supervision of ex-Peerless mechanic John Pearce, who is the proud owner of a Buick V8 engine which he hopes to install in a Peerless chassis. Another interesting project in which Lawrencetune are involved is the construction of a hill-climb car for Reg Phillips who built the Fairley Special. This car features a simple multi-tubular frame with a Mini-Cooper engine at each end! The front engine is mounted in a normal Mini sub-frame complete with standard suspension and drive components while the rear engine is mounted in the frame with similar trailing arm suspension to the Deep Sanderson coupé. The hydraulic gear-change is used in conjuction with normal Mini-Cooper gearboxes. Daniel Richmond of Downton has attended to the engines which give 100 b.h.p. each in 1,200 c.c. form. The seat is in the upright style favoured by Phillips which, combined with the height of the engines and the tiny wheels, will make this a peculiar looking car when the body is on.
Lawrence has had one car accepted for Le Mans and this will be a normal 310 coupé with a Mini-Cooper engine but naturally it will be fairly highly tuned and carefully assembled and it is hoped that the car will do well in the Index of Performance category.
Kits of parts for the 301 sell for L750 and details are available from Lawrencetune Engines Ltd., Avenue Road, Acton.