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Classic Kit Cars - The Filby Files. Now with Specialist Sportcar scans on p3

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15 hours ago, Alusilber said:

I've seen a Cipher in the flesh once, at the end of a row of Scimitars at CarFest North 2013. As I'd never seen one before, I took a photo...

Making cars is not just about engineering, style and trim, to be successful you need to know the market and cater for it.  And Tony is a pretty smart cookie insomuch as he knew most new car manufacturers trip n' fall even before they get on two feet  ..simply because their customers expect (and need) a servicing and spares network where they are,  ie. spread throughout the country.  Tony then was focused on attracting a dealer network.  Within a month of the Motor Show he had some two hundred dealers interested in selling Ciphers, of which he sought to shortlist 100 who would provide really good customer care ..particularly Scimitar dealerships with proven trading relations with Reliant.  Part of the marketing 'ideal' was that a family might have a Scimitar, and then a Cipher for the wife or their college age kids (it had been designed to attract low insurance premiums).

Naturally their dealers selling Scimitars and the Reliant-based Ciphers would have been very good for Reliant.  As you can see in the photograph (above ) of the green Cipher the styling was pretty cool for a fibreglass car. This was car # 5. The first two you've seen in my piccie, and the next two were built at Reliant by their staff as a feasibility study.  One was white over black, and the other was red.  The builds went fine but Reliant's in-house unions griped at everything and used the exercise as lever for more money, less hours, better pensions, and redefined job allocations.  Reliant's management liked the idea of a small sports car but decided to go with Ford mechanicals and a Michellotti shape (possibly his last ?).  So they spent four years and their children's inheritance in developing and getting type approval for the wedge shaped SS1.  Introduced in 1984,  this was two years after the 1500cc Fiat X-19,  and 10 years after the TR7 - either of which might have be seen as a competitor, so the Reliant had to compete with used car sale prices, the TR7's rally successes, and the TR8, plus a broad array of  "Hot hatches" that came onto the market at that time.  All things considered their car did surprisingly well.

 

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6 minutes ago, jonny69 said:

This is awesome, I need to invest some time in this thread. I'm a massive fan of the hilariously rubbish British kit car industry.

 

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1 hour ago, jonny69 said:

This is awesome, I need to invest some time in this thread. I'm a massive fan of the hilariously rubbish British kit car industry.

It’s such a huge contrast that makes it interesting.  Let’s be fair, you could drive a Ford or a Vauxhall or a Hyundai to work and they’d all feel similar.

With these cars there are some that show real flair, some have imaginative engineering and some that show the creator never had a mate to say “I tell you what, you’ve created a shitter here”

I’ve owned a few fibreglass cars and loved them all.

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I lived in Aylesbury in the early 1970s when Siva were quite active in marketing the Saluki and then the Llama.  Both were certainly attracting attention with  their weird looks and poor finish, the Saluki adding impracticality to the equation. I saw the Saluki driving around on many occasions.  At about this time a colleague bought one of the many MG look-alike kits. He enjoyed the build and made a very good job of it.  Driving it was another matter.  Despite endless fiddling with the suspension it remained uncomfortable and could only hold the road acceptably if the road was straight and billiard-table smooth.  I can't remember the make of the kit except that it was not a Spartan.

Many years later (2007) I bought a Ginetta G26 2nd hand.  The previous owner had squeezed a Cologne Ford V6 automatic in to the space normally occupied by a manual Pinto. It was appalling to drive, hopelessly unreliable but somehow I almost liked it, particularly the looks and practicality.  Trying to cure its numerous imperfections in the end destroyed my enthusiasm and it was sold after about 18 months ownership, around 75% of that time being  undrivable due to electronic and mechanical problems.  I'm now too old to entertain such trouble.

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My copy arrived today. There's so much fascinating stuff covered that I've never heard of and such a variation in quality, from well-known sports cars like Lotus and TVR that I had forgotten were available in kit form down to the Cheetah Cars range that sounds like unmitigated shit with no redeeming features whatsoever. The Cheetah Mirach was such an abysmal lump of badly-made fibreglass that even the manufacturer said it was "a very difficult car to finish professionally" and their shonky demonstrator appears to be the only one ever completed.  

Did the other three volumes of the Filby Files mentioned within ever actually materialise?

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12 hours ago, Bfg said:

Naturally their dealers selling Scimitars and the Reliant-based Ciphers would have been very good for Reliant.  As you can see in the photograph (above ) of the green Cipher the styling was pretty cool for a fibreglass car. This was car # 5. The first two you've seen in my piccie, and the next two were built at Reliant by their staff as a feasibility study.  One was white over black, and the other was red.  The builds went fine but Reliant's in-house unions griped at everything and used the exercise as lever for more money, less hours, better pensions, and redefined job allocations.  Reliant's management liked the idea of a small sports car but decided to go with Ford mechanicals and a Michellotti shape (possibly his last ?).  So they spent four years and their children's inheritance in developing and getting type approval for the wedge shaped SS1.  Introduced in 1984,  this was two years after the 1500cc Fiat X-19,  and 10 years after the TR7 - either of which might have be seen as a competitor, so the Reliant had to compete with used car sale prices, the TR7's rally successes, and the TR8, plus a broad array of  "Hot hatches" that came onto the market at that time.  All things considered their car did surprisingly well.

They wasted their money on Michelotti, the Cipher was much better looking than the SS1!

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Thanks Alusiber,  unfortunately financial circumstance, motor industry politics, and probably a large dose of ridicule / prejudice against the Reliant Robin engine didn't help (actually a neat aluminium 850cc unit derived from the Austin 7 - and very tune-able thanks to the formula 750 club racers).  Tony is more a proud to be Englishman than anyone I've ever met, and his dream was to build a truly British home brewed sports-car ..hence Reliant mechanicals.  Unfortunately most venture capitalist don't care a jot about that sort of thing. They are interested in profit, how secure their investment is, and how quickly can they get their return.  They are not soul-less, but they sure can put on a pretty good impression of being so.  

 

warren t claim..  Please let's not go back to a feud which was being discussed 16 years ago on another website !   Unless one was directly involved at the time (..as an insider) - then anything else is just hearsay.  

I used to know Peter Filby back in the day, and remember his coming up to Birmingham to do the first road-test on the Falcon S.  Unlike major manufacturers who put on a glamorous show to debute their new models - we had a cup of cheap instant coffee and talked a little, and then went out in the cars to look for a photogenic backdrop.  On this occasion he found a golf course, so approached the manager, showed his member-of-the-Press pass and simply asked (very politely) if we might use their car-park with lawns as a backdrop for some photos, and of course the name of the golf club and its manager would be duly credited in print.  They kindly agreed and invited us into the bar,  ordered us a drink ..and then another ..whiskey after whiskey.  The conversation and company was great fun ..but as a consequence he hardly drove car and it was dusk before any photos were taken ..we were all a little too drunk.  The golf club of course just wanted a name drop within a national magazine. 

I subsequently met him on numerous other occasions ..as  indeed I did the editors and journalist from other magazines, and also people like Peter James - who was a small-time insurance broker, just starting out in business. He also did OK for himself.   Never were they, nor any of us 'business owners' aka 'manufacturers'  anything more or less than normal guys trying to do our best ..and yes we did make the most of it when perks happened in our favour..  Of course on many more occasions the press guys, as well as ourselves, had to suffer bitterly cold wind and rain  ..and still try and make the cars look like they were in arriving fresh in sunny Monaco..   Peter's / their business, and as far as I'm concerned his / their own genuine desire was to promote the better aspects of kit-cars and the individuals who really went out on a limb to produce something more interesting than the average (at that time) "rusting heap"  or  "euro-box".  

You might laugh at some of these attempts, and indeed at the kit cars I designed and produced, but it's worth remembering that mass production cars of the 1970's were failing their very first MOT due to terminal rust,  or the fact that many cars of that era had appalling heaters, weather seals, wipers and/or screen demist.  Of course those who think they can do better, ought to buckle down to it.. and spend their own time and money on design and development, on workshop overheads and tools, on raw materials and jigs to make a chassis on, and the master plug and moulds, and more costly materials for the body tub and panels. Enough not just for one car but for a show demonstrator and stock to sell.  So don't forget you'll also have to pay out of your own pocket for a show-quality paint job,  nice accessories,  and then professional trim (interior and weather gear).  And once that's done you must spend every weekend going to shows (which you have to pay to transport to as well as to exhibit in) or else spend it talking to 'potential' customers and a sight more tyre kickers. In the meantime you have to support yourself, and pay the wages of any help, keep accounts, manage the marketing and advertizing, produce a brochure and then also a build manual, pay the rent, car insurance, traders insurance, etc, etc.,  Think about it - how many of you sniggering in the back row have got the balls to make such a financial commitment.?   ..knowing that although you might like what you've created ..just possibly you wont sell another.  Talking is one one thing,  but spending every last penny you have for ten years is something else all together..  

And the magazines were similarly working to literally survive from one issue to the next. They had to constantly pay out..  to get their "members of the press" + photographer from one side of the country to the other, to get articles written, proof-read and to the publisher,  each and every month.  Peter Filby's and the other magazines may seem glossy on the book shelf or coffee table  ..but someone had to underwrite the cost of paying the journalist, the editorial and page layouts etc., the printing and distribution - before a single copy was sold.  The background scene to journalism is gritty, uncomfortably down to earth, and almost always on a pathetic budget.  Ask Dollywobbler if he's planning on buying a brand new Audi (or whatever) anytime soon,  or how many days a year he spends travelling in awful weather three or more counties away from home.?   I don't suppose many journalist or editors are anyway near the top of the food chain nor can they even afford a decent family holiday every year.  

So please, let's not get into bashing other people's efforts to add a little individuality to this world. 

Thanks.

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On 9/10/2019 at 11:24 PM, Alusilber said:

I've seen a Cipher in the flesh once, at the end of a row of Scimitars at CarFest North 2013. As I'd never seen one before, I took a photo...

IMG_4994.jpg

We know where Mazda got their ideas for the mx5 now. 

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I like the Albar Jet. 

I'm surprised we didn't see more kits using mx-5 subframes n what not. All the decent chassis parts come off as complete sub asssemblies but I guess the kit car scene was on the decline by the mid90s?

Once knew a fella building a Sierra based Merlin. It was appalling and I always felt sorry for the guy. He should have gotten an mx-5 or something and tinkered with it. 

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6 hours ago, Bfg said:

So please, let's not get into bashing other people's efforts to add a little individuality to this world. 

Thanks.

I was far from bashing your efforts, the more I look at low-volume cars the more I’m impressed with the ones you’ve done.

Maybe something you said about the requirements to get a car actually made is worth highlighting; to go through all the work and financial hardship means that to do it, you need a massive sense of self belief.

That kind of single mindedness leads to designs which are very much of the individual.

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Is there really much of a kit car scene now?

I know people can ‘build’ Westfields, but understood they mainly did this with new engines etc.

I guess the complex nature of most of the likely donors is probably another factor.

In fact, apart from the earlier generations of MX5, I can’t really think of any other obvious candidates now. 

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26 minutes ago, AnthonyG said:

Is there really much of a kit car scene now?

I know people can ‘build’ Westfields, but understood they mainly did this with new engines etc.

I guess the complex nature of most of the likely donors is probably another factor.

In fact, apart from the earlier generations of MX5, I can’t really think of any other obvious candidates now. 

I suppose there's a combination of factors that pretty much killed the kit car.

  • Lack of suitable donor cars. Old favourites like Beetles, Minis and Sierras are too valuable to chop up now and on modern cars the mechanical and electric bits you need for a kit tend to give up before the bodywork.
  • Tougher regulations - SVA, crash test standards etc. are much more difficult for small companies and DIY builders to comply with. 
  • Canbus electronics - imagine trying to recode all the bits you've taken off the donor car(s) and make them work together
  • Maybe just a general lack of interest in building the things.  

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On 9/11/2019 at 7:48 PM, quicksilver said:

My copy arrived today. There's so much fascinating stuff covered that I've never heard of and such a variation in quality, from well-known sports cars like Lotus and TVR that I had forgotten were available in kit form down to the Cheetah Cars range that sounds like unmitigated shit with no redeeming features whatsoever. The Cheetah Mirach was such an abysmal lump of badly-made fibreglass that even the manufacturer said it was "a very difficult car to finish professionally" and their shonky demonstrator appears to be the only one ever completed.  

Did the other three volumes of the Filby Files mentioned within ever actually materialise?

There was at least one Mirage 2 completed. This engineer built Granada 3.0 based car was listed on ebay back in the mid noughties after its owner had passed away. It sold quite  cheaply and was originally black and silver. Quite soon after it was recommissioned and repainted in the Qv green and gold scheme you see here. Not sure if its still on sale but was last priced up at £29,995.....

_20190913_080757.JPG

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1 hour ago, Braddon81 said:

There was at least one Mirage 2 completed. This engineer built Granada 3.0 based car was listed on ebay back in the mid noughties after its owner had passed away. It sold quite  cheaply and was originally black and silver. Quite soon after it was recommissioned and repainted in the Qv green and gold scheme you see here. Not sure if its still on sale but was last priced up at £29,995.....

_20190913_080757.JPG

Are you sure that's a Cheetah Mirach 2? It looks far too good :) Somebody must have invested countless time, skill and effort into building it to that standard and it looks far better than Cheetah's own show car, proving you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.  It might well be the only Cheetah kit ever completed by a customer and is certainly an impressive achievement.

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'What's this car mum? It's got see-through doors. Are the windows meant to be that shape? Were they taking the piss? I could draw a car for them if they want'.

0CcvUNu.jpg

 

- 'Fuck knows son, and don't say 'taking the piss', it's not nice. They were doing an experiment. Let's go and find the beer tent, your dad will be half rat-arsed by now'.

(The car is a Warp 8 if anyone is interested).

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.

Cheetah Mirach 2 : From what one can see from this piccie it certainly looks good to me - nice wheels mate (..literally) and a credit to both the Lamborghini's design and its builder.  I'm guessing that windscreen mustabin expensive. 

 

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