Gathering of Clans.

Reprinted from AutoSport, August 9, 1973

One For The Road

Imp Sport :variants have blossomed with considerably more success over the past few years than their Mini-based counterparts. The reasons are fairly obvious, for with fairly high petrol consumption and the slightly heavier unit of greater capacity, the 1100 cc and 1275 cc Mini engines lose quite a lot to the smaller, Climax based, alloy 875 cc unit. There are currently three well-known Imp based variants manufactured in this country: Clan, Davrian and Ginetta, the

youngest of which is the former, just coming up to its second birthday. My Yorkshire predecessor described what goes on up at Clan’s factory In Washington, but I was lent recently, a Crusader for road impressions.

Perhaps I’m very biased but the first thing to be said is that I’m in.favour of these variants. The performance offered usually around the 100 mph mark, and the mpg figure, usually in the late 30s, makes such a car a very attractive proposition. What isn’t always so attractive is the specificatIon, and in some cases the finish. The disadvantages of such cars is that they are built by enthusiasts and very often enthusiasts forget such little matters as comfort, storage of luggage/children/dogs/shopping, noise and leakage when raining, a point that often suffers when minimal numbers of units are produced in mass production.

And so to the Clan, subject of this Tune-In.The basic impression Left by this car is that it deserves all the publicity it has received. Here is a firm that have decided to produce an Imp variant in a professional manner, possibly on a .slightly more professional basis than some of the others. To begin with, the general fibreglass moulding process is obviously of a high standard. To look at the door sills, and the fit of the doors, one can immediately see that considerable care has gone into the basic moulds and that everything fits really quite well. The road test car, kindly supplied by Malcolm Ginsberg, Clan’s PR agent, had done upwards of 3,000 miles and was pretty well run in.

However, in that time and with considerable motoring behind it, because such a car is obviously made to be driven hard, the basic body had been well preserved in its vivid shade of yellow and there was no chipping nor discolouring. On the basic design, which is often possible to criticise, there were certain deficiencies in that there were leaks when the car was parked in the rain, and still came to light several hours after the rain had passed, particularly from the sunroof which was fitted. Leakage also occurred into the driver’s glove compartment which quietly got itself damp, but this wasn’t serious as it never actually dripped onto any passenger.

On other design points, the rear window was apt to accumulate water which had to be wiped off by hand and didn’t simply  disperse with vibration, which might be a plus point for the suspension but not for the rear window angle and sighting. The only other possible exterior design fault could be attributed to the frontal area. This houses a boot, which immediately puts one over on other of the Imp variants, but at the same time, the boxy front section leaves about two and a half feet which are not visible to the driver when he comes in to roost in a busy parking space. However, the extreme points front and rear are protected by a fairly bungy piece of rubber which, provided you don’t hit the fellow in front too hard, will efficiently absorb much of the impact. The fact that the frontal area is so low means that it often goes underneath some Of the larger monsters on the road, so that too might be on the plus side.

Once in the  office, it is surprisingly comfortable. The seats seem to be a little saucer shaped, possibly without a great deal of lateral support, but by bracing the left leg against the bulkhead when cornering at speed, the balance is retained. However, the actual seat shape is certainly not uncomfortable, but it did take yours truly a while to get his lithe frame comfortable in the driving seat. The problem was that the pedals did occasionally seem rather low, so that only the toe hit the pedal. With the Tune In’s editor’s best Carnaby Street heels on, this didn’t exactly allow the greatest confidence. This was in a sedentary position, so the obvious thing was to put the seat right back. Once this was done, it allowed the tallest member of the staff, Mr Phillips to drive the car in comfort.

Apart from the road, what did he have  to look at? There’s a tiny wee steering wheel to grip with a vengeance, enlarged fo rally Clans, which hid one or two of the warning lights beyond. The instruments are situated behind the steering wheel, well in view of the driver, and the main ones are the speedometer and the rev counter {surprise, surprise). They’re both the same size, but one of the immediate criticisms that comes to mind is that the speedo is in even numbers and not odd. The reason for this seemingly a petty crit? Our principal limits are 30 and 70 and you have to look for the white lines in between to see them. Just a quick item, but sometimes the difference between keeping and losing the licence. Other instruments to gaze at on long journeys include an ammeter, fuel gauge for the six gallon tank, oil pressure gauge and temperature gauge. If you’re a smoker, the Clan Crusader is made for you. Apart from having a cigarette lighter down by the gear stick, there are two ashtrays set into the doors on a swivel basis. The driver’s unit couldn’t be closer to his right hand, and he scarcely has to take his hand off the wheel to flick the ash. On the subject of doors, the Clan’s door is not light, partially because it has strengthening steel bars in case of side impact. In such a low car, one needs a light door to push away, and quite honestly, with its steel bracing, the Clan door is really quite heavy when leaning back and over to open it. Once mastered, there’s no problem, but if you’re transporting an ageing parent or impressionable bird it might be good to do the polite thing and open the door oneself.

Spacewise, the Clan is remarkably well endowed. Admittedly there’s precisely one glove compartment opposite the passenger, which really isn’t very big, while beside the driver and passenger, there are glove compartments which would be useful to hide such things as wallets and the occasional map, but nothing too big as they’d dig into the occupier’s seat. There’s lots of room behind the driver which can be used for virtually anything. It’s all covered in black carpeting but our esteemed rally man managed to squeeze his lithe Scots frame into the area, making the Crusader a three seater without too much difficulty.

There’s some room in the front but only for a shallow suitcase to share the space with the spare wheel and the battery. Accessibility to the engine is really very good, with a side opening cover made Out of fairly flimsy fiberglass.

Underway, the Clan behaves well. It doesn’t jump about too much, and all the essential instruments were close to hand. Your Tune In editor was particularly impressed with the stalk instruments. On the left were a single wiper control with two different speeds,while on the right were the indicators and the flasher as in the normal Imp configuration.

Acceleration times for 0-60 were in the 12 second mark, which compares well with such larger engined models as the MG Midget at 14.1 s; the Triumph Spitfire :at 16.2 s, and the basic Sunbeam Stiletto in 17.6 s. All for 875cc worth. To me, petrol consumption is very important and if 37.5 mp.g sounds good to you, then the Clan is your car. This figure was achieved over what any motorist would do, including droning along the A25, stuttering around the •Big City and the odd burn out at the lights. The six gallon tank thus provides something near 220 miles, a BMW 3.0 would require one refill already over the same  period if it had the same capacity tank, although it would still have a little in hand in the speed department. It is perhaps to the detriment of Cosmic wheels that I couldn’t attempt a maximum speed from the Clan Crusader, for the already weighted wheels still seemed out of balance at around 45 to 50 mph.

If you fancy the front end of a car bouncing around at 100 mph, then you can do your own figures, but I do believe that the car was well capable of a high speed, in excess of 100 mph.

With rear engined cars weighing less than the (original) body the engine was designed for, it is easy for the braking to be upset and the car’s front wheels to skitter along, locked up under heavy braking. For this reason, it was particularly pleasant to find that the braking was quite unlike any car I have recently driven. The balance is of imperative importance, with the amount of dive contributing to the braking efficiency.

The lighting seems fine, but should the owner require further lighting, it might be complicated to fit, because there is no greater overhang in the bodywork in which to accommodate lighting.

Ventilating the driver is often an important aspect, and while I was surprised to find that there were no quarter lights, I was equally surprised to find twin ventilation duels. When I drove the Davrian in mid-Winter, I found that it was completely unnecessary to have interior heating. Similarly with the Clan Crusader. Consequently I found it most important to have internal ventilation in the Summer but disappointed to find that I needed both the ducts provided to cool the driver. Lord knows how the passenger cools himself, although the winding windows would help considerably, although not in a rainstorm. The Clan Crusader price may seem a little high at close to the £1,400 mark, but it offers a tremendous amount, great savings in fuel and Iots of fun in the driving department.

…and one for the lanes

With only 95 bhp, which by rally-winning standards is not much, the rally Clan Crusader loses out on power : But after spending a morning with Chris Lovell’s Kingsclere Carriage Co Ltd supported car, I came away convinced that, 95 bhp or not, the diminutive, purpose-built rally Clan has just got to start figuring as a winner soon. It’s come pretty close with Andy Dawson’s second on The Manx last year. This year Chris Lovell, with his new . car, has already achieved a second and a fourth on Welsh events and enjoyed a really promising run on the recent Nutcracker until a minor electrical problem (coil) forced retirement.

Lovell’s car, at the time of our visit, was just three days away from competing on it’s first Castrol/MN event and presented quite a visual feast as an example of a perfectly turned-out rally car – especially as it’s so different from the ubiquitous Escort. Purpose built it is, starting with the rally body shell which is complete with an FIA approved roll cage made from glassfibre. It has, of course, a laminated screen and full harness belts and also perspex windows (driver’s fixed), rally wiring harness and front radiator. Lovell’s car also features_ a larger than standard 10- gallon fuel tank with an exterior filler. The Clan utilises Chrysler Imp components and with a strengthened Imp crossmember uses competition Imp suspension with Clan supplied springs, available for forest or road events. Spax dampers are used and the braking system is dual circuit with split master cylinder and Imp drum brakes fore and aft. VG 95 linings are specified all round, though on Chris’s car softer Ferodo AM8s are being tried on the front. Other standard ” rally package ” items include a full quota of Cibie lights, comprehensive non-reflective instrumentation, twin throttle cables, navigator’s foot brace and high output alternator.

The 998 cc engine of Chris Lovell’s car is prepared by Andy Chesman of Greetham Engineering and driving through a competition clutch and Jack Knight-modified third and fourth gears sounded quite impeccable within the confines of the cockpit as Chris drove the car to some suitable countryside. Outside, the tail-mounted Chrysler Rally Imp transverse exhaust system keeps the decibel level under control. Sitting in what is navigator Rod Palmer’s seat on events, I was soon to experience a drive I will not soon forget. Turning onto the road Chris had selected, the pale ochre Clan leapt instantly into its operating zone. First assault on the senses was noise, accelerating down the first straight sounds of engine and straight-cut gears alert the adrenalin for what’s to come.

The high noise level, which necessitates the use of an intercom, is emphasised as the glassfibre body damps out nearly all road-induced noise and gives the mechanical cacophony full quadraphonic pride of place. Second assault was one of incredulity-when the first comer loomed’ up and disappeared just as quickly. Very often a small car can give the impression of cornering more quickly than it is, just like BL Minis these days, which can still amaze the driver round comers but which, in fact, are no longer a match for many cars which have long since learnt the ability to out-comer a Mini. Not so the Clan,. although it is a tiny car, the way in which Mr Lovell directed it through the lanes was more than a match for many of the best. On tarmac the Rally Clan must be just about the tidiest and most instantly responsive, car on the rally scene.

The technique, which had me baffled for the first few turns, is one of incredible ·smoothness -nonchalantly sailing into a variety of corners, some tightening, some with climbing or dropping brows, more with undulations mid-comer and exiting just as quickly, just as smoothly. My guided tour of the lanes became even more interesting when glassfibre dust started cascading on to the floor from somewhere under the fascia and a slight smell of fuel became suddenly stronger. I had no need to worry. Chris explained that it would only be the new petrol tank modifications settling in.

Strapping myself into the driving seat I set off, very gingerly, to try this most surprising car. With subconscious constantly pounding (it’s all fettled up for its first major outing only three days away) I really only remember one thing about the drive. I wobbled ·about all over the road. The rally Clan is not an instantly chuckable ” hairy ” motor car. It is much more subtle, requiring, I would guess, a long and sometimes nerve wracking courtship. It certainly gave me the brush-off, amplifying my crude driving movements embarrassingly. Its message in those few miles was very clear. Take the time, get your reflexes in tune with the car .and it has all the ingredients and versatility necessary for a successful association with the best RS1600s and Porsches dominant of the rally scene.