The Alan Conley Clan Crusader

David Hardcastle drives Triple C’s latest rally car – the Alan Conley Clan Crusader

EVER SINCE I STOOD UP AT SCHOOL some years ago and said ‘Please sir, I want to be a motoring journalist’ (when, of course, I ought to have been certified) I have never experienced anything so noisy as Alan Conley’s Clan Crusader. And that includes eightlegger ERF’ s with the engine in the cab, a full-race 850 Mini and our house at midnight on New Year’s Eve!

For the benefit of all those who are already taking up pens to the RAC to demand the car be fitted with 48 extra silencers or banned from the sport for ever, let me say immediately that outside all is well. Just 80 dB on the noise meter and absolutely no problems with exhaust. Your Honour. One of the reasons it’s so good is that there’s no induction noise from under that back lid. Because the air intakes to the twin 40DC0Es – and they are by far the biggest noise hazard on a highly tuned Imp engine – are tucked cosily away.. Right inside the cockpit.

To say that sitting inside the Clan when it’s really trying through the Welsh lanes is like sitting directly in front of a naked full race engine doing continuous record breaking laps at Cadwell Park is not telling the truth. It’s more like the engine is sitting inside the back of your head. With a mere dab at the throttle in normal use, conversation is just possible at a shout. When Alan is doing the heroic bit between the banks using a regular 8500 rpm it borders on pain level. At the time of writing, an intercom head set used by the Conley/ Holmes pair was effective only as a form of ear plug – not much good to convey information.

No room for trim inside, and the end result is little short of deafening.

No room for
trim inside, and the end result is little short of

This is one of the most pressing development topics at Wylam Garage, Co. Durham, where Alan is running the Clan project alongside the Avenger which, as a Chrysler fanatic from way back, he is also using for occasional sorties. It’s not just results that the Clan’s noise can affect – it must also have something to do with Alan’s health as he (so far) drives the car on the road to and from events.

“If we have the intakes anywhere outside the cockpit, their noise shows up on the meter and we’d be in trouble” explained Alan. “So inside is the only place and until we find an answer that doesn’t cost us a lot of power, we’ll have to suffer.”

Already a winner of two important Northern rallies – the Mull and ‘Express and Star’ Derwent last year – the Clan has shown itself to be much more than just a noise machine. In fact, for such a new vehicle (OK, I know it uses tried and tested bits, etc, but then so do a lot of VW specials and just mention them to any road-tester . . .) the Clan has remarkably few problems in competition use. One of its greatest assets is its. strength allied to the lightness, thus providing an excellent power to weight ratio with a vital inbuilt safety factor.

For instance, the Conley car, complete with a fuel tank holding almost twice the standard capacity, weighs in at just 11 .4 cwt with 95 bhp being produced by the 998cc Imp unit. It all adds up to incredible acceleration and a top speed limited only by the driver’s discretion and a keen eye on the tacho.

This latest acquisition to the Triple C Team cost Alan much more than a standard model though – quite apart from the engine and suspension. To be precise, the monocoque with fittings was £925 compared to the showroom body at around £600. He wasn’t paying money to have someone just rip all the trim out, so where did it all go? ‘

Our Clan on it's first event, the Targa Rusticana.

Our Clan on it’s first
event, the Targa Rusticana.

First, every Crusader is a one-piece glassfibre body/chassis unit strengthened with marine plywood. Pretty much on the same principle as the earlier Marcos structures but with all the benefits of the very latest glassfibre technology. It all works too, because standard Crusaders have stood up to numerous official and unofficial and stress tests and come out with .colours firmly flying. Needless to say, the Triple C car is different though.

It is one of nine or ten built for competition from a non-standard laminate. This · is used in certain crucial places to give even greater strength than ever and in others to give far less weight. Needless to say, Clan don’t go into much more detail than that as the field is an extremely competitive one. Here and there, however, you can see where extra bits of work have gone in. Alan doesn’t need a headlining of course. So it’s easy to 5’e the bracing X-member built into the car’s roof ·panel. That’s not giving away any secrets, . though, ‘cos on later shells, Clan found a different way of giving a more effective result. And that’s a good idea because on a yump, unbelted occupants are quite likely to get an impression of those strengthening ridges across their skull s. Motto: belt up.

Where else does the money go? Well apart from items like Perspex windows, lightweight lamp pods (don’t laugh, they’re enormous), extended wheel arches which at the present extend far too far and a front mounted rad made specially by Serck, there’s the rear crossmember. And in this department comes the second, last and possibly greatest problem. The only failure on Clans since they started rallying has been a tendency for the rear crossmember mountings to crack the body immediately around them due to all the pounding of stages and nasty farm tracks. A fault which would never occur with a model in normal use, but a disturbing one for those who insist on saving seconds over small boulders. So the first mod was to stiffen up the rear springs. Alan found that this had the effect of promoting understeer without really helping the crossmember. Thus, after much tinkering at Wylam Garage and the factory at Washington, Co Durham, a stronger cross member (still Chrysler) taking up on no fewer than six extra mounting points to spread the load has solved the cracking. But made the handling even more dodgey. The impression is of a car which can easily be driven quickly, but which takes a great deal of skill to be pushed near its limits.

Alan reckons it has produced a handling combination totally different to the Imp .in which he ‘grew up’ in rallying.

“The Imp is a car which, when you get it set up right, you can chuck around on the thrott_le and unless you get far too sideways you don’t get into very much trouble. Early on, the Clan in near-standard trim was very much the same and I liked it very much. But now we’re stuck with too much understeer and I really have to boot the tail out hard and early in a corner.” OK on the loose perhaps, but even with a car as small as the . Clan, that could be a hazardous technique in Wales. Wales.

Engine is built up from £450-worth of Chrysler Comp Dept bits

Engine is built up from £450-worth of Chrysler Comp Dept bits

“I don’t play about much with negative camber,” said Alan. “I set it up virtually straight. If you start a rally with some negative the chances are you’ll have an awful lot more when you finish!” Experimentation is thus confined to springs and shockers.

When the season started, Alan was using firmer springs made up specially by Clan·, Koni shockers at the back and Armstrong adjustables on the front. By now, Kanis may also have found their way onto the sharp 1 end but at time of writing a test set were still being made.

”I’d like Koni s all round but until we get the ratings right I’ll have to stay as I am. The chief problem on shockers is that the car’s so light” he reckons.

Choice of tyres is instrument~! to handling. For some reason, both Alan and fellow Clan rallyman Andy Dawson rate Goodyear GBOO’ s as very suitable, And’/ having been heard to say that racing tyres made it all far too twitchy and were just not on, even for the Manx. Alan uses G800’s some of the time, Ultragrips the rest and wear rate is quite low. Size is 1 65 x 12, anything fatter bending wishbones and kingpins, a feature never experienced on the heavier Imp!

Brakes are also interesting. During one of his early rallies with the Clan, Alan suddenly found he didn’t have any. Va airy interesting ! In fact, ordinary fluid had been left in by mistake

and the work done by those drum brakes all round had caused it to boil. Special heavy duty non boil stuff (in fact, normal rally wear) was the remedy. Alan reckons the only real drawback of those front drums is their great susceptibility to water through fords – taking longer to clear than discs – they also happen to send clouds of steam up through the dash vents. He has considered

discs as they would also w iden the front track (the back is 2in wider at present) but the £50 conversion using Viva parts and the £85 official Chrysler job is too expensive just now. VG95 are used all round, van cylinders up front and a gentle 5in servo helps with the stops.

Wheels are sand cast Revolution 5 x 12 models with which Alan is greatly pleased on a strength basis. When he gets the latest die cast items he reckons that will be the optimum set up. Because of adverse effects on gearing and handling, he has no ambitions to use 13in wheels as tried by Andy Dawson.

“Only thing left round there to get right is the extended arches. Clan gave us some specially designed ones but they are far too wide; we seem to knock them off and I reckon they spoil the car’s looks.”

Up front with the rad and taking up all the spare wheel space (this now lives under the back window with the air filters) is a 101 gallon tank feeding through an SU electric pump. Far more practical than the usual 61 gallon model. It’s alloy and made by Clan. May soon be joined by some ducting in the -little cubby hole up front to transfer warm air from the rad to the cockpit. At time of writing, you freeze as you deafen.

Illumination was a mixture at the start of ‘73, Cibie sharing the duties with Lucas. By now, though, it should be rectangular Cibie in the pods plus Cibie spots, with occasional use of Lucas fogs when conditions demand. Underneath, a three-sixteenths meta I skid guards against a broken nose,. together with another in the middle of the car to protect a fairly thin floor from flying rocks and a third but slimmer item· under the engine. Silencer, which Alan obtains locally in stainless steel to any length he requires, is slung up out of harm’s way on flexing rubber mounts

Inside, there’s not much to shout about (you’d be hoarse by now anyway) except the very comfortable Clan seats, the lack of roll over bar (Clan are adamant that none of their cars need one) and lack of oil pressure gauge. Alan won’t use one in Imp or Clan on principle. With impending danger from fracture of the pipe, he says it’s just not worth it.

And that’s about it, although there seems to be something missing. Aha, thought I’d forgotten didn’t you? Yes, there’s £450- worth (in parts) of Imp mill, see. All conventional and all obtainable from Chrysler Comps at Coventry which we t old you all about last month and where Alan does one hell of a lot of shopping as his garage (about which we’ll tell you more later this year) is a comps parts stockist.

Head was bought from Comps and worked on by Andy Chesman in Coventry before travelling north, cam is an R.20 • which in the lighter – than – Imp car gives power from 4000 rpm though the car pulls cleanly from 3000 rpm. And goes on pulling to 9½ like we said with another ½ in hand!  A Lucas 18AC 43 amp alternator is driven by Comps dept deep pulleys “and the belt still can’t keep up with the engine,” says Alan. Only other special tweak is a throttle cable mounted into the centre of the carbs instead of two mounts off each end. Helps to keep them synchronised and gives a lighter pedal. Power goes through a standard transaxle with normal 1st and 2nd cogs, a Jack Knight low 3rd (6.3 ) and top (4 .86). Alan could use a higher 1st but that would mean the expense of a full race Knight unit and no synchro. The infamous donuts have given him no trouble whatever on the ‘glass flyer’ in six rallies. While Imp-driving Robin Eyre Maunsell is reported to change his very four stages. At £6 a time too .

Later in the season we’ll be reporting on Alan’s development with the car, particularly on noise and handling. In the meantime follow the Team column for the adventures each rally. Better still, get out and about and see the most exciting road rally machine of ‘73 in action. (STOP PRESS: Red Dragon Rally – 7th overall)