Crusading The Clan

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The Clan is a deceptively strong glass fibre machine

Could the Clan turn out to be another Alpine? Peter Robinson meets Andy Dawson and Clan Crusader. One of the most exciting cars to enter the British rally scene recently, hit the headlines when Andy Dawson/John Foden took a Clan Crusader to 2nd place overall on the International Manx Trophy tally. To show that this was no fluke three weeks later Alan Conley in another Clan scored an outright win on the Tour of Mull, against stiff opposition from both Motoring News contestants and Scottish circuit regulars. Rumours were rife, following further good performances, that the order books at the Washington, Co Durham factory were rapidly filling up with the names of other notable rallymen. To find out what all the fuss was about we had a quick chat with Clan Director Paul Hanssauer at the Motor Show and then went off to sniff out Andy Dawson’s model. Surprise, surprise, it turned out that his garage was within half a mile of my flat, a quick telephone call (and a request from Andy to put some overalls on) and we were surveying the dimunitive, bright red “plastic peril”. First a little bit of background. Andy is ex-Chrysler Competition Department and last year was best known for some sterling performances (and shunts) in the Zenith Imp. With the advent of the Wheelbase/Kleber scholarship Andy wanted something in which he might really be able to have some success. Knowing Imps as well as he does, it came as no surprise that he looked at the various Imp-based specials, and not unexpectedly he chose one of the newest. The standard production Clan comes with a 51bhp, 87Scc engine. Andy’s first Clan was in fact chassis number -4-ie a pre-production/Prototype/demonstrator/ test car. It was quickly transformed by the insertion of his old imp ‘s Zenith carburettored engine-a 998cc unit producing some 11O bhp.

This might only be half of the power produced by a good cooking BDA but the secret of the Clan ‘s success is in the weight. Even with 5-gallons in the front petrol tank, one person can readily lift the front wheels off the ground. Ask Tony Fall if he can do that with his Datsun 240Z! The car we examined is apparently overweight (at 11 and a half cwt) and its replacement is now much nearer the standard mark. The one disadvantage of this low weight is that once you have taken off on a yump it takes far longer than normal to land, consequently there is a longer interval before power can be applied again. With all this power, stiffer shock absorbers, rough rally roads and continual high jumping, we can almost hear you saying- how can the body hold together? What have they done to it? The answer simply is nothing. In standard form the Clan is a glassfibre monocoque with marine plywood giving additional torsional stiffness. For competition there has been no need to change this at all. Minor design alterations have been made because of different requirements for rally work: a different lower panel is fitted, where the number plate is normally attached to a vertical box section, to increase ground clearance; small wheel arches are used to cover the German Goodyear Ultragrip-shod Minilites; a large air vent is now in the bonnet as the rad has been re-fitted up front. The ultimate proof of this strength is that the Clan is the only car registered by the FIA as being of sufficientstrength to gain exemption from the requirement for a comprehensive roll cage. The Clan’s strength was graphically illustrated by an RAC scrutineer just prior to the Manx- so that the Clan could gain its FIA certificate

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Clan man Andy Dawson

The car was positioned so as to allow a rubbish skip to be balanced on the rear corner edge ofthe roof. This skip was then gradually filled with 7-tons of water; with every extra gallon of water everyone expected the crunch to come- but nothing happened, other than the car got its certificate. On the ’72 Dukeries rally Andy yumped over a brow and flew straight into a 4in square wooden post, tearing it out of the ground, he was actually stopped by the next post in line. The . result was just a splintered front end, 12in wide, with the reaction only spreading some 9in back into the body.Two other cars-both Escorts-did the same trick and their drivers had a very different story to tell-and a far different repair bill to pay! When this Clan was first tried out at speed on the. loose it was a bit of a handful-twitching about on its front wheels almost as fast as Andy’s reactions; this didn’t leave much room for error. Several ideas were tried to get over this, mainly by playing about with spring rates and wheel angles. Final choice for wheels was 6Y21 rims for tarmac stages and 4-SJ wheels on the loose. With that, development stopped for ’72 pending the introduction of 13in wheels on Andy’s new bodied machine. Another area that needed some thought was the braking. First thoughts were to fit discs but these proved far too effective and so eventually Van drum brakes were fitted up front and Andy could then lock the back-end up-a useful feature for the unexpected corners often encountered in the forests! Getting into the hot seat of this little projectile, it’s noticeable that most of the trim is missing. Apart from the fully instrumented dashboard and extremely comfortable seats there ain’t much to entice your bird into the car. The spare wheel and battery are housed inside. Noise is very apparent and the silencer, placed neatly out of harm’s way above the rear bumper, was (I’m sure) just about due for replacement. in driving the car one. couldn’t help but . be impressed by. the directness of the steering and the way it just sticks and sticks in winding its way around the corners. This in itself I suppose would be something of a problem because most rally men like travelling sideways.When the Clan does get to that stage (obviously far later than in a ‘conventional’ machine) then it must break away awfully quickly. So that’s it. Andy will be campaigning his new car all next year hopefully still with the same sponsors, Woolworths Sabre cosmetics, that he enjoyed at the November Cadwell Park rallycross. If this happens then the Clan should be seen on all the big events. You want a go? Well the complete competition bodyshell less engine, gearbox and suspension, is marketed for less than £1 000- that must be a competitive price in anyone’s book. Give them a ring on 0632 462345 or write to Clan Motor Co , Crowther 3, Washington, Co. Durham. And in 1974 the Mexico rally championship is going to have a rival.

Clan Crusader

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Clan Crusader

I took the Crusader up to Hampstead Heath and threatened it with a 300mm lens, but a kind hearted Game Warden hurried to its aid and inquired my name and address. ‘Who’s your photographer? I hope he’s good’ said Paul Haussauer, head of the new Clan Motor Co, when I enquired about borrowing a Clan Crusader for test. My heart sank, and I wondered how I could break it to him that it was photographer J. Britten’s first-ever professional assignment. I parried the question by asking why this was so important to him. lt seemed that the Clan is one of those cars that looks good in the flesh, but can be crucified by an unsympathetic camera. The problem is really one of scale. There is a danger that ifyou try and make a small car have grown-up styling by designing, in the first instance, a large car and then building, say, an 85% scale model, some fatal error will creep into the scaling down (like retaining full-size Lucas headlamps) that will make the ambitious design into a grotesque distortion. The guileless fellow who doesn’t mind his pony-car design looking like a pony-car, often finishes up the more succesful. John Frayling, .who styled the Crusader, has certainly gone for the full gran turismo look, dismayed not at all by a wheelbase no longer than the Hill man Imp on whose mechanical parts the car is based (but with uprated engine ex th Stiletto). He has been, I’d say, 99% successful, an achievement not equalled by any other small sports car design except, perhaps, the now discontinued Unipower GT.The odd one percent is made up of two halves, both forced on Clan by the Road Traffic Acts.

The number plates are of course British Standard Large (wonder how long you could get away with scooter size digits) and the headlamps protrude out of the front wings to bring them the regulation whatever it is inches from ground level. Cleverlv. however, the headlamps have body -coloured rims (a nice toffee colour on the car tested) and so are pretty inconspicuous. Pressed aluminium silver-on-black plates, the sort without a contrasting polished outline, might suit the car better. If you think I’m quibbling, try covering the number plate on one of the photographs with your finger and see how the car grows! Like the late Mini-Marcos the Clan has a one-piece glassfibre monocoque body-chassis unit with hardly any metal reinforcement, but there the comparison ends. The Marcos was cheap and cheerful, and looked it; the Crusader has some of the finest quality glassfibre mouldings seen on any car regardless of price. They reckon·in the glassfibre car trade that if you can make good doors you can make anything. The difficulty is to make the inner and outer door shells as a really accurate match to each other and to the door opening in the body side, and then to bond them together without introducing any alien twist, at the same time locating “the window channels in the right place for the glass to wind up and down with velvet smoothness. Well the Clan people really have succeeded here, the doors are rigid, close at a touch, fit nicely and are trimmed with rigid aluminium window frames with a smooth brushed finish. The outer door panels, and some of the other body panels, are almost perfectly flat in sympathy with the rectilinear styling, whereas it has often been said that fibreglass should be used with generous double-curvature to give it eggshell-like rigidity. But there is absolutely no drumming or flexing of the panels, and virtually no ripples are visible. The Clan people have some new techniques in glassfibre moulding, and are unusual in ‘heat-curing all their panels.

This probably accounts for the absence of ripples and also for the fact that the interior of the car does not, for once, reek of noxious resins! The underside is so smooth you could drive over all the arrestor-wires on an aircraft carrier without getting hung up, the seats being fixed not to the floor but to the rigid steel bridge pieces which run across the car from the sills to the centre tunnel which houses the gearshift linkage. You need a certain fundamental jack-knifing procedure to get a 6ft man into a 3ft car and, bearing this in mind the Crusader is actually very easy to get in and out of. The driving position is especially nice, the feet find the right pedals without being told, and the left hand finds the journey from steering wheel rim to gear-lever knob and back again a brief and pleasant one. A huge range of seat travel is provided, enough for the longest legs, but headroom will be restricted for anyone over 6ft. “The seats are broad, well-shaped and softly upholstered, except for a hard frontedge which you begin to feel with the legs at full stretch. There’s another hardish edge which the left leg finds when in search of a resting place alongside the clutch pedal. Behind the seats is a large but awkwardly shaped area suitable for soft luggage, dogs or perhaps an especially relaxed human being. The doors are lined with long, shallow pockets and there is a conveniently shaped cubbyhole in the dashboard. Th is would not be large enough to pass the ‘Will it take the Editor’s Rolleiflex ‘ test that they use in Mutter Spurt, but then the Crusader is more of a 35mm car anyway. In spite of its small size and 875cc engine, the Crusader has big-league pretentions in its styling and its price, so we’ll judge the way it goes by appropriately high- standards. As first gear is selected and the car driven away it immedfately feels smoothly willing to run up to high revs and high speeds. All the controls are light and precise, the accelerator amazingly so considering it actuates yards and yards of cable leading to the twin rear Strombergs (twice as many return springs) . Gearshift is of course stock Chrysler-Linwood, but it seems to feel much better, possibly because with the gearknob almost up to shoulder level one exerts a much more comfortable leverage. The clutch is light, progressive and (except in reverse), judder-free.

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Crusader

Steering is light, smooth and precise; hardly any frict ion damping is needed as there is no kick-back on normal roads. The Crusader’s rear engine means that an inevitable 60% of its weight is on the rear wheels, and since these carry the same size tyres as the front some kind of oversteer characteristic is bound to emerge at some time. The car designer has two choices in this case. He can still tune the suspension to make the car understeer, but in the knowledge that one day, in extreme conditions, when the chips are down and every trick of camber, roll-couple transfer, tyre pressure etc has done its best and failed, that car will oversteer. The other choice, perhaps the wiser one, is to allow the car its head and give it a mild , uncomplicated, progressive oversteer right from the word go, and that is what they have done at Clan Motor Co. This makes for beautifully responsive handling, the soft but well damped suspension allowing quite a lot of roll, this helping to give good ‘seat of pants’ handling feel. The limit of adhesion on Goodyear G800s is so high that there is no real likelihood of achieving that orgasm of oversteer, the spin. Although roll is quite moderate at everyday fast-cornering speeds, the long suspension travel permits so much movement at violent sideways g-forces that a little wheel-arch rubbing at the front and an unidentified noise vaguely reminiscent of UJ’s at their last gasp from the rear of the car set a practicalupper limit to cornering speeds-speeds at which your average British Leyland sports car would long since have finished up in the ditch.

Clan have thrown out the original Imp springs and dampers, the difference, more noticeable at the front where, instead of being the typical rear-engined car’s hard, bouncy front end, we have really excellent bump-absorbing qualities. Over rough going the ride remains good and the rigid monocoque neither shakes nor rattles, but there are some audible thumps from the rear suspension. Oddly enough there is a slight vertical shake that you get at medium speeds on some fairly smooth roads. This seems to involve the seats and the dashboard more than the other parts of the car, and may in any case be peculiar to the car tested which was the No. 2 Crusaper off the line and was known to have had a brief but arduous life. Possibly a balance weight had come off one of the wheels. The remarkable thing about this car (which was being used by the company chairman-always a good sign) is that although it had done some thousands of miles with no attention, it was totally fault-free with the exception of a couple items in the Chrysler/Joe Lucas departments. So you’re thinking of spending £1000 plus on a sports car, with the intention of moving out of the Midget/ Spitfire/Ginetta G 15/Stiletto class and getting yourself a real man’s car. You quite like the idea of a sub – 1OOOcc engine for petrol and insurance economies, providing that the performance is O.K. How does the Crusader measure up? Is it in the big-league? Well, it certainly looks nice outside your front door. A hint of mechan ical sophistication lurking under the black leather-grain ABS engine cover. In the driving seat we feel quite uncramped, and surrounded by good quality black upholstery and carpeting.

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Hingewood side lid

One big-car feature we’re glad to be without is a long humpy bonnet; the deep Sundym screen gives an excellent feeling of control. Under it are the regulation two large and four small black-rimmed dials plus some discreet warning lights in a firmly padded black console with handstitched surround. You will spend many motoring hours looking at this, and it’s a very pleasant aspect. The leather-rim steering wheel with unusual inverted-V spokes looks good and feels just right. On the road we do have one small problem. The performance is there all right, no fuss, little wind noise or road noise. The power unit is quiet as well, but what you can hear of it sounds just like your Aunty’s shopping Imp. If you’ve never been in an Imp then there is nothing to worry about, just the sound of a well-bred all-alloy overhead camshaft power unit. If you have then there is a certain association of. ideas that has to be overcome before you can really accept the car as a GT in its own right. You must also forget the meagre 875cc and console yourself with thoughts of 90bhp/ton, top speed over 100mph, and a frugal appetite at the petrol pumps. The only th ing that might take a bit of getting used to is the aforementioned, sottish front suspension, due to the short wheelbase, only a few inches in front of the base of the windscreen, so that when you accelerate hard you really notice the nose come up more like a speedboat that a car. I found this effect rather pleasing-it’s a matter of opinion. So will the Clan Crusader succeed where the Unipower, the Ogle Mini, the TVR Tina and other honourable failures fell by the wayside? I certainly hope so, but only time will tell.

MAKE: Clan
MODEL: Crusader
MANUFACTURED BY: Clan Motor Co Ltd, Crowther 3, Washington, Co Durham
PRICE: Tax paid £1399.37 Component form£ 1125.00
STANDARD EQUIPMENT: Sundym glass. Leather steering wheel. Radial ply tyres. Power assisted brakes. Heater. Screenwash. Ashtray. Cigar lighter. Full flow ventilation. Alternator.
EXTRAS ON TEST CAR: Sunroof£30 +PT. 5J alloy wheels £40 +PT. SPEEDS IN GEARS: . 1st 27mph, 2nd 49mph, 3rd 77mph, Top 102mph.
ACCELERATION: 0-50mph 9.1 sec 0-60mph 12.5 sec 0-70mph 17.1 secstandingstart
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 37 mpg ·at 70mph.