Joining The Clan Together

Could Road Testers Greenslade And Bruce, Hampered By Photographer Paul Skilleter, Build A Clan In The Claimed 4½ Hours?

MOTOR  Magazine – week ending July I , r972

“One, two, three heave”. We lifted the bright yellow body, ready trimmed and wired, and ‘plonked’ it in the middle of the Clan chairman’s garage … A few minutes later, the wheels and ready-assembled subframes were also off the trailer and lying beside it. ·

Clan’s MD, Paul Haussauer, was optimistic.”You shouldn’t have any trouble. When you’ve finished, drive it round to the factory.” Suddenly they were gone. We stared  at each other and slowly the truth dawned through the morning sunlight.

Building a Clan

Building a Clan

We were in Washington, County Durham, in the garage of Mr. R. P. Haussauer, chairman of the Clan Motor Company.Following some rash statements over the ‘phone we found ourselves about to assemble his new company car. At least, that was the idea.

Somebody said we’d better start. It was 10.00 am. Attacking the front end first we tried to get the body on chocks so we could then slide the front subframe into place. It was too heavy to lift that high so we placed a jack under a convenient point (the Clan is a full fibreglass monocoque and is remarkably rigid throughout its length) and used the blocks to raise the nose by about six in.

We could.now slide the sub-frame into place and it remained to connect the steering column and line all the bolt holes up before tightening any for the last time. However this produced our first problem – the column just didn’t want to know its mating spline. Rex struggled manfully with the problem while I connected the base of the dampers to the suspension.

11.15 Between us we had beaten the errant column and had all but one nut and bolt in place. Yes, there’s always one. After much grunting and swearing we decided that the captive nut on the subframe, that receives this bolt from inside the car, had been welded slightly askew.  Enlarging the hole in the car with a file solved the problem and indicated that the only fault with the car’s design – with regard to assembly – was that the accurately drilled body didn’t allow for discrepancies in the mass-produced Chrysler parts, which themselves seemed remarkably good. In other words, so far, we were impressed.

12.10 Paul Skilleter proved that his expertise with an electric kettle is almost as great as with his camera and being in England (I think Durham is inside the border) we settled down to 10 minutes of ardent tea drinking.

12.25 The front of the car was standing on its wheels. The excitement was too great and some more valuable minutes were lost while we adjourned to the loo. All attentions were now moved to the business end and to figuring out how best to mate the subframe and car. The frame comes complete from Chrysler with engine, gearbox, exhaust, everything installed, so theoretically you

just place the rear springs in their holes and lift the body onto them. Things rarely work out quite so simply in practice, though, and the first attempt was disastrous – we knocked the springs over and caught the body on various appendages, air filter, oil cap, etc.

Although we tried to keep it quiet, photographer Paul is rather handy with cars himself, and it was his idea to tape the springs in place so they wouldn’t be knocked over. We also removed all the bits that had fouled. However, our second attempt also failed as the engine was jacked at the wrong angle to receive the raised body, which by this time was beginning to feel rather heavy; so it was a case of third time having to be lucky. It was; with a bit of wiggling, the engine appeared through its rightful hole in the rear of the body as the springs compressed under the weight.

1.10  The bits were now beginning to look like a car so we at once set about bolting the frame in position. We had collected three jacks – a hydraulic bottle jack from the Bruce Healey, and two scissor jacks, one from the Clan itself and one from the Viva Estate we came up in. These were all used either in supporting the body or raising and lowering the frame while aligning the bolt holes. Our teamwork was improving and we soon had the single rear engine mounting and the six horizontal frame mountings in place. Tightening the latter allowed us to fit the vertical ones that drop through the rear floor pan into the frame. With these all tightened we then connected the dampers to the frame and joined up the brake lines, as at the front. The wheels were  temporarily added with a couple of nuts each and ‘hey presto’ we had a rolling chassis.

2.23 We staggered back to admire our handiwork, or should I say the Clan. We were still impressed with the manufacture and had so  far found nothing to fault it-the few problems we had were chiefly of our own making, but don’t tell the editor.

3.00 Skilleter appeared laiden with prawn sandwiches and the lady of the house kindly produced a cup of tea. Lunch had arrived; with it our prospects of building the car in 4 hours vanished  once and for all.

3.10 A whirlwind and monumental cloudburst (totally irrelevant).

3.25 Before lunch we had started sifting through the maze of pipes and wires that had appeared in the engine compartment. we continued at a steady pace although paused occasionally to wonder why there were so many wires. We finally decided that all the ‘spare’ ones were earths.

3.50 The engine compartment suddenly became too small for two mechanics so disappeared underneath to finish off the cooler connections and see about the gearlinkage and handbrake cables. Meanwhile Rex connected the water hoses and all the wires.

4.30 It was still raining (also irrelevant).

4.31 We finished connecting the throttle and choke cables and poured water and oil into the appropriate holes. Believe it or not nothing came out.

4.45 Rex, looking worried, kept watch, while, with the ignition disconnected, I turned the engine to pump the oil round. The distributor lead was then replaced and the engine started first turn. We appeared to have an oil leak from one of the cooler pipes (mine) and one of the.hose pipes had never been tightened (that was him). Otherwise all was well, so wearing delighted smiles we

rushed around with hydraulic fluid and a plastic pipe and bottle in an effort to produce a working clutch.

5.05 We had a clutch and a full complement of gears, all we needed now were some brakes. Rex did the honours with the bottle and pipe while I did the athletics with the right foot, crawling out periodically to top up the master cylinder.

6.05 We climbed in and drove to the nearest pint – the camera never lies.

Surprised is the wrong word, relieved is probably better. Either way we had completed what we came to do.· It had taken us 7½working hours, three hours longer than the claimed time. However, we don’t doubt it has been done and are prepared to admit that we were a trifle slow at times, although we were determined to make a good job of the car on the way. More important is that we did prove you could build a Clan comfortably in a day without any real problems.

We had no help and no special tools, infact we lacked a trolley jack, one item which could well have saved considerable time and something that most enthusiasts could probably borrow. So assembly is well within the scope of anybody with a reasonable knowledge of cars and a selection of tools

Neither Rex nor myself had ever assembled a car before although we’re both used to working on them. We got tremendous satisfaction from our day’s work, especially driving away in it at the end. We now appreciate that there is more enjoyment to be gained from owning a kit car than just the saving on purchase tax (although that’s a fair incentive on its own).

Initially the Clan was somewhat of an :embarrassment to Motor – we had to admit we’d never  heard of it. After the third enquiry we decided to get to the bottom of the matter. Now as you can see our pestering resulted in us going the whole hog and actually constructing one.

Its theory is interesting. Basically the brainchild of ex-Lotus project engineer, Paul Haussauer, the prototype undertray was constructed in a small garage in Norwich in December, 1969. It was then passed to John Frayling, said to be Britain’s leading independent stylist, who gave it its

aerodynamic body. By the spring of 1970 the Clan had become a full time project, and by August the garage had been outgrown and business was temporarily carried out in the corner of a baked bean warehouse!  Now production is in full swing in a new, purpose built, 23,000 sq. ft. factory.

The two-seater Clan is a full glassfibre monocoque, which houses an 875 cc Hillman Imp motor in its tail – an unladen kerb weight of around 12 cwt. and a body of low drag factor · contributing to a very respectable performance. Naturally 1000 cc units have been tried, with sparkling  results, but at the moment the cost makes them an unreasonable proposition for production cars.

The Clans are available in six different colours and cost £1118 in kit form – the kit comprising a fully trimmed and wired shell, a complete front subframe, a rear subframe with engine and gearbox complete, and the four road wheels. A ready-made version costs £1399.37.

Ever since glassfibre cars have been in quantity production, discussions have continued about the pros and cons of the protection it gives in an accident. Clan have been conscious of this from the outset and have been very safety-minded throughout the design. With international safety regulations becoming more and more demanding, only the clearance of an official rest could allow Clan to market the car with full confidence. So it was that yet another vehicle met its doom on MIRA’s crash pad.

The results ‘ were very encouraging indeed  as anticipated, the nose crumpled without any effect to the cockpit area whatsoever. The steering column, which is allowed up to 5in. of movement, crept up just 0.8in.! The rubber mounted tank, once again as designed, rode above the accident

and was thus totally intact after the event. Finally the doors were practically in showroom  condition and worked perfectly – so there would have been no case of passenger imprisonment. The result of this  and the total lack of damage to the rear section means the cost of repair would have been limited to a new nose section and the standard Chrysler front suspension. A comforting thought for both the owner and insurer!

A full road test on the car is scheduled in the near future.

Gordon Bruce