The Clan Crusader Was The Brainchild Of Paul Haussauer.
After attending Stowe School, Buckinghamshire and with an Oxford engineering degree, involving a 5-year apprenticeship with General Electric together with a brief spell in a plastics firm under his belt, he joined Lotus in 1965 to learn about the specialised car industry, first as fitter then as draughtsman. As Assistant Projects Engineer he worked on the Elan S3 and S4 as well as the Elite, but he felt that there was still space at the bottom end of the two-seater sports GT market; he even proposed the embryo Clan as the Lotus 7 of the seventies, but the boss turned it down.
Seeking to rival the success of his grandfather who had founded Sadia water heaters, Paul Haussauer left Lotus at the beginning of 1970 to design and produce his own car, starting in a small hut in nearby Norwich where he was assisted by some of his Lotus friends. The Clan design used just two basic moulds, top and bottom; Modelling the concept on that of glass-fibre boats this retained the basic strength of the material somewhat better than did the original Lotus Elite which had too many moulds held together by bonding, rather than use the bonding to strengthen integrated strands of fibreglass.
Obviously doors, bonnet and boot were separate, but the main monocoque structure was founded on the two parts reinforced with marine-ply diaphragms and pick-ups for the sub-frame mountings. It wouldn’t have been impossible to have used any suspension or engine layout, provided that it could all be assembled onto a sub-frame with its advantages of widely spaced mounting points to distribute the loads, but it would have been expensive.
Only two packages of the day lent themselves to easy adaptation, Mini or Hillman Imp. The Mini unit presented problems with the height of the A-series engine and underslung transmission as seen later with the McCoy. Ginetta used the Imp rear frame and power unit in the G15 which used a fibreglass body bonded to a steel chassis, while TVR had earlier proposed the same with the Tina which never went into production.
The Imp units were chosen for the Clan for their simplicity and lightness; both front and rear systems were easily mounted and were very compact. At the front just two central mounting points held the wide-based swing axle wishbones complete with rack and pinion; spring caps and dampers were the only extra locations required. At the rear, the complete sub-frame carried engine, transmission, radiator and cooling fan; this was bolted into place with horizontal and vertical bolts through the sub-frame, and the single rubber bush at the rear. The unit chosen was from the Sunbeam Stiletto which had twin Stromberg carburettors and produced 51 bhp from 875cc. With a kerb weight of around 600 kg it promised good enough performance.
Retaining components from a single supplier was obviously sound sense from a servicing viewpoint, and this was continued inside with Imp heaters and switchgear. The inside was neatly trimmed and a sunroof was fitted to most cars. Space was provided behind the seats with a child-size platform and a fairly nominally sized front luggage locker, access to that and the engine cover being via internal release. Stylist John Frayling took advantage of the rear-mounted radiator to use a wind-cheating chisel nose, with a bluff area to carry the number plate or provide an intake for an oil cooler if necessary on more powerful versions – like the 998cc rally cars.
With the design completed and approved, including successfully surviving the crash test, the team needed somewhere to build it. Washington New Town had been founded in County Durham in 1964 and the new Clan Motor Company established itself on this smart modern trading estate, where the rates were relatively cheap as a sort of introductory offer. Paul Haussauer took Arthur Birchall and a few others from Lotus, moving into the new factory in March 1971. The whole process of production took place within the 23,000sq ft premises. Fibreglass laying-up, curing and trimming, jig-cutting of apertures and mounting hole boring, followed by painting using some 14 coats, used up half the production line; on the return all the bought-in components were added. Basic capacity was 20 cars per week on a single-shift system. The first production car rolled off the line was registered on 21st July 1971.
Each Clan Crusader sold for £1,350 but could be purchased in kit form for £1,125. The company stated that, given the right equipment and technical knowledge, a car could be assembled in 4 hrs. Clan Crusaders could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 12 seconds and boasted 56 miles per gallon at a cruising speed of 40 mph.
By the 1972 Motor Show The Clan Motor Company had 19 dealers; they were producing cars at the rate of five a week with intent to rise to ten a week at that time. In rallies, Andy Dawson/John Foden had taken a 998cc version to second overall in the 1972 Manx Rally and John Blades was planning to use one in Mod-Sports events. Alan Conley also had success in Motoring News rallies. It looked as though the Clan had arrived and become an institution in one year flat. Then April 1973 saw the introduction of VAT and the instant erosion of the saving on component cars, but by August Clan had almost become a household name; Paul Haussauer and Clans had appeared on television in “The Advisers”, in which an advertising agency specialist had suggested that Clan should go for a more masculine appeal with faster cars, and again with Frank Costin on an open university course, An Introduction to Materials – The Car Body.
But the storm clouds were gathering. The price had risen to a not unreasonable UK£1469 (half-way between an MGB and an MGB GT) while Ginetta offered the G15 at UK£1395 or the 1-litre G15S at UK£1545. Chrysler’s always troubled Linwood production line began to create supply difficulties and the tight little Washington ship lacked the reserves of cash to stem the tide; VAT hadn’t helped and the prospect of rate increases on the New Town premises was looming. From a staffing perspective, Clan had always run very lean. That meant that Paul Haussauer had to be involved in every aspect of the car’s production. With the growing problems, he then had to concentrate entirely on the business side. With the odds against him compounded by poor supply, the company went into debt and the receiver was called in.
The Motor Show 1973 saw The Clan Motor Company there in a bid to build up the orders; the Guild of Motoring Writers test-day saw two cars in continuous use as journalists battled for the drivers’ seats. But a week later, production had to be suspended due to supply difficulties. Then Christmas 1973 saw the Clan Motor Company go into liquidation with debts of UK£52,000 still with many outstanding orders; demand had increased as a result of that year’s fuel crisis. Had an injection been available the Clan would doubtless have been with us still, but the country was still unsure of the economic future, banks had been bitten in the collapse of the property market and no-one responded; 331 cars had been built in the two years.
What was left of the company was sold to a Greek-Cypriot millionaire, Andreas Kaisis, for a reported UK£25,000 in April 1974. Kaisis’ company assembled KMC trucks using Chrysler components in Cyprus, so the deal looked promising and a four-seater version was envisaged; but, having sold off the part-built cars, the new owner withdrew in the wake of both the continuing fuel crisis and the Greek-Turkish war and that was finally that. So total Clan Crusader production finished at some 358 cars all told.