Auto Test

Reprinted From AUTOCAR 23 September 1971

AT A GLANCE: Small sporting car with well-tried mechanicals from new British manufacturer. fast, with excellent handling and brakes. Very economical and quite comfortable, but strictly for two.

At a time when various factors are conspiring to make the 1971 Motor Show a far from spectacular one, it is pleasant to note the appearance of an interesting new British car . The Clan Crusader hails from Washington New Town, in County Durham, where it is produced by a small and enthusiastic team with a considerable background of experience. Their factory, like the car, is new and well planned.

The Crusader depends to a very large extent on the mechanical components of the Sunbeam Stiletto. The little all-alloy engine with its Coventry Climax ancestry is one of the most suitable possible power plants for a small sporting car.. Its specification- high compression ratio, overhead camshaft and over-square dimensions-is an attraction in itself, but so is its light weight and the low line which can be achieved because the unit is canted over at 45 degrees.

The Stiletto engine and transmission , and also the Imp suspension , are mounted in the Crusader’s neat and ingenious glassfibre reinforced plastics body. This is made in two sections, top and bottom, which when joined together become an effective monocoque. Some strengthening diaphragms and local tubular reinforcement are then added , and the result is a car which is spectacularly light; two and a half hundredweight lighter than the MG Midget, for example, and three and a half hundredweight less than the Stiletto itself.

The Crusader is a sports coupe in the modern image, but a considerable effort has been made to keep it practical. Clan ‘s idea is that the Crusader should appeal more to the family looking for a smart little second car than to the out-and-out sporting enthusiast . It is made strictly as a two-seater, so that the accommodation in front does not have to be compromised by the need to squeeze anyone in the back. Its wheelbase is the same as the Imp’s, so this design approach means that the two occupants have plenty of room. The styling of the body, by John Frayling, looks quite long and low but in fact the Clan car is only 7in. longer than the Imp and it is by no means as low as some of the more extreme sporting exercises of recent years.

Lively Performance

Performance report

Performance report

The very low weight and clean aerodynamic shape of the Crusader ensures that the performance is good even though this was not the primary aim of the design. Clan make no attempt to tune the engine , but fit the whole assembly in its standard Chrysler-produced form (except that an alternator is substituted for the generator used in the Stiletto). With most of the weight over the back wheels, traction is excellent, in fact rather too good to make a clean standing start, since the wheels refuse to spin and the engine “falls off the cam” for a second or so.

A measure of what can be achieved by weight reduction is the Crusader’s time of 12 .5 sec to 60 mph which is nearly 4 sec quicker than our recorded time for the Imp Sport. At higher speeds, where the low drag starts to play its part, the improvement is even more marked , with 80 mph coming up in 25 instead of 37sec . At the very top end of the range , the Crusader recorded a mean maximum of 100 mph on the MIRA high-speed track, with a best one-way leg of 102 mph. This compares with the Imp Sport’s maximum of 90 mph.

At this sort of speed , the Crusader”s engine is turning over very fast . With its normal Imp gearing and wheels, the mph per 1 ,OOO rpm figure is a modest 15.1, so that at the 100 mph maximum the revs are a fairly staggering 6,620 – a long way over the power peak. There is little doubt that the Crusader would go faster still if the gearing was slightly higher , and it might well be worth Clan’s while to look into this. Higher gearing would also raise the maximum speeds in the intermediate gears, bringing 30 mph within reach of first and 50 mph of second. With so little weight to get off the line, there would still be no problems in starting.

The same factors which give good performance also mean that the fuel consumption must be reasonable , and so it is . As is often the case with cars whose engines have generous inlet tracts , the Crusader proved slightly more economical at a steady 40 than at 30 mph, with a figure getting on for 60 mpg in each case . It was still bettering 30 mpg even at a steady 80 mph . For once, too, it bettered the DIN calculated touring figure to give us an overall consumption figure of 34.3 mpg, one of the best returned by any test car this year.

HandlIng And Brakes

One advantage of any rear-engined car is that the steering can be made light and high-geared , and Clan have certainly done so. With just over two and a half turns of the wheel between extremes of a 30ft lock, the Crusader feels almost in the go-kart class on first acquaintance. The feeling soon wears off, however, and one comes to appreciate that most of the time the car is remarkably stable; the only thing which upsets it is a sidewind , in the manner of almost all rear-engined vehicles. The steering is medium-weight, but most of the time the car responds to pressure on the wheel rather than actual movement, and this makes driving a delight down twisting country roads . It was noticeable that the wheel hardly had to be moved at all when lapping the banked MIRA circuit . Only when trundling slowly round town do the driver’s arms as well as his wrists have to work, and then a half-turn of the wheel is sufficient to cope with almost any corner.

As might be expected , the handling is reminiscent of the Imp, but better. Spring rates and damper settings have been changed to suit the lighter car, the tyres are of generous section considering the weight they are carrying and the centre of gravity is low. The Crusader stays on the driver’s chosen line almost exactly with a slight tendency for the tail to hang out in the later stages of a really tight corner . The cornering limit is very high indeed , and when it is reached it is the back wheels which lose their grip first . Altogether, the Crusader’s handling approaches the standard set by the Lotus Elan. Like the Elan , its relatively soft springing means that it rolls quite a lot when driven very hard . Although the steering is generally well insulated from feedback , large bumps occasionally overcome the damping and give the wheel a violent wrench.

It may come as some surprise to find a relatively quick and undoubtedly sporting car wearing all-drum brakes in this day and age. But again, the Crusader’s brakes are standard Imp Sport items (complete with servo) and have so little weight to cope with that they are entirely satisfactory . Ultimate stopping power is very high . We recorded well over 1 g for a 601b pedal effort, but there is plenty of feel to the system and it is always possible to stop the car smoothly. There was a slight rise in pedal effort, accompanied by a smell of linings, half way through the fade test but the brakes remained effective. The handbrake recorded an exceptional stop of almost ½g when tried on the level , and held the car very easily on the 1 in 3 test hill . A restart was just possible on this hill with the aid of a little clutch slip.

Comfort And Convenience

The soft springing already mentioned means that the Crusader rides better, probably than anything else in its class. It covers normal surfaces very smoothly, and the main effect of rougher roads is to betray the short wheelbase as the car starts to pitch. In this case , some sharp vertical shocks are also fed through the structure.

The two seats look a bit on the thin side but are actually well shaped and comfortable for long periods. Their range of fore and aft movement is considerable, and even our biggest driver found he was able to . achieve a good driving position. Entry and exit through the wide doors present no problem although inevitably it is not up to saloon car standards and might deter some elderly passengers . Headroom is somewhat restricted for longbacked occupants.

The very small , leather-covered steering wheel was set at just the right height and rake to bring praise from our drivers, but some women drivers might prefer a larger one. The pedal cluster betrays its Imp ancestry by being offset to the centre of the car, but none of our testers reported finding the wrong pedal by mistake . While the accelerator and brakes are light in operation, the clutch is quite heavy but needs only a small movement to free it. The delightful Imp gearchange is a big plus point for the Crusader. If anything , it feels even better when one is sitting alongside it rather than above it, as in the saloons. The handbrake is placed between the seats.

Imp Sport instruments are used and for the most part are entirely satisfactory. Our taller drivers . however, reported that the row of warning lights above the centre instruments was completely obscured by the upper edge of the glareshield. A good job has been done on the minor control layout, with a column stalk for the wipers and washer as well as the usual indicator /flasher /dip one. The two rocker switches on the centre console. one for the lamps and one for the heater blower. might be better with some form of identification.


Clan Motor Co. Ltd. , Crowther 3, Washington, County Durham.


Basic: £, 118.00
Purchase Tax: £281 .37
Seat belts: £10.50
Total (in G.B.): £1,409.87

Extras (Inc. P.T.)

Sun roof* £33.20
Aluminium wheels* £46.10
Halogen headlamps £13.83
Radio £39.40

* Fitted to test car

Price As Tested 

£ 1,489.17