Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
It was said of kit cars during the 1960’s that they were sheep dressed as tigers. This was true, and proved the major reason for buying one. However it was also said of kit cars that the mechanicals and suspension
were so poor that you could hear them coming ten minutes before they arrived. But Alan Purvis worked tirelessly on overcoming the “kit car” reputation, thereby making a place for the Eureka in the Australian market.
Basically the Eureka was factory supplied except for the running gear and the engine. Purvis recommended a 1967-69 VW Beetle, however engines ranged from the 1600 VW to modified Kombi engines of up to 2 litres, and even included 1.6 litre Cortina engines, along with a handful of Mazda rotaries. Severely restricted by lack of working capital, Alan Purvis relied strongly on owner involvement, with their feedback on problems and new ideas resulting in continual modification and improvement to the basic kit during the production run.
In terms of its styling the Eureka was an almost unqualified success. Based on the Nova which was first released in the UK, over 4000 kits were sold worldwide under various names. The Eureka had a low
slung and powerful look, evoking images of Italian Super-cars that never failed to turn heads. Lamborghini Countach air scoops added an extra touch of class, and the Targa roof available from the early 1980’s afforded much better (and for tall drivers much needed) additional headroom.
One of the major problems with the Eureka was the effect on handling
caused by having most of the weight behind the axle, making the suspension
at both ends somewhat of a compromise. There was a Purvis model that featured a mid-engine racing rotary motor, which totally overcame any real problems associated with using a Beetle floor.
But as it stood, the stock Eureka (if such a thing existed) was best kept to the straight and narrow. But given the origins of the car, and the fact that it really only appealed to enthusiasts, it became part of the ownership experience to continually finesse the suspension
to get it “just right”.
The low centre of gravity helped, and with the right combination of shocks many drivers were able to continually push the Eureka harder into corners. Many discovered however that when traction was lost, the rear-end would let go suddenly and un-forgivingly. Those that purchased the car new could avoid sales tax by constructing the car themselves, a job that required attention and care rather than enormous automotive skills. Naturally then the finish of the car depended entirely on person assembling the kit. The determination of Alan Purvis to make his idea work can be gauged from the fact that a near disastrous fire in early 1980 at his factory did not stop him for more than a few weeks.
The first Sports model was produced between 1974
. It could be identified by the low roof line and flatter windscreen angle. Typically there were plastic moulded rear tail lights, and inside there was a rounded instrument panel and narrow centre console. The dash was very narrow, forcing those that wanted to fit a radio to place it rather inconveniently on the passenger side. Fortunately however some concessions were made to driver comfort, particularly with the inclusion of two large centre mounted air vents.
The PL30 model followed in 1975, and would remain in production for a little over a year. A higher roof catered for taller drivers, while an increase to the angle of the windscreen cut down on reflection problems. The rear-end treatment looked far less like a kit-car than its predecessor, and featured a vastly better looking squared off rear tail light assembly complete with narrow bumper underneath. The instrument panel grew in size, allowing the fitment of extra gauges and, best of all, allowance was made so that a radio could be fitted in the centre.
The F4 model was manufactured between 1976 and 1991. The headlights were rounded, while the rear deck over the motor was flat. Visually the Eureka was always the best value in Australian performance vehicles, and the enjoyment derived from owner improvement (many of whom were ingenious in their modifications) earned the Purvis Eureka a place in Australian automotive history – a place it thoroughly deserved.
Behnind the Wheel
Get behind the wheel of the Eureka and the first over-riding impression, forgetting the low slung driving position, was that there was plenty of noise. VW based models often had toasports exhaust
systems, making the familiar VW clatter even deeper. The noise could become tiresome on long trips, but not many were complaining, given the car provided almost V8 performance.
Controls, being basic VW, were familiar to many drivers. The gearbox worked well with the medium pressure clutch, although the brakes
were average. Steering too could be disappointing. Typically “Arm-Strong” in nature, The driver really knew they were moving big fat tyres
around on the road. Feel was close to non-existent. While the body hugging seats were well located, some owners told of removing their shoes to ensure better driver comfort, so we assume there was an issue with space around the pedals area.
But if there was a lack of space in the foot-well, this was definitely not the case of the interior as a whole, and it was not as claustrophobic as you would have thought. The dash looked a little amateurish but worked well, as did the other controls. Vision, good to the front, was restricted to the sides, and almost nonexistent at the rear. Even with twin exterior mirrors positioned perfectly, you couldn’t really see much.
In pure driving terms, the Eureka was a lot of fun. Its handling was very predictable, and you could chuck it into corners with ease, and confidence. But arguably the strong point of the Eureka was the eye-appeal. If there was a “Bang for your Buck” category for drop dead gorgeous looks, the Eureka would have left everything in its dust. Nothing got close for the money. With normal registration costs, reasonable insurance premiums and 8.8 litres/100 km (32 mpg) fuel economy, the Eureka had a lot going for it.