Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
The Clan was the brainchild of Paul Haussauer. With an Oxford engineering degree, involving a 5-year apprenticeship with General Electric, and a brief spell in a plastics firm under his belt, he joined Lotus
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, 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. Modelling the concept on that of glass-fibre boats, the Clan
design used just two basic moulds, top and bottom; 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
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.
Lessons from Ginetta and TVR
Only two packages of the day lent themselves to easy adaptation, Mini
or Hillman Imp
; many had tried the Mini, getting over the height of the A-series engine plus underslung transmission in a variety of not always successful styling ways; 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
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
with twin Stromberg carburettors and 51 bhp from 875cc; with a kerb weight of around 600 kg it promised good enough performance.
Styled by John Frayling
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. The car's best aspect was from the rear as the front, with its raised headlight pods, was slightly awkward and the deep doors, although they gave good access, were too slab-sided; overall it was neat enough in appearance but less "normal-looking" than the Ginetta
, for instance.
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 from 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. 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 production-line on September 22, 1971
Autocar Road Test
Autocar produced their road-test the same week having used a pre-production car - OPT 434J. Their public relations were handled by Malcolm Ginsberg, another ex-Lotus man. Autocar concluded ... "Clan have been bold in going for the second-car rather than the sports-car market, but the approach may well pay off. At the moment there is not much opposition there. The Fiat 850 Coupe which is perhaps the class archetype is very difficult to get and waiting lists are long. The Crusader's price of UK£1399 looks high, but it includes a respectable equipment standard and the cars we have seen are exceptionally well-finished. It offers the appeal of a new body shape which, as we discovered, attracts a lot of attention (most of it, seemingly, favourable) with good performance and excellent road manners, while sticking to a well-tried mechanical formula. To a large extent, whether it succeeds will depend on the reputation it manages to establish in the coming year. If the quality can be maintained and a reasonable service network established, the Crusader has sufficient good points to do well."
By November the Crusader had been so well received that the company responded to the many requests to produce the car in component form, thereby saving purchase tax; this brought the price down to UK£1125 but by the time sun-roof, Cosmic alloy wheels, halogen headlights and radio had been added, this had risen to £1246 against the production-built car at £1489 similarly equipped. Motor took up the challenge to build a kit in the claimed time of 4.5 hours with two former special-building road-testers and a photographer. They completed UPT 595K in 7.5 working hours having had a little trouble with Chrysler tolerances versus those of Clan. Six weeks later, in August 1972
they followed this up with a road test of UUP 5K, by which time there were 15 Clan dealers, but the 5000 mile service was within the scope of any Chrysler dealer.
Motor vs. Autocar Testing
In fact Autocar's early car wasn't quite as quick as Motor's. Motor lapped MIRA's banked circuit at 10Omph, Autocar at 96.1mph in virtually identical conditions. In standing starts Autocar were a little slower off the mark with 0-30mph in 4.3 seconds (Motor 3.8 seconds) and 0-50mph in 9.1 seconds (Motor 8.9 seconds), but Autocar were slightly quicker from 60mph (12.5 sec versus 12.9 sec). By this speed, tested weight comes into it and Autocar would seem only to have had one tester in a slightly lighter car at 11-3 rather than 11-8cwt. However when it came to consumption testing Motor's car was better, 17% better from 40-80 mph, with a much better 30 mph figure at 75 mpg against 55. At 70 mph Motor recorded an impressive 43mpg against Autocar's 37, but both obviously enjoyed the car as their overall road-test consumption figures were 33-2mpg (heavy) with 34-3mpg for Autocar.
Come Motor Show 1972
and Clan 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; Dawson also won 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; 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.
Chrysler Supply Problems
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 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.
That Motor Show 1973
saw Clan still 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; 310 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 production finished at some 325 cars all told.
Behind The Wheel
According to Motor the Crusader's performance was impressive for 875cc. You could wind the engine out to 7000 rpm, however that was not the best way to extract performance. Instead they set a benchmark of 5000 rpm, and that gave 20, 35, 55mph in the gears with 70mph in top at 4600rpm. The Imp
always had a precise gear-lever movement and the Clan retained its finger-tip lightness; rubber drive-shaft doughnuts and a well-cushioned light clutch make rapid changes remarkably smooth. There was plenty of power in hand for quick overtaking in the 40-60mph range. The lack of power required by a low-drag light car was evident in its ability to cruise on small throttle openings, and Motor managed to average 42.1 mpg with some motorway use - impressive.
At 70mph the engine was fairly quiet - it got a little raucous beyond 5000rpm - and there was virtually no wind noise; on noise-producing surfaces the Clan picked up some road-roar but it was a quiet car overall. However the car was most at home away from motorways. Its roadholding was exceptionally good; there was a nice, almost go-kart, response to the light steering and the car cornered flat where you pointed it; arguably it under-steered under power - really only detectable on wet roads - and will tuck-in controllably if you lift the power in mid-corner, but there was enough rubber on the road for slip angles to be left in the theoretician's imagination. It was a rapid car for point-to-point motoring on country roads and you could stay in top gear for surprisingly long periods.
Like many rear engined cars it was buffeted when there were strong side winds, but never to a knuckle-whitening extent; most of the time it remained very stable. Its drum brakes
were well up to the demands of stopping such a light car. Inevitably the ride couldn't be of quite the same standard as the roadholding; it was firm and you noticed irregularities in surface, but it isn't bouncy and the pitch inherent in a 40/60 front/rear weight distribution had been well damped almost to extinction. The Motor road testers said the Crusader felt solid too and the occasional pot-hole could be noisy, but didn't generate any rattles. The primary humps-and-hollows ride was very pleasant.
It seemed the only problems were those that were also evident on the Imp. The heater output was abysmal, and it took a lifetime to demist a fogged screen, which was all the more surprising given these were very rarely well fitted and would allow some water in. A pair of fresh-air eyeball vents were also limited in throughput unless a side window was open. Inevitably there wasn't a lot of space for luggage, but the boot served its purpose for an overnight stay, while coats went on the platform behind the seats.
A short time after the Clan Crusaders demise, Paul Haussauer found himself working as a management consultant. The Clan failure was a classic case of over-trading, he admitted - too little capital, too much borrowing; this was a viable gamble in 1971
, but when the company experienced a financial troubles in 1973
, lenders wanted their money back, leaning heavily on those with assets convertible into something like the outstanding cash while the property dealers, whose assets had taken a massive tumble, were given time to pay up on the basis that something in future was better than nothing then. It didn't help that the newly established European distributor had also gone under at a time when production was being geared up to cater for strong overseas interest.