Australia came to learn of car manufacturer Purvis Cars following the 1974
Melbourne Car Show, when the sensational "Eureka" was displayed for the very first time. Motor Magazine (then named "Modern Motor") featured the Eureka on its June 1974 edition cover, and not to be outdone Sports Car World then headlined with "We Drove it First" for their July 1974 edition. The Eureka actually started life in the UK in 1971
, there called the Nova.
The concept then went to the US as the Sterling and South Africa as the Eagle. But it was Aussie Alan Purvis that came across the Nova while on holiday in the UK in late 1971
, he quickly setting about creating distribution agreements for Australia and New Zealand. Alan renamed the Nova as "Eureka" in recognition of the fighting spirit demonstrated by the miners at the Eureka Stockade, and even went as far as adoption the Eureka flag as the companies symbol.
But it took another 2 years before the VW Beetle based kit landed in Oz. Although the deal was done quickly and money changed hands, the delay was caused by other Australian interests trying to out-bid and out-manoeuvre the Melbourne Adman. What made the Eureka and Sterling so attractive to buyers was the ease of construction and relative low cost. The first model, the Sports, was available in either a do-it-yourself kit or as a complete 1600cc VW powered car. Either way running gear was pure 1967
VW. You just threw away the Beetle body and used the rest. At the time the humble Bug’s were cheaper than ever.
Purvis Cars started out operating from a 3500 sq. ft. factory near Dandenong, demand more than filling the available space. Later a second larger factory was acquired in the same area, this one with 8500 sq. ft. of space. That too would quickly became inadequate, work from the spin-off firm, Purvis fibreglass (which made some 60-70 individual spoilers, bonnet scoops etc) more than keeping the seven man staff busy.
The PL30 (aka Peter Lalor)
The Eureka 'Sports' remained basically unchanged from its introduction here through to early 1977
, when the new PL30 was introduced. In a neat bit of localisation, the letters 'PL' stood for Peter Lalor, the man who led the Eureka Stockade gold miners rebellion at Ballarat in 1854. The PL30 was not merely a facelift though, it was a genuine attempt to overcome the flaws and faults that three years of living with the Eureka had revealed.
Most significant were the new roof, which brought forward the windscreen and thus made a contribution to improved headroom, and a totally new dashboard. The latter allowed for better legroom and removed that "home made" look of the Interior. Detail alterations included better quality trim, easier engine access and cleaner front and rear styling. Prices by this stage were starting to climb. Originally in kit form it cost $2778, but this figure rose to $4875 for the PL30.
Six months after the PL30 came the first electric roofed car - a significant addition as most Eurekas would be ordered with this feature once it became available. Mid-1978 heralded the F4. It featured the most dramatic departure of all, Ford power. The four cylinder 1600 cc Ford unit was introduced to satisfy those who either didn't like the clatter of an old VW in something so purposeful, or for those who wanted plenty of performance.
The Ford adoption presented problems, however. The rear deck had to be raised two inches and large airscoops were included on either side to cool the motor and left-side mounter water radiator. Several other less significant changes were also made. And if you are buying a second hand VW powered Eureka, don’t be fooled by the 'F' in F4, which stood for 'Ford', as this model was also available with 1600cc VW power and retained the remainder of the VW running gear.
With the release of the F4 prices were on the rise again, but this time in Australia saw plenty of inflation, so it was not as if Purvis were intentionally price gouging. 1978 pricing for the F4 kit was $4535 complete (everything except the VW bits and/or Ford motor). A popular accessory was also released when the targa topped F4 was announced – a clip-in, clip-out roof panel which stowed in the boot (taking away the little luggage space that you had) – and this went a long way toward removing the slightly claustrophobic effect of the interior. By 1979 around 480 Eurekas had been sold over the previous six years. Despite the home-built nature of the car, only in Queensland and Western Australia did owners have registration problems.
According to the company literature, construction of a Eureka would take four to six months for the average handyman working week-ends and after hours. To demonstrate that the Purvis was not a one trick pony, the company bid and won the tender to design and construct the Chrysler Sigma Turbo which appeared at the 1980 Brisbane and Melbourne Motor Shows.
Up In Flames
Despite the fuel crisis and a little less demand for the Eureka, the company was looking to the future – but luck was not on their side. An electrical fault in a spray booth caused a devastating factory fire destroying 99 per cent of the Eureka moulds, 50 or 60 spoiler, bonnet scoop and flare moulds, the spray booth and the trimming booth. It rendered the factory unusable. The company was forced to look for a new premises, while Allan Purvis himself remained confident he could get things sorted. He believed he could be fully operational again within two or three months, and financially the company could be back on its feet in three years.