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 1966 - 1977

The Trevor Fiore Prototypes

The origins of Trident cars can be traced to the financial problems that hit the Blackpool specialist car firms of TVR, which handled sales of TVR cars, and Grantura Engineering, which constructed them. TVR, producing a number of well liked coupe models, ran into cash- flow difficulties in 1965, and was unable to proceed with a new aluminium bodied fixed-head car design by Trevor Fiore.

Two prototypes had already been constructed by Italian coach builder Fissore and attracted plenty of attention at the 1965 Geneva Motor Show. The design was bought by a TVR agent, W. J. Last, of Woodbridge, Suffolk. Last, who had a stake in Grantura, also persuaded the directors to authorise Fissore to undertake another prototype - a steel-bodied convertible based on an Austin-Healey chassis. Last went to Italy to collect this car; and returned to find that Grantura and TVR had gone into liquidation (though TVR was soon to be resuscitated on a sounder footing).

A new firm, Trident Cars Ltd, was established at Woodbridge with the very shapely convertible as its first model. The prototype appeared at the 1966 London Racing Car Show on the new company's stand. It was fitted with a 289 Ford 4727cc V8 engine in a cruciform-based boxed-platform chassis with coil front and conventional semi-elliptic rear suspension. Fiore was called in again to design a 2 + 2 glass fibre fastback coupe on the Austin-Healey chassis, and it was this car, shown at the Racing Car Show of 1967, which began manufacture at a plant in Market Harborough, with a production goal of three cars weekly.

The Austin-Healey was discontinued shortly afterwards by British Motor Holdings, but Bill Last had duplicate chassis made, and the Trident was sold in kit form in the UK for £1923. Formidable acceleration (0-60 mph in 5.0 seconds), 150 mph top speed, 11-inch disc brakes all round, and very full interior specification including reclining seats and tinted glass made it attractive to the comparatively wealthy enthusiast. Coil and wishbone front suspension and a live rear axle located by torque arms and a Panhard rod gave good though rather heavy handling.

Much of the production was exported to the United States, but the knowledgeable on both sides of the Atlantic recognised the Trident as among the most impressive of the small 'muscle' road machines then available. The three-litre Ford V6, popular in many British 'specials', was offered as an alternative in 1967, as well as open and closed bodywork. In the latter part of 1968 production moved to Woodbridge, and the finish, which had-been criticised, received special attention.

The Trident Clipper and Venturer

By the time of the 1969 Racing Car Show the Trident had really taken on the look of a thoughtfully produced, well sorted and well finished challenger to better known cars of the type. A Trident V8 established a quarter-mile standing-start record of 14.3 seconds for GT cars under 5 litres at Santa Pod. In 1969 production moved yet again, this time to Ipswich, and new versions of the car were shown at Earls Court. They utilised a TR6 floorpan lengthened by 5.5 inches. The V8 was named the Clipper, and the V6 was dubbed Venturer. In the course of 1970 there were modifications to the bodywork including slight lengthening and an improvement in the rear headroom by 1.5 inches.

Though the Trident was designed strictly as a road car, a Clipper weighing 32 cwt with all its roll-cage and rally equipment was entered in the 1970 London-Sydney Marathon. It reached Yugoslavia before the suspension collapsed. The early 1970s saw Trident wrestling with two problems. A big Ford of Britain strike early in 1971 starved the firm of V6 engines, and exports to the US, France, Spain and Switzerland accordingly suffered. Even more difficult were the demands of continually developing US safety regulations, which gravely hit all limited-production firms. Nonetheless Trident set about revising its range in the light of the new demands.

The Venturer, whose price was now UK£2300 in kit form, continued with a luxurious specification, though the body now had the opening rear window which was becoming almost obligatory in fastback GT cars. The new Clipper II acquired a Chrysler 5.4-litre V8, to provide the extra power otherwise sapped by the equipment needed for US exhaust emission regulations. The Clipper II was also given low-set twin circular headlamps to distinguish it instantly from the smaller-engined car. The specification was just as luxurious as ever, and the £4250 price for a factory-built Clipper included automatic transmission, electric windows and leather upholstery.

The Trident Tycoon

In 1971 a new model was introduced - the Trident Tycoon, factory-built at UK£3250 and fitted with a 2.5-litre Triumph engine to fill the gap left by the short-supply Ford V6. Rectangular headlamps were the only significant external change. But the problems of being a small car manufacturer at a time when the safety and pollution lobbies were hunting the scalps even of the large car makers had by now proved too great, and early in 1972 the firm went into liquidation.

The Trident car was not yet finished, however, and an associate company of Bill Last's, Viking Performance Ltd, took over production, though on a comparatively restricted basis. The firm had previously been responsible only for producing the glass fibre bodies. In all some 200 Trident cars were produced, about half of which have been exported. Production has latterly been sporadic and uncertain, and various attempts have been made to put Trident on a sounder footing. At time of writing the car was ostensibly still available and there will doubtless be plans to revive it more positively. Between 1967 and 1977 about 39 Clippers, 84 Venturers and 7 Tycoons were produced.

A new Trident company was established in May 1999 in Fakenham, Norfolk, to develop and manufacture a two-seater sports car the Iceni, originally to use a 3.2 litre GM V6 engine, later changed to a 6.6 litre V8. In 2002 the company changed its name to Broadley Performance Vehicles plc. Series production starts in 2007, and the car has been modified since to fit the 6.6 litre V8 engine, capable of 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 170 mph (270 km/h). More surprisingly, however, is the fact that the car can achieve a top fuel consumption of around 70 mpg. On April 27 2007 an Iceni filled with 100 litres of diesel was to be driven from the Norfolk factory to the Monaco Motorshow (nearly 1000 miles), with the filler cap sealed to prevent any fill ups.

Also see: London-Sydney Marathon
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