The Clan Motor Company
In 1967-1968 Paul Haussauer and Brian Luff, who both worked for Lotus, decided that as soon as they could go their own way they would build a sports car.
This was the seed of the Clan Crusader. The car would be a GRP monocoque, thus dispensing with the heavy metal chassis and have the lightweight Rootes/Chrysler Imp Sport engine, transmission and suspension.
Other Lotus employees were recruited for the project and in Ron Paynes garage they built the plywood undertray and box pattern which was sent to John Frayling, the stylist, who made the buck. John Frayling came up with the Crusader design that looked fantastic and hasn’t dated significantly in over 30 years.
The buck was taken to a little room adjoining the sack store in the Crosse and Blackwell baked bean warehouse in Norwich where work on the car carried on. In early 1970 the team began cutting its ties with Lotus and forming the new company. At that time an offer was received from the Washington Development Corporation and they moved to a special development area on the Crowther Industrial Estate, Washington, County Durham. After initially working in a smaller nursery unit, in the spring of 1971 the Clan Motor Company were in a 24,500sq.ft factory built to their own design. Before long the company was employing 29 local people and producing five cars per week.
The Crusader is a full monocoque bodied car, constructed in GRP and was designed for volume production. The body was made in two parts that were joined together using a revolutionary clamshell moulding technique. Although the body was deliberately designed to be light, it was strong too. At the MIRA test facility after ploughing into a solid wall at 30mph only 0.8 inches of cockpit distortion could be found in the Crusader, when at the time 5inches of distortion was allowed. The car used in the test was later rebuilt and used for many years.
The car was also beautifully finished. A lot of thought had been put into the whole manufacturing process and it showed. After leaving the clamshell the bodies were transported to an Arthur Birchell designed oven and cured. Any blemishes were then repaired and the body was then given several coats of paint. The cars then travelled along a miniature railway line where a team of fitters would install the electrics, trim, suspension, engine and transmission. All the parts required for the build were stored on the line or in nearby sub-sections.
The 11.8cwt (600kg) Clan Crusader with its 51 bhp Imp Sport engine, which has the famous Coventry Climax FWMV engine as a distant relative, would almost top 100 mph and get from 0 to 60 mph in 12.9 seconds. The handling was also superb, using the Imps front swing axel and rear semi-trailing arm with spring and damper rates specifically tailored for the car. Rally ace Andy Dawson was heavily involved in the handling tests and in a 1000 mile test on the infamous pava at MIRA only two hairline cracks were found in the area above the front suspension and this was cured by adding another layer of matting during production.
The Crusader was priced at £1361.00 in 1972 and the factory produced a number as kits to avoid Purchase Tax at £1125.00. When compared to its mainstream contemporaries, in terms of specification and build quality, a factory built Clan was more than capable of holding its own.
The Motoring Press heaped praise on the car, the order books were filling up and the Company was on a high. In the very early days the Clan Motor Company did have a degree of financial stability, but then Britain fell pray to the miners strike, the oil crisis and the introduction of VAT, the country went into meltdown and Clan was one of the companies to be a victim of the crashing economy. Despite everything Clan hung on and to prove its fuel efficiency during the oil crisis, racing driver Gerry Marshall, who was a Clan Distributor, drove a Clan from Glasgow to Marble Arch on one thankful of petrol, 408 mile on 6 gallons of petrol, an incredible 68 mile per gallon. But despite everyone’s best efforts and such marvellous publicity stunts the Company was still in trouble, VAT and the oil crisis had hurt, the first miners strike in 1972 caused financial problems but the second in 1973 and the subsequent three-day week pushed them over the edge and manufacture of the Crusader ceased in late 1973, even though sales were still good. Several finished and part-finished cars were sold after the company’s closure. Just 340 road and 18 competition Clan Crusaders had been produced.
The Clan was a success in competition, with Andy Dawson taking 2nd place on the 1972 Manx Rally and Alan Conley taking 1st on the 1972 Tour of Mull and 1973 Derwent Star Rally, he was also placed on the 1972 Lindisfarne Rally and the 1973 Rally of the Vales. Many other drivers were successful in all types of Motor Sport in Clans, an overall win in the 1973 BARC Production Car Trials for Mike Hinde, 1st place on the 1973 Jim Clark Memorial Rally for Donald Heggie, 1st overall in the 1974 British Caledonian Modsports and Sports and Special GT Championship for Kenny Allen. After the factory had closed Clans continued to compete and have success in Motor Sport and are still competitive to this day, recent results include Class wins for both Paul Richards and Andrew Till in the 2005 H A S Speed Championship.
After the closure of the Washington factory the company and a large proportion of its assets were bought by Cypriot Truck manufacturer Mr Andreas Kaisis. The stock and body moulds were shipped to Cyprus. Unfortunately the Turkish invasion of Northern Cyprus prevented the resumption of Clan production on the Island.
The parts languished for several years in Cyprus before being brought back to Britain by Ian Hopper, a colleague of Paul Haussauer the ex-Managing Director of the Clan Motor Company.
In the meantime in Britain the Crusader had been doing well as a competition car. Brian Luff produced a new mould tool by using an existing Clan body shell and was then able to supply body shells, panels and windscreen glass to people rebuilding or scratch building cars, mostly for competition.
The Brian Luff moulds were eventually sold to Peter McCanless (a Clan enthusiast and owner of an original Clan for many years) who in 1982 started Clan Cars Ltd in Newtownards, Northern Ireland and took advantage of government development grants for the area.
Clan Cars re-vamped the Crusader now simply called the CLAN, but known by all as the Irish Clan. It was sold in three levels of kit form (basic, deluxe and complete) still using the Imp Sport engine and major parts but now with fully retractable headlights, moulded-in bumpers, glass sunroof and a choice of two engine options from Hartwell. The 998cc engine in the ‘E’ version producing 65 BHP or the ‘S’ version producing 78 BHP. Some fully trimmed shells were also sod for Customers to fir their own engine, transmission and running gear.
Although the actual number of cars produced is not know it is believed to be in the region of 130 road and 10 competition cars.
It was always Clan Cars intention to replace the Imp engine cars with an updated mid-engine model and in 1985 this was developed, called the Clan Clover using the Alfa Romeo 1500cc flat four engine and gearbox. It is believed that six kits were sold prior to the production of approximately 21 fully built cars.
Subsequently Clan Cars ran into financial difficulties and ceased trading in 1987.