With hundreds, if not thousands, of cars all under one roof, the NEC Classic Motor Show is one of our favourite weekends of the year. Taking place in November, it’s the traditional curtain-call event and one that attracts all corners of the classic car world. Narrowing down our three days at the show to five Alternative Car highlights was no easy task, but here goes…
A shared wedge profile is the only visual trait in common between the Stratos Zero concept and the rally stage hero that shares half its name. Bertone’s Marcello Gandini designed the dramatic machine in 1970 as a calling card to try to win Lancia’s business from Pininfarina, but the top bods at Lancia paid it no attention at the Turin Motor Show, so Bertone visited Lancia HQ with the car, driving it under the barrier to gain entry. No such tactics were needed for the Stratos Zero to turn heads at the NEC. For us, it stole the show.]
If ever a car suited its name, it’s the Frisky. Billed as Britain’s first bubblecar, it was the brainchild of Raymond Flowers who was inspired when he lived in Egypt and worked as MD of the local Luffield distributor. He approached engine and gearbox manufacturer Henry Meadows Ltd to make the car a reality. At its debut in 1957, it received an enthusiastic response from the buying public. By 1958, Frisky Cars Ltd was established and a second model, the Sprint (foreground) was introduced. Business was tough, though, and the company changed hands many times. Around 1200 cars were built of which approximately 75 survive.
We make no apologies for having two super-low wedges in our top five. The 1969 Probe 16 may be best known for its appearance in A Clockwork Orange, where it was dubbed Durango 95, but it was never built as a film prop. Former Marcos designers Dennis and Peter Adams gave themselves the brief of ‘An investigation into the extremes of styling”, and this is the result. We think they hit the nail on the head. Three were built, two going to famous musicians, and all survive.
Tipo 184 EV One
Bringing things up to 2022, the Dowsetts Tipo 184 made its debut in EV form. Gone are the Mazda MX-5 engine and transmission and in their place are batteries (in the former engine bay) and a 220kW motor (at the back axle). The batteries contribute 256kg to the all-up weight of 877kg. By comparison, the MX-5 based version weighs 750kg. The 0-60mph sprint takes less than 4.0sec and the top speed is 161mph. The car has been developed by MouldTech, based near the AVL ZalaZone automotive testing facility in Hungary.
Here’s a look at what might have been. Panther founder Robert Jankel bought back the rights to the name of his company in 1999 and set about creating a new model. The J99 was conceived as a mid-engined two-seater with a transversely-mounted 4.6-litre Ford Lincoln V8 engine. The aluminium body that clothed it would be attention grabbing to say the least. Sadly Jankel’s untimely death in 2005 meant that the prototype was never completed and the car has been dormant ever since. The ever active Panther Car Club showed it in public for the very first time in its freeze-framed incomplete state. One can only speculate at what it might have achieved if completed and brought to the market.