Monday, 3 June 2019

The Kingfisher as a 4-wheel drive homologation special

‎The story below was posted online by Tom Wilkinson‎ last week and  I wanted to share it with you guys here as I rather enjoyed reading it. It's a nice little tale about the Kingfisher Sprint, or actually one very unusual version of that car dubbed the Kingfisher Turbo Sprint Coupe 4WD HS. He we go, in Tom's words:

"I’m not sure how we met our friend John, but he came up to the farm when we had our first Avengers. We would take him up the road, but John was a Hot Car reader (not Cars and Car Conversions, Rallysport or Motoring News), so he thought that when we were explaining it was a Group 1 Avenger, he got it into his head it was Stage 1 engine (remember those?), and was thoroughly shaken by his ride up the road. Now John was one of those guys who was always vague about his background, or how he earned his money, but always had a tale to tell about how qualified/experienced/knowledgeable/skilled he was, and his stories were always told to reflect that. One of the ones I do remember was how he’d been a snowmobile salesman in Vancouver and used to race them along frozen rivers with his mates. Personally, I thought he was a part-time script writer for Jackanory. Anyway, John bought a Lancia Delta HF Turbo 4WD, the forerunner to the Integrale. He regaled us with tales of how it had lost a little crispness to the handling when it underwent a RHD conversion, so he upgraded the turbo and put a Koni handling kit on it. He wasn’t so happy when Coke was on his way back from Newcastle one evening, and caught and passed him at Weldon Bridge and left him for dead going along the Coquet to Rothbury - in a bog standard Citroen Visa Diesel."

"So, when we got a phone call from John one day to go and see him at his new car factory in Rothbury, we were just a little bemused. It was at that time when there was another John, also making cars, but based in Northern Ireland, so you can imagine, “our” John was immediately nicknamed Delorean. Anyway, off we went to Delorean’s new factory where he’d bought the remaining assets of the Kingfisher Car Company (Roger King , the originator of the Kingfisher, had got into financial difficulty and gone into receivership). He was always the master of hyperbole, so he explained how he intended to market the “new” Kingfisher as a real performance car, and intended to build a rally version, the Kingfisher Turbo Sprint Coupe 4WD HS (the four wheel drive homologation special)
But Delorean being Delorean, it was going to be perfectly engineered, unique and ultra-competitive. (Please bear in mind that these were based on Mini 850s!). His plan, having researched the history of competition Minis was to create a twin-engined version, one in the front and one in the back, like the factory had experimented with for rallycross. Then he was going to turbo-charge both engines."

"He then sprang the big surprise: “And I’d like you two to drive it. I’d like one of you to do an English Championship, and the other to do a Scottish Championship. What do you say?” Well, we managed not to burst out laughing (and not wanting to scupper a deal that just by some remote chance, he ever got going), and started winding him up. “Can you fit it with Group 4 Minilites John?”
“No problem. I’ll get my engineers on it this week” (We were the only people in this lock-up unit!) “And can you fit Bilsteins too?” “I’ll ring the factory in Germany in the morning, and get them on it” “And can you design a high range/low range transfer box for it so we can have both a forest ration and tarmac ratio?” “I’ll ring Quaife in the morning” (I wonder if this was the prompt that caused Quaife to create their dual range gearbox!). After we’d run out of ever more outrageous questions, Delorean then says “So we have a deal then?” “Absolutely” we said, and he shakes our hands and tells us he’ll get his legal team on drawing up contracts first thing in the morning."

"As far as we know, the last we heard he was selling off job lots of moulds, resin and matting, and desperately trying to get out of the lease with English Estates. And we’re still waiting to hear from his “legal team”

This actually is a turbocharged engine in a Kingfisher Sprint. There's just one engine though...
Picture Jeroen Booij 

The very first Kingfisher Sprint, built in the Rothbury factory. Roger King is the man with the beard
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

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