It was only this week that I was made aware of an interesting article in the Oxford Mail dated 2017. An extract from it:
"Forty years ago in a garage in Wootton near Abingdon, a team of visionaries designed and built a hybrid electric car on a Mini chassis.
They created the car of the future – then a Tory government adviser damned it to the annals of history.
Noel Hodson, who lives in Headington with his wife Pauline, was managing director of Mallalieu Cars when in 1977, Aston Martin designer William Towns came to them with a new dream: building a car that would run off a battery.
Mr Hodson said: "He was 30 years ahead of his time, but we had the men who could build these things by hand and there were very few workshops in the country that could."
The team worked his designs up over the next two years.
The result was the Microdot: a three-seater, petrol-electric hybrid measuring just 6ft 6ins long. In 1980, Mr Hodson said Mallalieu hosted a meeting with the Post Office Pensions Fund and other potential investors.
But because Post Office pensions were at stake, the government also sent its own scientific advisor.
Mr Hodson recalled: "He came along to this important meeting with all our investors and essentially he said 'this car couldn't work because it contravenes the second law of thermodynamics'."
for the whole article.
Of course I wasn't there at the time when Towns and Hodson teamed up, but I believe the Microdot was already there when Towns approached Mallalieu Cars in the first place. As a matter of fact the car was unveiled at the 1976 Earls Court Motor Show in London as a styling exercise or ‘a bubble car for the 80s’. It was meant to use either Mini- or electric power. But it seems that Towns couldn't find a party to get it into production. Then in 1979 the collaboration with Mallalieu Cars was announced. They decided to relaunch the Microdot, now with Mini power and renamed Mallalieu Microdot. From a 1979 clipping: "Mallalieu Cars are to build a short run of prototypes for evaluation purposes. Intended to be running by mid-summer, the first of these new Microdots will feature a redesigned front to make room for a Mini power unit. Power units under consideration for further cars are a two-stroke marine unit and the small light-alloy Reliant four-cylinder. Electric power is no more than a faint possibility." Prices between £4- and £7,000 are mentioned.
Interestingly, the original prototype still exists and I photographed it in a beautiful condition several years ago, still unregistered and still in pristine motor show condition. But what happened to the Mallalieu Microdot prototypes? Thanks to Andrew MacLean as well as Tony Bucknall I did find out a little bit more. While Tony sent me a copy of an ad in which two of them were offered for sale from many years ago, Andrew had a few pictures of the cars taken at Mallalieu's premises in the early 1980s. One of them wears a plate 'DDD 29G'. What happened to these vehicles?
UPDATE 1 December 2022: "Hi Jeroen, thanks for the photo mentions on your Maximum Mini blog pages. Firstly, I think we aught to put a date with the advert cutting from Autotrader 21st-27th September 2000. Further to, a wee bit more technical info on the two unique battery-electric William Towns 'Golf Buggies' that I owned for a short while. They do bear a similar resemblance to the Microdot and use both front and rear Mini subframes with three rather large 12 Volt storage batteries stowed under the 3-abreast bench-seat. No doors, no heater, no lights, no windscreen wiper and but a simple lightweight plastic windscreen, no rear screen! Electric drive was supplied by a 10hp 72Volt DC Motor bolted directly on top of a Triumph Herald differential, which was positioned on a framework welded into the Mini front subframe! A cogged-cambelt type belt provided drive to the differential and thus to conventional Mini Automatic short driveshafts, hubs and brakes. It's top speed with just 36 Volts was somewhat pedestrian, but ideal for the golf course! The DDD registration number was borrowed from a Daimler 250 that I owned at the same time and placed on the Towns Golf Buggy for the photos. They were obviously never intended for road use! Hope this helps? Kindest regards, Andrew MacLean." It certainly does. Thank you very much!
This is the original 1976 Microdot concept car, designed and made by William Towns
Picture Jeroen Booij
I found it surviving in highly original state in a garage in Sussex several years ago now
Picture Jeroen Booij
This is a period picture of the very same car. It never reached production
Picture Jeroen Booij archive
But it nearly did! This is a prototype made by Mallalieu Cars of Oxfordshire
Picture courtesy Andrew Maclean
A number of power units were mentioned, among them the Mini's. Test rig seen here
Picture courtesy Andrew Maclean
But it all led to nothing. This ad offered 3 bodies and 2 chassis' for sale - 'Ideal petrol beater project'!
Picture through Tony Bucknall
Noel Hodson worked for Mallalieu Cars in the late 1970s when he was approached by Towns
Picture The Oxford Mail
What could have been: Microdots parked on the street next to a new apartment block
Picture courtesy Ahzar Architects