The team make no apologies for its styling, having drawn on Defender, G-Wagon and Jeep for ideas and inspiration. The result is a creation that will appeal to those who want a traditional looking vehicle that is not entirely dependent on electronics and software. What they've designed and built is an extremely practical, functional and adaptable 4x4 vehicle with go-anywhere ability.
On the basis that these were purely prototypes there were still some parts which were not quite finished. For instance the Hi-Lo range selector was milled from a solid billet of aluminium (I wasn't allowed to take pics!) but by goad it looked guid! Both the test driver and myself agreed it looked just the dog's b*ll*cks. The same with the grab handles, they were solid lumps of milled alloy with a knurled finish which felt just so good to grip but wouldn't be allowed under Euro NCAP safety rules - more's the pity.
The rear backs fold down but not flat to the floor although the floor behind the rear seat can accommodate a standard metric pallet, hence the asymmetrical rear doors as opposed to a tailgate.
The steel and galvanised steel body is bolted to a ladder frame and suspended on coil springs with beefy (so they don't overheat) specially designed shock absorbers. Power comes from a 3 litre straight six BMW turbo petrol, or turbo diesel with an 8 speed auto 'box with sequential shift over-ride. And it's got a manual cable operated handbrake on the rear wheels.
Anyway, I had a good session with one of the chief development engineers (and ardent rally fan) who explained what was still to be done. At present the wheelbase is 116 inches although that may yet change slightly, and the track has yet to be determined. But really, at this stage is all just detail stuff to be finally decided.
On the question of where it will be built, much has already been said, including quite a lot by folk with more opinions than facts. Apparently the deal to buy the factory in Wales was on the point of being signed when there was a hiccup. I don't know what went wrong and I expect few outside the company know either, but the decision was then made to buy a factory in Moselle, France at Hambach.
That means the plant will continue to operate as a vehicle building concern and gradually assume the build of the Grenadier working up to a planned 6,000 units per year. It may not be a popular move, but it was certainly astute as the fledgling company has gained a modern, working factory already up and running with trained staff on site.
The price hasn't been finalised yet either, but the target is around £40,000 plus VAT. That's not bad for a solid, well built, non squeaky, non rattly, non draughty, all terrain machine and the ride quality ain't half bad! It'll do for me.
The vehicle is still very much in the prototype stage but today's presentation was very welcome and shows what it will look like when it goes on sale late next year.
Although there was no extreme off roading here, there were a few testing climbs and descents. Very impressive. I liked it, I'll write more shortly. And, yes it does pass the dead sheep test.
After last year's subdued on-line event, this year's 'Scottish Car of the Year Awards' will return to its glitzy and glamorous best in November and there are cars to be driven and appraised!
That means a trip to foreign shores, or Englandia to be more precise, where a glittering line-up of shiny new metal has been arranged. A rush job, but still requiring a meticulous, fastidious and pernickety approach. Know anyone who matches that description?
It's a hard life, eh?
Anyway, following the recent event at Warcop, Kyle Adam has a one point lead over Jamie Millar with Alistair Inglis in 3rd place, and this despite Alistair's troubles at Warcop which resulted in him finishing dead last! Given the class based points scoring structure on this national series he still earned enough points to keep himself in the top three places overall.
There's four rounds still to go with next week's Arbroath Stages, Mull in October and both Crail and Milltown in November, so there's still bags of points to be had if you have a car sitting idle in the garage.
Seriously, the guy was parked there for over an hour and a half cos he was there when I arrived and emerged from the fitness gym just across the road as I was leaving.
Just another example of the problems facing electric vehicle drivers looking for public charging points. In this case, he had chosen (deliberately?) to park across two high speed charging bays and not the low power charging options behind them. Grrrrr!
Gavin's funeral will take place at Carlisle Crematorium on Thursday 16th September at 12:20 Hrs and will be a mostly private family and friends service. The family has arranged a webcast for those friends who wish to 'attend' this service remotely.
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Like most rally drivers of that generation, Gavin started rallying in a succession of Minis. The word 'succession' is used deliberately. During the late 1960s he went through quite a few bodyshells and engines in the early days of autocross and navigational rallying and even did a bit of circuit racing.
In 1970 he approached Glasgow based White Horse Distillers looking for some financial support for a planned international foray to Holland for the Tulip Rally with his Mini Cooper S. He got some cash, some stickers - and some product! Sadly the overworked Mini didn't last the pace and he retired but White Horse had made an impact on the locals and the Publicity Manager, Gordon McIntosh, took note.
On the strength of this new arrangement and with White Horse support, Gavin invested in a Hillman Avenger. Outwardly the team looked good, a Scottish built car sponsored by a Scotch Whisky company - and driven by a Scot? Somewhere along the line, the national press assumed Gavin was Scottish and the sponsors didn't abuse them of this impression. Of course Gavin's Cumbrian accent sounded pretty foreign to the more southern based national press corps so little was said.
That first Avenger was a four door saloon, but it didn't last long. On its first event, the bodyshell cracked right in the middle below the 'B' pillars. White Horse stepped in and purchased a two door Avenger GT with preparation entrusted to Mike and Jim Little in Carlisle. They were also supplied with an Avenger estate car complete with cage and spares and this was painted up in the same colour scheme as the rally car. The plan was, if the service barge didn't carry the spare that was needed, it could be taken off the estate car itself!
With Mike and Jim's help and Gavin's ability the car was competitive from the off with the late Wolverhampton based Peter Handy in the role of navigator and co-driver. Throughout the early/mid 1970s, Gavin and Peter were so highly regarded by Des O'Dell and the Chrysler Competition Department that Des was able to concentrate his efforts on works driver Colin Malkin with the Group 2 and 4 cars leaving the Group 1 class to Gavin and Peter. These were good times for Chrysler because there were quite a few hotshot Avenger Group 1 drivers around at that time including the likes of Ian Gemmell and works supported Robin Eyre Maunsell.
Gavin rewarded his sponsors with regular International and National rally class wins and overall performances but that was only part of the deal. White Horse used the team and the events to promote the brand throughout the UK, Ireland and abroad. As a measure of how successful the marketing was the Dublin based wine & spirit merchant who stocked White Horse Whisky called the Glasgow office to ask for more 'rally stickers'!
Ahead of the 1974 Circuit of Donegal Rally thousands of Rally Team stickers had been handed out and it appeared that many of the pub managers were sticking these on the whisky bottles covering up the label. Apparently some customers thereafter used to think the whisky was counterfeit unless it had a rally team sticker on it! Any time Gavin and Peter entered such an establishment in their bright red race suits they were feted like stars.
When White Horse moved on in 1976, Gavin and Peter continued to compete until a new business venture transporting valuable cars across Europe took up too much time and Gavin retired from the sport.
Latterly Gavin concentrated on his transport business until cancer took hold. He coped well for quite a few years before a rapid deterioration and he passed away at home.
Our condolences must go out to his three boys Gary, Grant and Graeme and his wider family and to the many friends he made and knew over the years, including one young impressionable Publicity Officer at White Horse who was tasked with keeping Gavin out of trouble at rallies. These tales are not for telling here!