Miles didn’t put a figure on what he would like for the Avocet project, but did say it had been entirely self-funded to this point.
He has built five pre-production models, three of which are road registered and one of which is a spider, and undertaken thousands of miles of testing all over Europe. Design and engineering work is all complete, the tooling is ready to go and he has sought the help of Caterham Technologies to ensure there is a supply of materials with which to build the car.
Miles said the Avocet is a road car with the ability to go on the track, rather than the other way around. The 150bhp Ford engine that powers the sub-700kg model can be specced up to 225bhp with a Mountune performance kit.
So versatile is its chassis that Miles said an electric drivetrain could be fitted to the model, opening up even more future opportunities for the Avocet.
The Avocet can be driven without a body, making updates to the styling easily achievable. 3D printing technology opens up plenty of new opportunities for the production of different parts and bodies, Miles revealed, before adding that he saw this “as the future for low-volume sports cars”.
The Avocet was only advertised for sale from the end of last week so as yet Miles has had no expressions of interest, but he is open to offers from the UK or abroad. Buyers would be getting a project that is commercially viable with a lot of the risks already taken out. Miles and others involved are happy to stay on under new owners, but would also step aside if that is what would be best for potential buyers.
He has had interest in the firm before, but has not been willing to sell until now. Miles made his mind up a few weeks ago to sell the company, saying it would benefit from “younger people with the energy to do it”. He added: “If I was younger, I would do it myself."
Production of the Avocet is budgeted for 150 units per year over two years. “We are realistic on volumes,” he said. “We have sourced suppliers, Caterham Technology has done the materials for us, it’s designed for production and we have the tooling. Once you answer how much, how many and the materials, it is very simple.”
Read more: Below is Steve Cropley’s story on the previous most recent Avocet updates from 2012
The £25,000, Reynard-designed, mid-engined sports car which started life nearly 10 years ago under the name Strathcarron, is about to reappear in heavily re-engineered and updated form powered by a 2.0 litre Ford Sigma engine, and renamed the MMI Avocet after its backer, retired industrialist Martin Miles.
The car, which has a one-piece, lift-off composite body that gives it an entirely new look, recreates the original Lotus Elises's objectives of simplicity and lightness. The car will be launched during April with two power levels, 150 and 225 bhp, and should be on the market by early summer. Initial production plans are conservative. The car is to be manufactured at Roush Engineering, Essex, in batches of 10, and first-year production will be about 50 cars.
The project has been a labour of love for Miles, who was one of Strathcarron’s original backers. When that enterprise failed he acquired the designs and prototypes and set about updating and re-engineering them, using first the race-car builder Ray Mallock, and later Roush Engineering to examine the original car and suggest and devise improvements. A new young designer, Mike Reeves, who had worked on the original car and later trained as a car designer at Art Center, Pasadena, gave the car its new, contemporary shape.
The Avocet uses an updated version of Reynard’s original monocoque chassis, formed from laser-cut aluminium honeycomb flat sheets. It also retains the independent coil-sprung front suspension and De Dion rear designs, suitably updated. The big decision was to ditch the Strathcarron’s four-cylinder 1200cc motorcycle engine in favour of the Ford engine and gearbox, although the link with Roush, a worldwide Ford supplier, and its partner Mountune made that an easy decision.
Prototype versions of the Avocet weigh well under 650kg dry, which promises a kerb weight well under 700kg. Miles believes the standard-spec 150bhp engine will give “extremely strong” performance, and that the 225 will be almost supercar-quick. At present, Roush is building a batch of five cars, and buyers of these will be invited to “be partners in something great”.
After that, Roush will build cars in batches of 10, with the medium-term objective of building 100 cars a year. Miles has some impressive plans beyond that, but is well aware that he must walk before he can run - just one of a number of impressive facets of this well-run project. The Strathcarron, improved and updated, is heading for the market at last.
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