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The Avocet, a 150bhp Ford-powered lightweight sports car, has been put up for sale by its owners, who say it is fully engineered and ready for production

A British sports car firm has placed its company up for sale, offering a fully designed and engineered car that is ready to go into production.

The sports car in question is the Avocet, a sub-£30,000 lightweight model powered by a 150bhp 2.0-litre Ford engine. The car is the work of private automotive enterprise MMI, but Martin Miles, the founder and managing director of the company, has placed the Avocet up for sale.

The Avocet started life more than a decade ago under the name Strathcarron. Miles was a backer of the original enterprise but the company failed, so MMI took over and set about extensively redesigning and re-engineering the car.

It was last seen in public in 2012. Miles has worked on other projects since then, but around nine months ago he picked up the Avocet project again and worked on a business case to look at its potential position in the market and what it would cost post-recession. 

So advanced is the Avocet’s development that all that is left is for it to be placed into production, something which Miles believes he is too old to undertake. He is now open to offers from those who can take the project to the next level.

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.

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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.

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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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Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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Marv 2 June 2015

This is my dream!!!

Since being a teen, I always wanted to start my own car firm! I'm considering seeing my bank manager about a business loan. In all seriousness though, with the right business plan, perhaps the offer of various body styles/designs and some sort of USP, this car could sell in enough numbers for the company to survive.
TegTypeR 2 June 2015

I have to admire the people

I have to admire the people who go in to the car business with projects like this but I'd like to see the business plans they work to. For some reason I can't ever see profitability coming in to it.

Martin Miles must have spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions getting this car ready but for what reward, other than vanity? I can't imagine the sale price of the company even coming close to what he has spent.

DBtechnician 2 June 2015

Looks well finished

Come on Autocar lets see a video of this hooning around a track, this looks like an interesting project for the brave. Well Lotus is still around!