The affordable, lightweight British sports car is back
6 March 2008

The £25,000, Reynard-designed, mid-engined sports car which started life nearly 10 years ago under the name Strathcarron, is about to reappear. The MMI Avocet is named after its backer, retired industrialist Martin Miles and has been heavily re-engineered and updated for the 21st centure, starting with a new 2.0-litre Ford Sigma engine.The car, which has a one-piece, lift-off composite body that gives it an entirely new look, recreates the objectives of simplicity and lightness of the original Lotus Elise. The car will be launched during April with two power levels, 150 and 225bhp, 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 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 Raqy Mallock, and later Roush Engineering to criticise 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, have 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 instead of a the Ford engine and gearbox, though 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 complete, though without fluids, which promises a kerb weight well under 700kg. Martin 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. 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 runs — 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.

Steve Cropley

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Lotus Elise

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6 March 2008

Is there no grammar check on your computer? That is one of the lease coherent stories yet.

Love the topic but it's very hard to read.

6 March 2008

I have high hopes for this.

It's refreshing to see modest, yet more than adequate, engine outputs - especially in the wake of Caterham and Aerial announcing their 500bhp V8 models.

I truely think this will be the Mk1 Elise successor.

6 March 2008

Looks good - I'm glad they changes the name - who'd want a car named after a hospice outside Falkirk?

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