British lightweight sportscar makes production
29 February 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 in heavily re-engineered and updated form. Re-named the MMI Avocet after its backer, retired industrialist Martin Miles, the car has a one-piece, lift-off composite body that gives it an entirely new look, recreating the simplicity and lightness of the original Lotus Elise. The car will be powered by a 2.0-litre Ford Sigma engine and launched during April with two power levels, 150 and 225bhp, and should be on the market in 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 medium-term objective is to make 100 cars per year.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, 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 to be replaced by 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, and buyers of these will be invited to “be partners in something great.” Miles has some impressive plans beyond the launch of the Avocet, 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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