UVA – The Company
This page contains the story of UVA from the viewpoint of its owner Alan Arnold. The following was sent to me in November 2010 by Alan and has been re-produced here in full.
A Brief History of UVA by Alan Arnold – Part 1
The company was born in 1981 by Alan Arnold who had built cars and motorcycles as a hobby from as early as 16 years of age. In 1980 Alan was 34 years old and was frustrated by the continual prevalence of business politics in the automotive company where he was employed. He held a diploma in marketing but was not a trained engineer, learning on-the-job by experience. More an intuitive one, so he decided in 1981 to start his own specialist car and parts business, after spending 18 months researching USA companies whose products interested him and might like his newly formed company to promote their wares in Europe. He realised the best way to get a new commercial business off the ground and quickly was to buy and sell someone else products rather than design and make your own.
As the modern parlance goes ‘it does what it says on the tin’ and UVA, The Unique Vehicle & Accessory Company was launched from his double garage attached to his house in Curridge, a village near Newbury in Berkshire. Barring frustrating some near neighbours from the noise and freight trucks, this proved the best way of keeping the burgeoning companies overheads to a minimum. The initial product range was the Beetle based Manta Cars Montage kit car which eventually morphed into the M6GTR and a range of VW performance parts from Bugpack and Sway-Away. He added to this range of Beetle performance parts by importing engine to VW transmission adaptor kits from Kennedy Engineering. Comprehensively producing a range of products that both sold individually to go-faster VW owners and adding to his Beetle based Montage customer’s choice, of building something very special.
The swing axle Beetle chassis was the only easy option for any self builder to put under his kit because the preferable IRS suspended VW chassis was primarily restricted to the 1302 & 1303 Beetle range, which had the cumbersome McPherson strut front end. The UVA Company’s first foray into an own engineered product was the design of a McPherson strut conversion, turning the basic Beetle suspension design into an inboard race-car inspired rocker-arm layout which kept the suspension height down to a minimum, gave a comfortable ride as well as offering outstanding handling.
The business developed with UK construction of own-brand Beetle GRP body panel conversions such as the Baja and Road-Racer sets. Within 18 months Arnold and his now junior partner moved the small business to a new factory unit in Newbury where initial workshop and storage space was aplenty.
Here the business really blossomed with improvements to many of their imported products, for example the engine to transmission adaptor kits. The Kennedy product used original VW flywheels with machined out centres and welded in bosses to suit the water-cooled engine choice for the VW transmission. Whilst no failures occurred, Arnold preferred a purist engineering approach and sought to have cast his own range of purpose cast-iron flywheels and allied components. And this is how the company, in part, developed taking some products from the USA and improving the design by re-engineering them and making them in the UK. This, in turn introduced to the marketplace UVA specifically designed products to either enhance the existing product range or move the company into a larger market sector.
The Manta Montage was a classic example, both very expensive to import from the US and in need of major re-engineering to meet European construction and use regulations. Arnold employed a talented car designer to subtly but extensively change the body which included pop-up headlights with corresponding lower Plexiglas-covered driving lights, a new stylish and upmarket interior which also made the swop from left to right hand drive a simpler manufacturing choice. The interior rear clear glass window was moved to stop night-time headlight reflections and the doors plus side windows were re-engineered to vastly improve sealing,reduce wind noise and general door closure operation. Plus other mild cosmetic changes to improve ownership.