UVA The Company – Alan Arnold’s Story Part 2

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A Brief History of UVA by Alan Arnold- Part 2

From an engineering perspective, the tub part of the construction was re-designed into a two product range, one for the Beetle based market sector and the other a composite monocoque tub with its own connected front and rear sub-frames with roll-over protection, correct seat belt positioning and wishbone suspension for the mid-engined V8 market. The net result was a very fast, sure-footed and comfortable sports-car which was easy to drive for its size and shape. As attested to by leading motoring magazine road testers and a front cover picture of an M6GTR dwarfed by Concord for Autocar magazine, organised by M6GTR customer John, who was an engineer on Concord.

The UVA philosophy of product improvement was used with the Fugitive II,originally a Baja leisure fun chassis regularly imported from the USA; UVA re-engineered it to improve its torsional stiffness, helped by Cardiff University with a staggering result of 14,000 Nm per degree. Birmingham based Kingfisher Kustoms who were a UVA distributor showed Arnold there was a market for road legal Fugitives and so UVA developed this market as well, producing not only Baja style Fugitives but also turning it into a lowered sports-car where its design prowess was admirably displayed in the 750 Motor Club kit-car race series. A further option for Fugitive sports-car customers was the grafting-on of the M6GTR front wishbone suspension, replacing the VW twin transverse beams. The Fugitive II range also spawned a 2+2 model called, not unsurprisingly, the Fugitive IV.

This Fugitive integral roll-cage and Cooper Cars style of larger tube diameter chassis engineering moved UVA onto designing a mid-engined V8 range of cars, the open front cycle winged ‘Clubman’ of 1985 and the full bodied Can-Am a year later. Both had formula race car side rads styled similarly to the Ferrari Testarossa which launched at a similar time and no, UVA did not copy Ferrari’s side radiator strakes,they were a result of a simpler way of moulding and an engineering expedient for engine cooling. It is worth adding here, it took UVA several attempts to get this side-rad idea to actually cool the V8 engine correctly. Again these mid-engined cars proved their worth in the 750 MC kit-car series.

UVA’s evolving range of specialist parts included their own bias adjustable brake pedal assemblies and a developing range of engine to transmission adaptor kits including Chevrolet V8 to Porsche 911 transmission. UVA’s general performance car engineering skills were also used by other kit manufacturers to develop their saleable products.

During the mid ‘80’s UVA launched the Shogan, a VW Beetle based conversion turning the saloon car into a stylish estate car with a full width one-piece rear door/glass window rather than the limited 2 van door Vandetta kit from the USA, which the Shogan was based on. The Shogan was a bit ‘wacky’ and expensive to make with its own 3 piece curved glass, in consequence, a slow seller.

Arnold being Arnold, a perfectionist, lobbied the kit-car industry for 12 months from 1987 to bring in some form of voluntary legislation to improve the quality and safety of cars being offered to the market. He, like others could see some of the shoddy and down-right-dangerous products being sold. He ran a series of seminars at various kit-car shows, lobbied other kit manufacturers and used his contacts at the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders) to form the SCMG (Specialist Car Manufacturers Group). The SCMG became a sub-section of the SMMT’s car manufacturers’ & importers council and they viewed it as a self-serving system to have in place for themselves because it reduced their costs of building and highway testing prototypes. The well recognised German TUV testing body were employed to both test member’s products and make sure they meet customer service criteria. As the prime creator of the SCMG, Arnold chaired this group for 18 months, which in all, consumed too much of his time to the detriment of his own business. It is worth observing how SCMG has evolved into the single model type approval system of today and made the industry a better product.

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