THE CRAYFORD FIESTA FLY

By the end of the Crayford Cortina Mk.5 production run, Crayford had only the Mercedes convertible with power hood in the pipeline, Crayford had steadily moved up market, but now the big manufacturers, Ford and VW, had rediscovered the convertible market, XR3 and Golf cabriolets began to flood the market at reasonable prices.

Crayford needed an inexpensive convertible that they could sell in numbers, and so decided on a two-pronged attack over the winter of 1981. They would split the factory into two teams, David McMullan would develop a Fiesta convertible and his partner, Jeff Smith, would develop the new mini metro into a convertible.

Ford had introduced its first small car in years with the Fiesta in 1976. And so David McMullan came up with the Fiesta Fly, the name means a fast lightweight open carriage. The Fly had a welded-up, closed boot, making it light and strong, all cuts were rust proofed and covered with a plastic sill so the car required no repainting. They even planned (against normal policy) to use second hand base cars to enable them to build a convertible for under £4,000 (based on a used car worth £2500), they even planned to hold off-the-peg cars in stock.

At its Westerham base, Crayford may have produced around 30 Mk.1 Fly convertibles, mostly on basic models from the 950cc Popular to the 1.1 & 1.3 litre cars. Crayford built two updated MK.2 cars, then they sold the whole project to Bournemouth based coachbuilders F. English. They were the largest Ford dealer in the county with a truck division producing coach built truck bodies.

F. English planned to build over 200 Fly’s a year, an early scoop was to get all Ford Sports dealers to take its new XR2 Fly model, they even produced a very slick brochure for the XR2 Fly and it sold well, quickly reaching around 30 sales. But again, the high spec of the XR2 pushed the price up to over £8,000. In the end, year on year sales of 200 plus conversions were not sustainable. F. English stopped building Fly’s and sold the manufacturing rights. The fly rights passed on several times, going around Europe, production carried on all the way up to the Mk.5, the Fly concept therefore lasted nearly 20 years.

The club register has 83 known cars, but as many as 200 could still be undiscovered. Beware of copies, they are easy to make, avoid any car with a roll bar.

THE CRAYFORD ESCORT

 

ESCORT MK2

Ford introduced the all new Escort Mk.1 in 1968 with its famous dog bone grille. It was very popular in Malta. A Maltese company called Goya Enterprises Ltd commissioned Crayford to develop an Escort Mk.1 convertible suitable for local assembly from exported kits. More of a sunshine roof conversion, it was only a fully extended sunroof, and the rear glass remand untouched. Pictures show a development car photographed at Westerham in Kent on a RHD car. How many kits were ever shipped or assembled in Malta is not known.

The Mk.2 Escort Crayford was a more open design, like the Mk.3 Cortina it folded all the way down to the boot. The development car photographed outside Caffyns Ltd, who shared a forecourt with Crayford, shows a Right-hand-drive car, but later photo’s are of a Left-hand-drive example.

Only one Mk.2 car has ever been seen in the UK. However a red Mk.2 Crayford Escort has surfaced in Tunisia, possibally via the ferry link from Malta?

THE CRAYFORD CORTINA MK.4

In 1976 Ford launched the new Cortina Mk.4, the first three Cortina models had each sold over a million cars. For some the Mk.3 had been a little bit too American in its styling but with the Mk.4 Cortina Ford proclaimed an all-new European look with a larger, light and airy, glass cabin, it would be marketed across Europe with both Cortina and Taunus badges. Crayford soon followed with the Mk.4 convertible, choosing to adopt a similar roof layout to the Mk.3 Crayford, which had only been a sunshine roof conversion, mainly because it was simple, fast to convert, and financially very successful – it had been Crayford’s most profitable Cortina with over 400 sold.

The Cortina Crayford Mk.4 would elevate their convertibles to a higher level, with new incoming safety legislation, and a demand for more power and luxury. To meet these challenges Crayford went for a more open convertible but incorporated an integral single hoop roll bar to provide a very stiff shell. This would be developed and improved even further on some later Mk.4 Crayford Cortina’s when they where given a new ‘T’ roll bar, very similar to the Triumph Stag and Reliant GTE convertible. All these convertibles were expected to have to pass the ministry rollover crash testing in the near future.

Marketing for the Mk.4 Cortina Crayford took a new direction too, gone was the passing on of single pre-paid orders between dealers and the factory. Just after the October Motor Show Crayford met with the directors of Bristol Street Motors (Birmingham) at the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane, London. After a freezing drive in the new open Mk.4 around the roads of Hyde Park, the directors returned to the Dorchester for a warming meal. Following a lot of brandy, Bristol Street Motors were persuaded to sign a deal to supply 35 vehicles and take on the sole Mk.4 convertible franchise. It provided regular work over the quieter winter months, and after Crayford’s Heinz order for 57 Hornets, this was one of Crayford’s largest single orders.

Today, only 11 survivors are known to the club, and they are hardest of all the Crayford Cortina’s to find.

THE CRAYFORD CORTINA MK.5

In August 1979 Ford announced the “all new 1980 Cortina”, and never in its short two year lifespan officially called it the MK.5, everyone else did and the tag stuck. Crayford responded, but immediately ran into one big problem. They needed a MK.5 two door saloon for the prototype and development car, but found Ford had switched all two door production to its Genk plant in Belgium, and only the base L model with a tiny 1300 cross flow engine was type approved for legal importation to the U.K.

Crayfords marketing had shown that most customers wanted fully loaded cars with big engine’s, they planned to sell conversions with engines from 1.6 litres up to the 2.3 V6. The 2.0 litre GLS was seen as the optimum specification expected. The answer was for Crayford to import just one 1300cc car, use it as the prototype and development car and then hand over the car registered as XRW 304X to an industry specialist to put the new convertible through the full UK ministry of transport type approval process, due to expected low volumes of sale, the car was exempt from being crash tested. The car was completed by October 1980, for the November Motor Show where it was shown with full UK type approval, a world first for any conversion. It was then used as the press and brochure car and had the dubious honour of becoming the last Crayford Cortina to be made at Westerham after three decades.

The whole Crayford Mk.5 Cortina project, the manufacturing and sales rights and the 1300 prototype where then sold to Carbodies of Coventry, a company with a long history in coach building, but who were currently concentrating on building the world famous FX4 London taxi cabs. The Crayford MK.5, 1300 prototype was modified at Carbodie’s but never sold, it was kept by the chairman, who later sold it to the chairman of the Crayford Owners Club. With the all important new type approval number allocated by the Ministry of Transport the Ford computer at the Genk plant could be persuaded to build and export higher spec cars for Carbodies.

They did sell 30 cars, all carrying Carbodies badges on the boot. Most where the expected 2.0 litre GLS orders, with 3 V6 engined cars, two of these where badged as Taunus cars. Overall the project was a disappointing experience for Carbodies, sales where slow, they expected to sell hundreds, but Ford killed off the Mk.5 in 1982 only two years into production for its unloved successor the jelly mould Sierra. Ford still sold a million MK.5 cars in that two year period but the poor sales of the Carbodies Cortina could be attributed to its high price. Type approval had been an expensive process and customers by now wanted high spec cars, one customer spent a staggering £14,500 on a 2.3 litre car with every option, when he could have had the new Jaguar XJ6 for another £350. The last car was in the showroom for two years and delivered on a ”A” prefix registration.

Bristol Street Motors had the franchise but a few cars where also sold by Quicks of Manchester. Ford did make a two door Sierra shell as an L base car but they were only built for only six months. The Daily Mirror, like Crayford, had sketches and artwork for a Crayford Sierra, and it looked right too, but with the tragic death of Crayford’s Jeff Smith in 1985 the end of Crayford Auto Developments was only a few years away.

THE CRAYFORD CORTINA MK.3

The Crayford Cortina MK.2 had become Crayford’s best ever selling car with over 400 sales, due mostly to its clean open style and a long production run of over four years. But in 1970 the Ford Motor Company introduced an all new Mk.3 Cortina with its distinctively American coke bottle look. Crayford followed on with a Mk3 Crayford Cortina, which also took on a new direction, it was not even called a convertible, but a “Sunshine Conversion” in its press literature. Like French and Italian predecessors, ie the Fiat 500 and Renault, it had a full length sunroof that folded all the way back down to the boot. Retaining its side -windows and roof gutters helped maintain more of the convertible’s upper body strength. As an option the main hood support bar in the centre at the B post, could also be dropped with the hood. This gave all 5 passengers clear open sky views, or in the up position it was also a safety roll hoop.

All Mk.1 & 2 cars had to be stripped completely internally and then, interiors rebuilt after the conversions, this was an expensive process that kept production down to two cars a week. With the more simple conversion on the Mk.3 sunshine roof, gone was the fully open Crayford look but build speed doubled and so did profits, total production over a long run again reached 400-plus sales. But as David McMullan the MD once said, it was our best profit maker ever, so it has to be my favourite Crayford.

The Mk.3 had an opposite number in Germany, where it was marketed as the Ford Taunus convertible, notable for its more square body sides. Crayford’s German partners Carl Deutsch of Cologne had been building convertibles as far back as the 17M and built all Crayford cabriolets under licence.

A Cortina Mk3 Cabriolet did make it as far as the artwork but not production and looked even more handsome with the hood up than the sunshine roof.

Any fully open Mk.3 convertible you may come across, and there are a few, is not a Crayford but homemade. The most sort after Crayford Mk.3 has to be the GT or GXL with its four headlights, and a dash that took on the maximum American influence.

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