THE CRAYFORD CORSAIR

Ford launched the Corsair in 1963. It was partly styled by Charles Thompson who had transferred to the Ford styling dept directly from Detroit where he had worked on the cigar shaped Ford Thunderbird. Crayford where quick off the mark to cut the roof off and produce, what many people considered, the best looking Crayford of all. Its front and side profile where undeniably scaled down T-bird. The first cars were of course in line 1500cc GT models, with a very American interior that incorporated a strip speedometer. At the 1966 Motor Show Ford introduced the V4 engine with a “I have a “V” in my bonnet” campaign.

The Crayford Corsair in standard form was a fully open, 5 seater convertible, but like the Cortina Mk.2 it was also available as a 2 + 2 Cabriolet. The Cabriolet had a smaller hood that incorporated an inner lining, the hood and frame sank deeper into the rear deck around a smaller back seat, leaving a rear seat suitable only for two children. The rear parcel shelf was metalled over, making the cabriolet a totally different model from the convertible. All Cabriolets were built under licence in Cologne by Karl Deutsch, Crayford’s German partners, they where very expensive and only around 19 are believed to have been produced. The 5 seater convertible was more popular and Crayford sold over 100 examples making it the companies best seller so far.

Crayford also offered early Corsair saloon owners a rear through-flow ventilation kit, before it was incorporated, by Ford, on the V4 upgrade.

When launch, the conversion cost £325 adding nearly half the cost again to a Corsair saloon at £750. This made the new Crayford over £1000, equal to a serious sports car or Fords Mk.3 Zodiac. But as a five seater open GT it had very little competition, only the Triumph Herald/Vitesse or rare Hillman Superminx drophead came close. Today 75 of the 100 made are on the club register, many in good condition, reflecting the cars higher status in the Ford chain, above the Cortina, which only has a 25% survival rate as a Crayford. The Crayford Corsair had middle class status, Doctors and bank managers where regular first owners.

The Crayford Corsair franchise was first held by the suitably named - Convertible Car Centre at Chalk Farm, located by the North gate into Regents Park, Central London.

THE CRAYFORD CAPRI

Ford launched the all new Capri in January 1969, aimed at the young market, it was clearly a downsized Ford Mustang, Ford hoped to equal the runaway success that the pony car had enjoined in America, with the Capri in Europe. It was launched with a massive TV and press campaign on the theme that it was, “ the car you always promised yourself'

But by October 16th 1969 Motor Magazine announced Crayford had produced, in time for the Motor Show, the Capri convertible, the car you really, really promised yourself. It was to be, exact in Crayford terms, not a convertible but a Cabriolet, using a luxury hood that had a full internal wool headlining. It was priced from £1,849 for the 1300cc up to £2,421 for a 3000E V6 convertible, at a time when an E type was just over £2000. But it sold well through its Bristol Street Motors franchise, BSM even produced a flower power hippy style brochure for its “Freedom Capri"

For once Crayford had some direct competition as three Capri convertibles where now being produced, all different and with their own plus and minus points.

The Crayford Capri was easily the most successful with 37 documented sales. All the cars where built under licence by Crayford’s partner in Germany, Deutsch of Cologne. Cars went out, 2 each Friday, as saloons and back each Monday as Crayford’s. Crayford did an extensive redesign to the rear deck to make it completely flat, but left the door window frames in place on cost grounds, for many it was the best looking of the three conversions.

Abbotts of Farnham, well known for its Ford Corsair & Consul/Zephyr/Zodiac estates, also built a Capri convertible. Not so pretty as the Crayford, it had no redesign to the rear deck, you could still see the rear buttresses, but it did have wind up rear quarter-light glass making a lighter car with the hood up, Abbotts also took out the front window frame. Orders for 50 cars had been received but unfortunately Abbotts were in financial trouble, they only made and sold 7 cars before the company collapsed and ceased trading.

 

A third Capri design was commissioned directly by Ford chairman (1968-72) Sir Leonard Crossland, he wanted one for himself and had Carbodies of Coventry build a white car with a white power hood, operated electrically. It was road tested by Jackie Stewart and within a week Sir Leonard was on the phone from Ford asking for a second car to be built as the first car had been written off (rumoured to be his wife while out shopping). A second car was built and delivered, but Ford accountants declined to go forward with the project as it was deemed too costly to make any profits. Unfortunately, car No. 2 may have been ordered crushed for tax reasons.

cortina-mk1-1

The all new Cortina Mk.1 replaced the 315 Classic in October 1962 and was at first only available as a two door saloon, the ideal form for any Crayford conversion, its long transatlantic lines, and thin rear pillars were ideal for a roof chop. But Crayford had yet to be formed when the Mk.1 was launched and then all Crayfords early efforts went into the mini, so it was not until the 10th of January 1964 that Autocar announced the new Crayford Cortina Mk.1 to the public.

 

The Mk.1 Crayford Cortina was launched at the following weeks Racing Car Show at Olympia, London, on the 22nd January 1964. The dark blue car, a basic fleet model, was registered 560 VKO (believed to have been reregistered as HLR  681C).

 

 cortina-mk1-2

As Crayford did not have their Westerham Factory until after the profits of a Heinz 57 car order, all the early Mk.l convertibles, and Heinz 57 Wolseleys had to be built at David’s Home, Crayford  House, at Ship Hill, Tatsfield near Westerham, with the meaty part, the roof chop, being farmed out to a contractor, K.R. Wigley of Leatherhead, Surrey.  The picture here shows cars including two Mark 1’s, still hardtops, awaiting cutting at Wigley’s. 

 

 cortina-mk1-3

It must have been the winter of 1965-66 as the 57 Wolesleys had to be finished for the Heinz competition in May 1966. John Panther (no relation to J. Panther Cars)  repainted each car after cutting and Oxted Trimming in the next village would form a lifetime relationship with Crayford. So much of the early work was farmed out prior to the purchase of the Westerham Factory. But Ship Hill was well kitted out for final assembly of cars.

 

A big scoop for Crayford was the early order for thirty Mk.1 Crayfords for the island of Bermuda for use as hire cars and even Taxis, complete with fare meters on the dash.

 

 cortina-mk1-4

In the UK Phillips Motors, at the Convertible Car Centre, Chalk Farm, off Regents Park, London had the sole franchise to sell the Mk.1 Crayford on DeLuxe, Super and GT base cars, no Lotus Cortina Mk.1 was listed or found to date. A GT cost £1,024 and was £140 cheaper then its big brother the Crayford Corsair GT at £1,162.

 

 cortina-mk1-5

It was just as production at Crayford was at full swing, that Ford dropped the Mk.1 Cortina for the “all  new” Mk. 2, a very clever re-skin of the hugely successful Mk.1 chassis/bulkhead and windscreen, indeed with a 3 inch stretch in wheelbase it was also used to chassis and power the Corsair too.

 

David quoted four cars a week from the Westerham factory in their later days with a staff of around 10, but no doubt only a couple a week in their pre factory days with the Mk.1. The famous Crayford dozen (12) has often been quoted by David McMullan as the number of UK cars sold over and above the Bermuda order for 30 cars, a total of around 42. We have knowledge of 17 surviving Crayfords on the Mk.1 Register, if the press car 560 VKO and HLR  681C  are the same car. All have been seen and checked, none of the thirty Bermuda cars survive, they lived in a very humid climate surrounded by sea salt and had hard working lives.

 

All Lotus Mk.1 finds have panned out as “re-engined cars”. There may be another few  surviving Mk.1 Crayfords unchecked by the club.  So Less than fifty in all and about the right sort of figure Crayford could have made in the time the model was available.

THE CRAYFORD MK.2 CORTINA

Crayford had hardly got into their stride with the Mk.1 convertible, only around fifty had been built on C & D registrations, when Ford told Crayford there would be an “all new” Cortina for the October 1966 Motor Show. Crayford did not want to wait up to a year to develop a Mk.2 Cortina Crayford, so they asked Ford if they could supply a car now for development work, but they were told that no pre production cars where available and, in any case, the car was top secret untill press day at the Motor Show. They did however agree to ship, in great secrecy, a Mk.2 two-door shell and all the parts in kit form.

Crayford’s directors and staff then began building the car at the Westerham factory and with only two weeks to go Director Jeff Smith set about converting the car into a Crayford convertible, virtually single-handed, working night and day on the project. The result was, that when the show opened on press day, The Ford Motor Company had on their stand No.143, an entire range of six, all new, Cortina saloons and GT’s - but not far away on stand No.173, surrounded by a bevy of trendy dolly girls dressed in black and white chequered mini dresses, was a shiny metallic blue mink Crayford Cortina Mk.2 with a white pvc hood. This car has been in the long term ownership of our magazine publisher John Peters and is registered SOO 661D, it still has many unique pre production features, see our gallery on the home page. The public never realised fully how this dual launch was achieved.

Crayford followed up a year later at the Earls Court Motor Show with an upmarket and expensive Mk.2 Cortina Cabriolet, this had a smaller hood that sat deeper into the car around a much smaller rear seat, suitable only for children, in effect it made the normal 5 seater convertible into a two plus two car. The Corsair cabriolet even had an inner headlining for extra comfort. Being a shorter hood it was capable of one-man-operation and the car also had a longer metal rear deck than the 5 seater convertible.

Crayford soon had a full order book and made two, sometimes three a week with a total production run of over 400 convertibles and a handful of cabriolets, which like all Crayford cabriolets had to be built in Cologne, Germany under licence.

Crayford further developed their Mk.2 Cortina with a tiny number of two door pillerless hardtops. These looked very much like the then current Lancia Flavia coupe with an all glass top profile and very slim roof pillars, back and front. It was rumoured to have two Cortina windscreens, one for the front and one for the back, but this is not true. It may be that only five where built on GT base cars and one was even a Lotus Cortina based.

An even further development were the Crayford Mk.2 saloons, with big engine conversions that took the legendry Jeff Uren 3 litre Savage Cortina head-on. One yellow car was delivered new in both options, ie it was a 3litre V6 engined convertible. The roofless chassie wasn’t really up to the job.

Most desirable are the 40-plus Lotus Cortina Crayford convertibles, mainly standard green and white, with one, a special order built at Lotus, in black - the owner did not want a resprayed car converted. Today around 126 survive on the club register. Watch out for fake cars, its easy to chop a saloon car, but rear swivel up quaterlights in the rear wings should be your first checkpoint (unless it’s a cabriolet) and look everywhere for rust, and check that the doors still close easily.

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