|Jim Webb test driving the Probe 15 at Bradford on Avon in April 1969|
Press Association Photo PAP 139178-1 (PNR-0) sold on eBay for £167 on 4 Oct. 2013
In 1968 the very low Probe 15 saw the light, a 29" high plastic-fantastic. This example of Dennis Adams' remarkable ideas on kit cars never saw production, but it was noted, just like his Probe 5.
Two were made, (the second had a VW chassis) in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire by Dennis and Peter Adams to test out ideas on shape and styling.
It was first seen by the public at the 1969 Racing Car Show, on the Marcos stand, and (again on the Marcos stand) at Olympia by courtesy of Jem Marsh of Marcos Cars ltd.
When the car got so much interests at the shows, production was planned, but it never happened.
It has 10" wheels up front and 13" wheels on the back. Entry was gained via a sliding glass roof. On sunny days this had better be left open to combat the greenhouse effect. The front screen was perfectly flat, swept by a single double bladed wiper. All the other transparent material wasn't glas but perspex. Inside the car the driver's legs straddled the steering column support.
It had standard Imp Sport running gear throughout.
The prototype was sold to Hexigon of Highgate in the summer of 1969 and later that year was exported to South Africa.
Mark Thompson took this photo in the late 80s at a kit car show.
It's the original, but modified Probe 15, minus the original side screens and roof sections.
To Phoenix by Probe 15
To Phoenix by Probe 15
Jim Webb, composer of 'By the time I get to Phoenix', and other popular songs, is shown during a visit to Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, where he took a test drive of the prototype of his new car, being built by the Adams Brothers.
The car called Probe 15, finished in Wedgewood Blue with white leather interior, will be the only car of its type on the road when it is finally finished in early June.
It is an undeniably provocative and excintingly bodied rear-engined closed two-hammock sporting car with an integral plywood glass fibre chassis using Hillman Imp running gear. The car is both a prototype for a possible small production run and a tester of ideas; it is the 15th Adams design, hence the name.
April 9th 1969 PAP 139178-1 (PNR-0) Press Association Photos
The Probe 16, of which three were made, never got out of the prototype phase either. It was to have Austin Maxi running gear and a complete all glass cockpit section.
The project passed to Concept Cars, who marketed the idea as Centaur GT. The name 'Probe' was retained by the Adams Bros.
Probe 15 : design or doodle / by Roger Bell. - Motor 1969, July 19. - p.34-38
1970 - 1972
The 2001 had a BMC 1800, mounted midships, like the 16. It had been redesigned, gaining eight inches. It's 37" height included an aero-foil, which would also give some protection and strength to the mainly perspex roof.
To admit passengers, the roof would (electrically-operated) slide forwards, the seats back- and upwards.
Four were built by Adams himself. Then the project moved in 1971 to Scotland, to two concerns. Twelve more shells were made.
Caledonian Probe Motor Co., Irvine, Ayshire
Peter Filby's old Kit guides
From British Specialist Cars:
Few cars have ever caused such a media storm as the Probes. Dennis Adams, stylist of the Marcos 1800, decided to build the lowest car he could: his Design Probe Number 15 (shortened to Probe 15 by the press) was just 29 inches high, with passenger access via a sliding roof. An 875cc Imp engine provided the power.
When it appeared at the 1969 Racing Car Show, press agencies went berserk. The Probe 15 appeared on the front pages of newspapers from Sydney to Baghdad, and there was no shortage of rich and famous potential punters either. However, despite plans to productionise it, the Probe 15 was simply too impractical and only one was made, although a second bodyshell got a VW chassis under it later.
The Probe 16, instigated by the Daily Telegraph for it's stand at the 1969 Motor Show, made some concessions to practicallity, having an electric roof/door and five inches more height. It also had a mid-mounted BMC 1800 engine. Once again production targets were set, but only three 16s were made.
The Probe 2001 did actually make it into production. Arriving in 1970, it was now 37 inches high and sported a distinctive roof aerofoil. But after eight months and four cars, Adam's firm was on shaky ground. The last Probe (the 7000: an Oldsmobile-engined show car with a central driving position) was also dragged down when the firm collapsed. The 2001 project was bought by a Scottish firm who had another dozen bodyshells made up to 1972.
Ironically, the most successful Probe variants were kit car derivatives called the Centaur and, later, the modified Pulsar, made from 1974 to 1982. About 50 Centaurs and Pulsars were built, all with Imp engines.
On the 6th Racing Car Show in 1965, Adams shared a stand with Marcos Cars Ltd. and they advertised in the show's catalogue.
The Imp Site
The Imp Specials
Doodle or design
The Wooden Adams GT [30k] Produced from 1963 to 1969 the remake was only 43 inches tall! Very sleek for its time, it was first powered by the Volvo four-cylinder used in their P1800, and later, smaller Ford units. Truly an outstanding design for its time.
The Marcos Mantara was originally conceived back in 1967 by Dennis Adams
The Steel Adams GT [13k] In 1969, Dennis Adams revised the design to broaden its appeal, particularly with the change to a steel backbone chassis. Fitted first with a Ford V-6, the Volvo inline six from their 164 model was fitted to pass the US emission regulations. Too few found their way here. Production begun in Bradford-Upon-Avon was moved to the new factory in Westbury.
The First Mantis [12k] when flat panels dominated automotive styling.
"The Britsh styling scene cannot be completely forgotten because -although it is pathetically small- it has had some effect on the larger manufacturers. [...] One musn't forget the Adams brothers, led by Dennis, who designed the sexy looking Marcos as well as the less aesthetic Mantis and who came up with the intriguing Probe 1, which is still being built to order by a Scottish enthusiast."
On p.42 of: A dirty word called styling / Mike Twite;
photography: Charles Pocklington; Nigel Snowdon.
- Triple C Yearbook 1972. - p.36-45