Not a TR7 replica - the KNW was here first !
The Imposter started life as KNW. It was made on a Llama chassis. Keith Hawley designed and made it. He finished it before the TR7 was marketed.
The Hot Car article from December 1977:
The crisp lines of the body reaaly set this apart from the rest of the crowd. Makes you wonder about the TR7 styling
The interior is a real work of art, being both functional and smart. Trim is red leathercloth and wood veneer for dash and console
Pop-up headlights are a very ingeneous bit of work, using wind screen wiper motors modded to work both ways for up and down
All mechanicals are courtesy of the Hillman Imp, making for ease of maintenance and good economy; 40-45 mpg is common
Every now and then the little guy comes up with a good idea, and then along comes this big, rich concern and does the same thing, only not so well. Sometimes, the unfortunate occurs, and both end up with a bad name, despite the fact that the basic concept is a sound one. Fortunately in this case, the underling has come out on top, and outshone the big boys.
Still. I can hear you guys out there saying something like. "Cor, look at that lad. He's built himself a TR7 replica!"
However, things might just be the other way round, for Keith Hawley of Coventry in fact built his special before British Leyland announced their wedge.
For reliability and ease of maintenance, Keith based his KNW, as he calls it, on Hillman Imp mechanical bits, fitted onto a Siva Llama kit car chassis. The chassis was purchased for the sum of £135 and saved a lot of time and possible alignment problems. How many on-offs have been a failure because the chassis was poorly made?
The body itself is made partly of fibreglass, all the work being done by Keith. He started by making a model of how he wanted the car to look, and then made up a plaster buck, from which he took moulds.
The doors and sills are made up of an aluminium skin over a steel frame, and the Targa style rollover bar houses a hefty steel frame, just in case! A glass air-dam sets the body off.
One of the neatest features of the bodywork is the popup headlight arrangement, operated by modified windscreen wiper motors. The lights themselves are Imp, with Ford Cortina rear clusters. The way the components from different makes blend in is almost uncanny, making this home-built look a full-blown professional job.
The interior is another very neat bit of work, the dash itself looking more at home in a VC l0 with all those switches and idiot-lights. Interior trim is in red leathercloth, with wood veneer dash and centre console. Headlining is short hair fur, preventing your head from being rubbed sore, while you're kept off the floor by a pair of black Targa Recliner seats.
Steering wheel turns a set of Cobra Superslots shod with Goodyear rubber via a hybrid linkage using Imp and Triumph fiddly bits. To keep the frony end down to a reasonable altitude, the front springs have been cut whereas the rear remains stock Blimp.
To protect the whole device from errant wombats, Keith made some bumpers out of aluminium channel section and then covered them in rubber to make sure that the wombats would bounce off again.
The engine itself is stock Imp, which makes a lot of sense as it gives both reliability and economy 40-45mpg being average.
Similarly all the rest of the running gear comes from the same family leaving no room for mismatched components.
If you study the pictures closely, you can see just how well made the KNW-special is. There aren't too may people around these days who have got the patience to build a car up to this standard from scratch virtually single-handed. It rather smacks of those amazing specials so common on the roads in the fifties, each an engineering masterpiece in itself.
Keith spent about £1,000 building this vehicle over a period of 15 months. The end result is a totally unique car and all the hard work put into the project has got to be worth it, even if only for Keith to be able to say: "I did it all myself".
Harris Mann did the Princess before he designed the TR7, spin-off of the Princess. The Princess' wedge shape (project name 'Diablo') was finalised as early as 1970 - and sharply distinctive in its time. Earlier, all through 1969 a styling exercise of his, the Zanda was exhibited as a showcase for a body making company. The Zanda was uncompromisingly wedge-shaped, showing the way that Harris Mann believed car design was evolving. He was not alone: others like Giugaro and Bertone showed the same direction.
Lamborghini Countach did not pioneer but did popularise the wedge-shaped, sharply angled look popular in many high performance cars since. The first prototypes emerged in 1971. The styling was by Marcello Gandini of the Bertone design studio.
Wedge-shaped cars: 1968 Alfa Romeo Carabo (by Bertones Marcello Gandini); 1969 Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale (Filippo Sapino); 1970 Lancia Stratos Zero (Marcello Gandini); 1970 Ferrari PF Modulo (Pininfarina); 1970 Vauxhall SRV; 1972 Lotus Esprit M70; 1972 E25 BMW Turbo (Paul Bracq); 1972 Maserati Boomerang (Giorgetto Giugiaro); 1972 Ogle Sotheby Special (Tom Karen); Porsche Tapiro; DMC DeLorean; Chevrolet Corvette XP882; Mercedes C111; Saab Sonnett
Imposter. - Hot Car 1977, December
reprint in: Impressions 1998, February. - p.32-33
Jeff Day sold it in 2000 to Mike Hearne. It had no engine, then. Previous owners had not been kind to it. Many parts had been removed unmindfull of the car's future.
The present owner, John Fenton, acquired it from Mike in the summer of 2004. Probably it will have to come apart completely before the re-assembly...
Ford Cortina rear clusters
Embossed lettering: KNW
Imp headlights in a pop-up arrangement
operated by modified windscreen wiper motors
a bear in its natural habitat
John Fenton in his element
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