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Richard Oakes Stylist/Car Designer
Richard OakesThere are lots of references to Richard Oakes on the web, but they usually only refer to him in connection with a car that the writer has a particular interest. my aim is to link that information together.
An article appeared in a now forgotten kit car magazine, part biography, part interview titled The Richard Oakes Story.  An edited version of that article is the basis of this piece, with added  notes on the designs mentioned in the text.

Richard Oakes’ history and CV is a roller coaster ride of interesting designs, some successful some not, that has seen him ply his trade in all corners of the UK. He started out in the late sixties as a sign writer in Yorkshire which he soon became feed up with, and as he had a keen interest in cars and design, he sent out speculative letters offering his services to, amongst others, Marcos and Lotus. He actually ended up in Clapham in South London in 1968 working for well specialist manufacturer Davrian Developments, This he enjoyed and says that he found the late Adrian Evans to be a very talented and clever man if a little lacking in presentation skills.

Richard Oakes at the drawing board

TrampQuite by chance, one day in 1969 he was sent down to Brixham in Devon to repair a crashed Davrian at the company’s laminators, Western Laminates, and ended up moving to the West Country. He went on to design one of the most critically acclaimed Beach Buggy’s called the Tramp. Richard designed it because they were very much in vogue and he fancied doing one and he also just happened to own a split window VW Beetle that would serve as a perfect donor vehicle.

The Tramp became an overnight success and 75 were sold over an 18 month period between 1970 and 1971. Until Western laminates went bankrupt in early 1971.

A Tramp                                             A Nova
 Richard, along with his friend Phil Sayers, moved up to Steatham in South London and set about designing a sports car that had the appeal of the Beach Buggy but was sexy with it. The result of their labours became the Nova launched late in 1971 and became one of the most famous kit cars in the industry’s history. Indeed Motor magazine was sufficiently moved to ask its readers ‘Is this the most beautiful car in the World?’ How things change.
Referring to the Nova, Richard said “It was horrible really. I drove one to Italy to deliver it to to the boss of an exhaust company and after that I said I’d never sit in one again. It was too cramped inside and I realised that I’d gone about things in the wrong way as it should have been the driver getting the thrill not people in the bus queues pointing and going “Look at that funny car’. I used it as a lesson and since then have designed cars that provide driver satisfaction as well as looking good”.
They sold a lot of Novas in the early day’s, as many as ten on a Saturday according to Richard. famous racing Cobra team owner, John Willment, got involved and provided funding and at one stage they even upped and moved to a disused boatyard in Southampton that Willment owned. But as the oil crisis came along in 1973, sales slowed to a crawl and Phil Sayers departed the scene leaving Richard and his wife Annie to carry on alone. They had moved to Lancashire by this time and Richard took on trailer design to tide the company over but to no avail. After the Nova experience, Richard went to work for a firm in Accrington making moulds for concrete garden gnomes.

Midas BronzeOakes however, was enjoying being a designer and managed to gain entry to the Royal College of Art in 1974, which Rover agreed to fund.
In the meantime he had met Harold Dermott who had just taken over the Mini Marcos project and who asked Richard (who had seven weeks until his RCA course started) to give the car a makeover to give it a more modern feel. The problem was that the body shell was shaped like a banana and the project ended up taking much longer to complete than originally anticipated. So Dermott set Richard up in a lockup in Islington and he spent evenings and weekends restyling the vehicle. This project was ultimately to become the Midas, which became an immediate success and brought Richard critical acclaim.

Having done his first year at the Royal College of Arts and also having a holiday job with Ogle Design under Tom Karen, Richard decided that he wanted to do a second year masters degree and managed to obtain funding from Ford. Upon successfully gaining his qualification he went to work for Ford at Dunston in Essex in 1976, which was a strange experience according to Richard although a useful one. He spent most of his time there designing light lenses for Escorts, although he did have some input on the new Sierra.

 A Midas Bronze

Dutton Sierra ad

After becoming frustrated at Ford , he went off to form Anglo Design in Kensington in 1981 and began to make a real name for himself as a designer. One of his clients was JCB. Richard had designed the Dutton Sierra estate kit car that was produced from 1980. Another of his designs was the  Pimlico for Domino cars in1984 that was produced until 2007.  He also did a second design for Midas the Gold in 1985. This while also working for mainstream manufacturers, including a micro commercial vehicle called the the Jiffy for trailer firm Indespension.

He recalls one design for at that time a very well known southern based kit car maker where he told the company that initial designs were ready,but before he could say that there was a further 6 months of work to do, the manufacturer said” right I’ll be round to pick it up!. That vehicle went on to sell in very large numbers. (This could have been the Dutton Melos.)

JiffyMidas Gold A Midas Gold 
Domino pimlico
A Domino  Pimlico

In 1985 the then boss of Aston Martin, Victor Gauntlett, asked Richard if he could come up with a design for a Vantage replacement that ultimately wasn’t accepted, but it was putting Oakes on the map alongside luminaries such as Ken Greenley, William Towns and John Heffeman.

By 1986 Richard had become totally fed-up with London and moved to Cornwall for a quieter life. Most of his clients came with him , a notable exception being JCB, and this is where he resides to this day.

GTM Rossa

In 1987 he designed  the Deltyn Pegasus for The Parradine Motor Company. 
Richards long association with Paddy Fitch and Peter Beck at GTM Cars began with the Mini based GTM Rossa, launched on the market in 1986 and continued with Mk2 Rossa in 1989. Peter, Paddy and Richards next collaboration was the GTM K3 Rossa, a completely new design using Rover Metro components and the K series engine, first produced in 1993.

My rossa K3GTM Rossa

                                        My GTM Rossa K3

In 1990 Peter Beck and Paddy Fitch had purchased designs and mould's of the Midas Cars from Pastiche Cars resuming production of a revised Gold convertible. They decided that a new Midas Coupe was required using the K series Metro as the donor vehicle, and had sold on the Midas bronze and Gold moulds, so again with the help of Richard a new design, the Midas Coupe 2+2 was developed, this was in 1995. It is sold today by the present Midas as the Midas Cortez.

Midas Coupe

GTM produced Midas Coupe

GTM's next new model the Libra was the work of the usual trio plus suspension designer Bryn Davies. They had turned away from the one donor format to produced a unique design which had a central GRP chassis as used in the K3 Rossa, but with the purposed designed suspension attached to the chassis bulkheads front and rear. Work started on the Libra in 1995 and it was ready for sale in 1998. In 2001 the team produced the Libra Spyder, a soft top version of the Libra. Unfortunately both are not in production in 2013.
       GTM Libra
GTM Libra Spyder
GTM Libra                                                                                     GTM Libra Spyder

Richard Oakes is unusual in the design world in as much as he designs, engineers and builds his own prototypes and is always much happier doing things his own way using his pens to design rather than a CAD system.

Blackjack Cars  has been in existence since 1996 having been spawned from Richard Oakes desire to produce his own design and market it himself. He had been running a separate design company since the early seventies, designing stuff that always ends up under somebody else’s banner. So it was the desire to create something in his own name as well as something that was different and enjoyable that ultimately prompted the Avion. The Blackjack Avion is a three wheeled sports car, using Citroen 2CV components, power train and front suspension.
In 2001 Richard commenced the design and developement of an all new three wheeler the Zero, This time the donor engine and gearbox came from the classic VW Beetle Type 1, the chassis, body mouldings and suspension are all produced by Blackjack cars. He as since added another version to the range powered by a Moto Guzzi V twin motorcycle engine.

Blackjack AvionBlackjack Zero VWBlack Zero Moto Guzzi              
A Bloacjack Avion                                         A Blackjack Zero with VW engine                 A Blackjack Zero with Moto-Guzzi engine

Richard Oakes /Designer