Probably the first
mid-engined kit ever offered was the GTM, made by Cox & Co
from late 1966. The initials stood for Grand Touring Mini,
indicating the use of Mini subframes front and rear, so that the
engine was mounted amidships.
Of semi-monocoque steel and glassfibre construction, it was a dumpy little two-seater with distinctive flying buttress rear styling. Cox sold the GTM in kit form, but quality and development were lacking. Even so, 55 cars had been sold when the project was taken over in 1968 by Howard Heerey. Heerey redesigned many aspects of the GTM, making it more luxurious and better developed. But his firm went under in 1972, by which time a further 250 cars had been produced.
Now the GTM moved to Hartlepool, where it lay dormant until purchased by KMB Autosports in 1976. Uprated, it took three further years to re-enter production.
In 1981, it finally passed to GTM Cars of Loughborough, where it has remained in production averaging sales of around 60 a year.
All the rights were bought in April 1981 by the present owners, Paddy Fitch and Peter Beck, along with Dougal Cowper, and they formed the present company 'GTM Cars Ltd'. The three of them took all the plans, moulds etc. with them to a modern factory unit in Colwick, near Nottingham. After about 8 months of very hard work Dougal Cowper decided the business wasn't going to work out and there was an amicable parting of the ways. After about a year Paddy and Peter moved to the present site at Sutton Bonnington near Loughborough.
a) Insurance is available at very competitive rates.
It is extremely difficult to give performance figures as this depends on the engine fitted but, as a guide, one can expect a considerable improvement compared to a similar-engined mini due to low frontal area, aerodynamic shape and reduced weight. A tuned 1275s-engined model will achieve 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds and has a maximum speed well in excess of 100 mph.
GTM Engineering have carefully considered the widely differing requirements of their customers and,to give them the opportunity to choose a kit that meets their requirements exactly, have decided to sell the GTM car in the form of part packs.
The part packs have been chosen to group together the parts required when specific stages in the construction of the GTM are ready for completion.
The part-pack principle gives the customer the opportunity of spreading his expenditure over a period by purchasing the partpacks as and when he requires them.
GTM Engineering introduced a 13" wheel version of the original car in April 1962, this model now offers the customer the following additional advantages: -
a) New moulds throughout for the 13" wheel version produce high quality mouldings which if the customer prefers can be used without spraying, offering a substantial saving on the finishing costs of the car. Although only the finest materials are used during manufacture, the nature of the GRP process will not guarantee complete colour fastness of the mouldings A standard colour range is available at the factory.
b) Higher overall gearing
without the added expense of special high ratio final drives.
c) A greater selection of wheel and tyre sizes.
d) Incresed ground clearance.
I must admit that 1 was
almost in sympathy with Paddy Finch when he expressed his
reservations for my plan. Paddy, with Peter Beck, is a part owner
of GTM and had just telephoned to tell me that his latest 13 inch
wheel demonstrator had finally been completed. The Sharp
grey matter immediately sprung into a rapid formulation of the
In common with most car nuts from the Mini/Escort Mkl era, I have never lost enthusiasm for the GTM concept. That it was still being made confirmed my 'stood the test of time' admiration for the car, and in fact, if the original Cox GTM had had a few of its design details a little better sorted a GTM likely have replaced the MG Midget disaster that came to dominate my car-owning life.
I'm still enthusiastic for the GTM concept. But 1 wanted to find out whether its chequered career had improved its road manners; whether the car-with-the-right-idea-in-the first-place had been made good enough to stand comparison with more up-to-date vehicles.
And hence the Master Plan which Paddy was worried about. Just how many attractive mid-engined cars are readily available with everyday practicality and affordability Paddy knew the answer, of course. Yes, we were in temporary possession of a Fiat Xl/9 for a few days.
This car was the Xl/9 VS, the latest evolution of the marque with two-tone paint, electric windows and leather interior. Even with all those luxuries, there's no other fully built mid-engined sports car on the market for anything near its £6,900 price tag.
Paddy's worries and my master plan revolved around finding out just how £2 200 worth of bits and £1 50 worth of tatty old Mini could compare.
Paddy and Peter reckon they've now got the GTM about right, so they weren't at all concerned that their car wouldn't stand up in the handling and performance stakes. It was just that moulded glassfibre and well used, albeit modified and reconditioned A-series power doesn't have the je ne sais quoi of interior leather treatment and alloy headed OHC five speed production-sophisticated Italian brio. They were to an extent reassured that it was the car and not the fancy bits which were CCC's concern, and so it was that the 1983 CCC contingent arrived at GTM's Leicestershire doors replete with cameras and a brand new Xl/9 VS.
1 say the 1983 CCC contingent because senior CCC readers may recall that back in 1970, we built our own GTM. That car was created after the demise of the original Cox version, when kit manufacture was taken to Hazel Grove by Howard Heerey who dropped the Cox tag. Not only did CCC build the car, we raced it as well, even did the Nurburgring 50Okms that year, although the intrepid CCC man-of-the-day, Richard T4udsonEvans, completed rather fewer than 500.
To be pedantic, GTM interest goes back still further to 1967, when we tested one of Cox's first.... It went well: 6.4 seconds from a standstill to 6Omph and a 11 5rnph top speed, it's possible that 120bhp from the 13:1 compression ratio 1293 S unit contributed . Our first priority was to discover whether the years and attention had helped the basic car. The Heerey machines were followed by versions built by KMB Auto Sports Ltd. in Wellingborough, and it was there that electronics engineer Peter Beck determined to find himself some light relief from the hassles of corporate business by designing and building a completely new sports car for himself. As a result of much serious investigation, a lot of enquiries and a search for any tips to further his project, he soon came to realise that The most logical and feasible route was going to be mid-engined, using a proprietary transverse power train. It's old knowledge but still valid, and Austin Rover still makes that perfectly pertinent A-series combination. The information flowing in from many sources convinced him that the basic tub design of the GTM couldn't be bettered at the price, although he felt certain that other parts of the existing car could be. As both Paddy and he were working for someone else, and sick of it, they combined to bid for the GTM and a dream lifestyle.
It was nearly four years ago that their bid was accepted, and they bought out KMB in April, taking all the plans and moulds etc. with them to Sutton Bonnington to start building the sort of life many think about but few ever achieve.
Getting the car to look and perform the way they knew it should took more time, and the glassfibre and metal results of their efforts was ready to run at the beginning of October 1983. Both are engineers and both knew it was necessary to get the chassis engineering right first of all.
They began by attempting to rid the car of its bumpsteer and succeeded by relocating the steering rack onto the Mini front subframe ~ a distance of 1.5 inches vertically and horizontally away from where it had been.
That simple move proved to be a great help, and apart from certain minor strengthening tweaks to the steel tub, their next major efforts centred on equalising the weight distribution. Fifty/fifty is the resulting ratio with the new 8.5 gallon fuel tank brimmed.
With the chassis and running gear now working better, Paddy and Peter turned to the body. During development they had appreciated the many advantages of fitting 13 inch diameter wheels in place of the earlier Mini 10 inch size and they consequently completely revised the moulds. Bigger and more extended wheel arches were formed in, but the basic styling remained, and is in my seconds is respectable.
The Xl/9 felt quicker from a standing start and it also felt as if there was a lot more urge further up the range; the four speed transmission GTM flattening out at around 85mph, while the Xl/9 told its driver that there was quite a bit more to come.
We applied ourselves to the task with relish, determined to discover whether a Mini-made right by comparative amateurs could in dynamic terms be the equal of a 128-maderight by corporate Latin professionals.
Serious lap times followed, and after the sums, logic was proven. The Xl/9 was the Victor, circulating with professional aplomb and near perfectly balanced handling in an average lap time of 49.2 secs. But the just completed GTM was only just beaten, by 1.1 seconds, and if a little more time had been spent to stop the lever jumping out of second gear in corners, and the engine cutting completely on right handers(!) it's certain the car would have been much quicker than its average 50.3 seconds lap times indicated.
It's my view that once these minor irritations are sorted the GTM would have convincingly trounced the Fiat, so well balanced did the little car feel. It seemed to urge the driver to keep his foot on the throttle longer, and 1 would have gladly obliged had my foot been connected to motive power in the bends.
Certainly the Italian car would comfortably handle more power with its standard suspension set-up, but the perfectly balanced handling of the GTM simply cries out for more.
After my first drive in the GTM 1 was impressed. When it was wrenched from CCC's grasp after our tests 1 couldn't avoid feeling a grave sense of loss.
The Xl/9 was wrenched from us a little later, and 1 was almost equally sorry when it too went. The little Italian is so impressive in its practicality and nearly as entertaining to drive as the GTM that one's thoughts turn to a better driving position, slightly stiffer suspension, maybe even a turbocharger.
Thinks ... we've not had a CCC Proiect Car for at least two months.... GTM can be contacted at GTM Engineering, Trowell Lane, Sutton Bonnington, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE1 2 5RW (East Leake 050982 2646).
Few concepts seem less equal;
a 1960s glassfibre Mini-based kit of parts with serious
competition connotations in its basic design could justifiably be
considered to be a conceptual 1i9ht year removed from a
productionised version of a Bertone-created fun car design study
which first appeared in left hand drive markets back in 1972.
But, as we discovered, take the production route, produce 141,000 Xl/9s and far fewer GTMs (the understatement of the decade), and both cars reach a situation in which their dynamic capabilities will stand comparison.
It's fair to say that more work has gone into refining the GTM's inherent design advantages than has into the Xl/9, but both cars seem to have taken similar routes to arrive at their current (high) levels of dynamic sophistication.
Their engineering design concepts are as near similar as possible, the basic difference between the two being the donor vehicles used to provide the running gear.
The GTM uses the clever lssigonis designed dry Mini suspension complete with its subframes, whereas the Xl/9 originally pulled 128 Sport bits out of the Fiat pads bin, later to use a Ritmo/Strada 1498cc motor and gearbox.
MacPherson struts have always adorned the front and rear of the Xl/9, linked by tubular wide-based wishbones at the front, with square tube rear lower arms using adjustable rear track control arms. Although not 'carry-over' 128 front' suspension, the basic concept is similar, just rather more sophisticated. The first left-hand drive 75bhp 130Occ production cars carried relevant'brio' courtesy of the superbly oversquare (86 X 55.5mm) cast iron block/alloy head engine which gave useable production trim RPM maximum of around 7000, although maximum power was produced at 6000.
Early Xl/9s may have looked and felt like mini-GTs, but on the road, that feeling alone replaced actual performance; particularly when, with the four speed gearbox's overdriven top selected following maximum RPM in third, top speed would take a drastic dive.
The Xl/9's US market potential was mainly responsible for this somewhat less-than-evocative performance. The car was productionised with that market in mind from Job One. Even first editions were, accordingly, capable of withstanding much crash impact with success.
Design briefs called for the car to be capable of safely withstanding a 5Omph head-on impact and an 8Omph rollover, and it passed each test with flying colours. When it came to the weighbridge though, attendant penalties were realised; the first steel wheeled LHD 1300s weighed no less than 880kg. The Xl/9 still remains a very sensible choice to have a crash in, as the photograph of a severely telegraphed' example in Jeremy Walton 'S excellent Osprey Auto History on the car testifies. The front end is almost unrecognisable while the cockpit remains intact; the driver walked away from the car.
UK sports car enthusiasts had
to continue suffering Midgets and Spitfires until the Xl/9 was
introduced here in 1976. The first right hand drive cars
were still four-speed 1300s, but cate as standard with 5J x 13
alloy wheels in place of the earlier 41/2J steels of the left hand
These first cars also had paint work additions which may have contributed to the car being labelled with an unwarranted poseur tag.
Various different specials
followed the car's introduction, but all these changes were
cosmetic and of the Limited Edition variety. The real major
change came with the Xl/9 being provided with the sort of power it
always deserved in the first place.
This was in 1979, when the Ritmo/Strada In 1498cc cast ironlalloy OHC four was slotted behind the seats onto essentially similar suspension with that of the 1300 car. The important features of this change were that the engine not only had 10 more BHP, bringing the output to 85 bhp, but the torque was also up and produced at 20Orpm less. This sort of propulsion would certainly have helped the earlier car achieve its max' imum speed in the highest of its four ratio but concurrent with the introduction of the 1500 car, the five speed Strada 'box was also carried over, thereby providing the Xl/9 with much more complementary flexibility for its already extremely capable dynamic-performance.
A bigger clutch (19Omm diameter instead of 181.5mm) transferred the new power to the new gearbox, but handling was not unduly affected because the weight distribution remained about the same, with 55 percent at the rear. However, overall weight was affected and went up to 920kg.
All 1500s were fitted with ungainly USspec front and rear bumpers, which only makes sense when one considers that about 58 percent of all Xl/9 production has been sold into the States; the Yanks were even the only lucky people to get a fuel injected version - for emission control reasons.
At the Turin motor show in 1982 it was announced that all Xl/9s would in future be made by Bertone, or carry Bertone badges anyway, and since then, most new cars seen in this country have been "Bertone Xl/9s".
Whether they are limited edition specials, Fiat or Bertone built, it isn't important. The main thing is that an enthusiast on a relatively low budget can still buy a mid-engined, adequately powered, economical, fine handling (near-convertible) two seater which is capable of carrying the kitchen sink, but not the mother-in-law.
Less wealthy men-in-the-street are also well served by the GTM, providing they have sufficient mechanical bent. And the motherin-law would be even less likely to be able to fit between those plastic door edges.
In technical specification then there's obvious similarity between our two midengined fun cars, but mention impact resistance to most other kit car constructors and cardiac arrest will likely accompany their imaginative response.
Not so with the GTM; its tub certainly appears capable of withstanding horrendous sideswipes, and the fuel tank neatly slotted into the front subframe not only adds rigidity, but also helps protect feet and ankles in a head-on. Fit the GTM rollover bar and you'd be verging on the sort of integrity provided by the Xt/9.
With near 50150 balance now available and proper suspension geometry, the GTM is a superior performer in the bends to the Xl/9; the only thing it lacks to compare equally is adequate lu gage capacity for more than that weekeng away.
But if you're fortunate enough to need two toothbrushes for that weekencf, then buy two, smaller ones. MS
The GTM 'ROSSA' is a modern mid engined 2 + 2 open top sports car with a high quality hardtop, designed to complement the original styling of the car. The 'ROSSA' has many design features which over recent years have become the norm in production cars. The doors are long and wide opening to allow easy access, door windows are frameless and wind down which, combined with the removeable top give traditional open top motoring. The heating and ventilating system centres on the collector ,@ga at the base of the screen and ensures fresh air is 1 nted into the car via grilles on the dashboard. The fresh air heater also benefits from this feature enabling a good flow of air through the vents onto the screen and into the car.
A purpose built dashboard and
interior trim set have given the GTM 'ROSSA' an interior of
production car standards. The dashboard incorporates modern
instruments and switches, air and heater vents and a lockable
glove box. All interior surfaces are carpeted or panelled,
seats are cloth covered recliners with tilt forward mechanisms for
access to the two occasional rear seats which are cushioned to
match. There are two boot areas in the 'ROSSA', both completely
weatherproof and lockable. The first is located under the
bonnet and is opened from inside the car. This section also
houses the spare wheel, petrol tank and battery but leaves enough
room for further luggage. The second area is' located in the
rear section behind the engine, access by a lockable engi'ne-boot
Both Bonnet and boot lids have inner moulds to which concealed hinges and locks are attached and are both supported by self-locking stays. The rear luggage area enables storage of longer items as the area measures 4' x 1' x 1'6.
The hard top comes complete with inner headlining mould fitted and is a standard part of the 'ROSSA' kit. When fitted the occupants enjoy all the benefits of fixed head motoring. Being completely waterproofed it becomes a practical all year motorcar and should not be catergorised as a summer fun car.
By utilizing the mechanical
running gear of a Mini the GTM 'ROSSA' has many advantages over
more expensive exotica:-
a) All mechanical spares are readily available new from British Leyland dealers at very reasonable prices or second hand breakers yards at minimal cost.
b) Servicing and maintenance can if required be undertaken by the average local garage.
c) A# the work under taken by specialist firms and British Leyland with regard to engine timing andgear ratios fit the GTM'ROSSA'without modification.
The GTM 'ROSSA' is possibly unique in design and manufacture, made in a composite of glass-fibre materials with separate front and rear sections bolted on to form the complete overall shape. The main strength lies in the centre section to which all the mechanical components are attached, and in which the occupants sit. Designed to accept bolt-on front and rear boot/bumper sections to give a progressively'deformable overall layout. This form of construction has major advantages over the more conventional complete body section in that accident repair is purely a matter of unbolting the damaged section and replacing with a new section. The front and rear bumper sections are easily and quickly removed to allow excellent access for mechanical repairs. The wiring harness is plugged at these points to facilitate speedy removal.
New moulds throughout The 'ROSSA'produce high quality mouldings which if the customer prefers can be used without spraying, offering a substantial saving on the finishing costs of the car. Although only the finest materials are used during manufacture, the nature of the GRP process will not guarantee complete colour fastness of the mouldings. A standard colour range is available at the factory.
There are only two midengined sports cars on the market that most people without City whizzkid incomes can' actually afford. Right? Wrong! There is a game alternative to the Bertone X 1 /9 and Toyota MR2 for Meccano Man with itchy fingers and an empty garage. Commercially, the GTM Rossa poses no threat to the establishment stars, and never will. Aesthetically and dynamically, it is a serious alternative. What's more, it is cheap. Crazily cheap. GTM's Peter Beck reckons you could put a Rossa on the road for £4500. "That's £3000 to us, £1 500 for the running gear," he says, convincingly, and not without pride in the achievement. "The kit is totally complete. It has everything. Every screw, clip, bolt, bracket and pipe. The first Rossa we sold was assembled in three weeks."
That's right: the Rossa is a kit car, one you put together yourself f rom a collection of bits and pieces, the bulk supplied by GTM, the rest - mainly the mechanical hardware - from donor vehicles, mostly of Mini extraction. Some kit cars are appalling rubbish, which is one reason why Motordevotes little space to them. A few are remarkably good. In kit-car circles, where survival is in itself a mark of high esteem, the products of GTM are considered to be among the best, not least because of their caring attitude.
The Rossa is the first new model launched by GTM since the company was founded, several owners and over two decades ago. The original coup@, still in production, has become an establishment anchor on the kit-car scene, with over 300 now on the road. Not that such respectability was achieved without a lot of grinding development by the present owners. "it used to be a typical kit-car. You know, square wheels, steering rack in the wrong place, thir)gs that didn't fit. It nearly killed us getting it right," recalls Beck who, with partner Patrick Fitch, acquired GTM (Grand Touring Mini) eight years ago.
Once they'd got the little fixedhead right, Beck and Fitch considered upgrading it to a more'sophisticated two-plustwo convertible, then realised it couldn't be done for all sorts of reasons. To make a new car which they could call their own would mean a fresh start. They made one, with a clean sheet of paper, in 1982. Last year, 48 months on, they launched the Rossa, still with a mid-mounted transverse engine and Mini/ Metro running gear, but different in style, character and civility from the cornerstone coupe.
With the help of designer
Richard Oakes (who did the Midas and Nova, and was short listed
for the new Aston Martin) GTM penned the new car, f irstly with a
steel spacef rame like the original coup6, and later with a sturdy
composite glassfibre monocoque ("just look at the weight of that
laminate"), with supportive galvanised steel frame around the
front bulkhead. Bolt-ori front and rear assemblies not only
complete the colour-impregnated bodywork, which requires no
painting, but also provide crash protection for occupants and
central tub, making damaged bodywork easy to replace.
The removable end sections carry weatherproof boots, that at the front being shared by the spare wheel, battery and fuel tank. The rear one is covered by the same lid as the engine bay.
Reflecting the attention to detail that's gone into the Rossa's design, the hinges and locks of both assemblies are carried by inner mouldings.
It is the sturdy central monocoque, not the unstressed ends, that carry four-bolt f ront Mini subframes (for which two donor cars are needed, of course). That used at the back of the Rossa that's part of the GTM kit which comprises 1 1 body mouldings, including the bolt-on hardtop; every frame, support, fastener and bracket (galvanised for rust protection) that's needed for assembly; handles, locks and hinges; wiring loom and cables; gearchange and rear suspension conversion parts; brake and clutch pipes.. exhaust system up to the manifold; side and rear glass; and front and rear light clusters.
Have kit, will travel to
breaker's yard - or friendly Austin Rover dealer- for the other
vital organs, starting with an A-series engine/ transmission to
choice, preferably a 1275 with some real power. The 1 00 bhp
mill of SPE's ton-up Mini (Motor, March 7) would do nicely.
Shock absorbers, brakes (discs or drums), steering rack, master
cylinders, pedal assembly, heater, radiator, fuel tank, headlights
... all these and other bits must come from a donor Mini.
Also needed are an Allegro steering column and stalk assembly; a Metro radiator, fan, header tank and instruments; and air vents and tubes from an Escort. Oh yes, and some seats, wheels and a Citroen Visa windscreen, around which the body is designed. "Richard Oakes said we should start with the screen, so we chose one that was widely available in Europe," explains Beck. GTM can supply these items if required.
In most departments, the Rossa gets a lot closer to normal production standards than most kit cars, not least in the excellent fit and finish of its GRP bodywork. There are no giveaway ripples or gaping shutlines. The long doors have no stays but they open wide giving easy access to an agreeably tidy and roomy cockpit with deep footwells and space behind the seats for squashy luggage. Neither the Xl/9 nor the MR2 can offer that. Metro instruments and ventilation outlets set into GTM's black moulded dash gave the demonstrator's facia - often the Achilles'heel of a selfassembled kit -the look of a real" motorcar.
What's more, the ventilation works. So does the simple heater. It is here, in important detailing, that the Rossa establishes itself as a serious car, not just a DIY toy. The doors fit, the windows seal, the cabin is nicely finished, the monocoque is rigid. At least, it is with the winter hardtop in place. Without it (which we didn't try) there is no overhead bracing - or need for any, according to GTM.
The demonstrator, powered by a (new) 72 bhp MG Metro engine, did not feel especially fast. We're not into building flimsy lightweight racers," says Beck. Still, at under 14 cwt, the Rossa is not heavy, so the potential is there for a really healthy power/weight ratio, given the right cylinder head gear and induction. Engine noise intrudes but it is no louder than an MR2 or Xl/9, and the gearchange is acceptable, if not a paragon of precision.
It is in its ride and handling that the Rossa excels. We expected it to grip well, on MG Metro wheels carrying 185/60 Goodyear rubber, but not to feel quite so sharp and secure on corners, orto tackle indifferent surfaces so smoothly. There was little evidence of the Mini's notorious rubber-spring bounce. Being better balanced. with a near 50/50 weight distribution, the Rossa hugs the road with even greater tenacity than the lssigonis cube. The seats and driving position of the demonstrator were excellent, even for the very tall.
On the road, the Rossa is an impressively able car by any standards, let alone by selfassembly ones. But what about the bother of getting it to a roadready condition? Peter Beck reckons that you don't need to be a professional mechanic with fancy tools to build one. "The car doesn't need engineering. You assemble it. There's no welding or laminating to do, as there is on the coup6."
Fasteners come in coded packets that relate to a lavishly illustrated assembly manual. "it took us three months to write that," said Beck, well pleased with the format and detail of the instructions.
If there are any assembly problems, GTM are happy to help resolve them. "We never fall out with customers, " says Beck, who reckons that 80 per cent of the peoole who buy a GTM kit return to the tiny works near Sutton Bonnington, Leicestershire, with the f inished product. "We offer a free checkup," he says.
Both GTM luminaries gave up senior managerial posts with Plessey to become self employed car manufacturers. Beck, a chartered engineer, was atop man overseeing hundreds of employees- a far cry from the cottage industry he's now in. Just before Motor's visit, the company had lost a quarter of its workforce when one of its two moulders left. In response, Beck and Fitch had their shirtsleeves rolled back, brushes at the ready. "We're very proud of our moulding work," says Beck. "There aren't many people about who are good enough to meet our standards." You only have to run your eyes, never mind your fingertips, over the skin of a Rossa to realise that it's true.
Beck is philosophical about the early days at GTM. "it was hard work. In the f i rst year we drew no salary and made £440. Now we're a very profitable little company." Beck says there are times when he'd like the outf it to be a bit bigger (there are plans to extend the little single-unit factory, housing stores and moulding shop, to embrace a front showroom). But on the whole, small is beautiful at GTM, which has been turning out around 60 coupe kits a year, and now looks forward to a two per-week total with the Rossa on stream.
At £4500 all in, plus VAT, they shouldn't be short of customers.
LENGTH: 3.80 metres
HEIGHT: 1. 1 0 metres
WIDTH: (excluding door mirrors) 1.54 metres
WHEEL BASE: 2.32 metres
FUEL TANK CAPACITY' 7.8 Gallons
The K3 Superkit includes all items detailed below and supplies all non Metro items necessary to complete the kit. A separate mechanical package, supplying all the Rover Metro items stripped and ready for assembly, can be supplied from the factory.All mouldings in the Superkit are supplied in a Gel coat finish, from a standard range of colours, which eliminates the need for spraying.
Technical Specification -
Rover Metro 16V GTI
ENGINE & GEAR BOX
4 Cylinder, 16 Valve Transverse, Twin Cam, 1396cc, 103 PS (EEC), Electronic multi-point fuel injection. Programmed ' electronic ignition, Hydraulic Tappets, 5 speed close ratio manual transmission.
Front: Wishbone type with 'Hydragas' displacer, anti-dive and inter-connection front to rear.
Rear: Wishbone type with 'Hydragas'.
Rack and pinion.
Servo assisted, Dual circuit, large diameter ventilated disc brakes on all wheels. Mechanical hand brake on rear wheels.
WHEELS & TYRES
13" 7-spoke Alloy wheels with 185/55 HR x 13 high performance, low profile radial ply tyres. Alloy spare wheel.
BODY & CHASSIS UNIT
GTM developed central tub in glass fibre composite. Separate sub-frames front and rear, located by large diameter torque tubes. Unique design and manufacturing method giving very light weight and racing car,standards of structural rigidity.
A workshop manual is available for £20 refundable on the purchase of a kit. Order forms are available on request from the factory and a deposit of£300 is required when placing your order.
THE ROSSA K3 IS GTM'S FIRST ALL-NEW home-grown car since the company introduced the original Rossa back in 1986. And let's get one thing straight from the start; the K3 IS an all-new car. Its links with the old machine stop with the name and any vague external design similarities. After that, we're on virgin territory.
Whilst the Mini-based Rossa was undoubtedly a very capable all-rounder, it suffered a number of shortcomings which were largely put upon it by the antiquated donor car. The GRP monocoque was such that it just cried out for more power. Power that simply wasn't available from any of the standard or even mildly tuned Mini Aseries engines. Likewise, it was limited by that tiresome 4-speed gearbox.
The Richard Oakes'styling was OK but always a little tubby and hardly aggressive. The design of the monocoque meant that engine access was nothing short of a joke. The list goes on ... dated internal dash styling; minimal storage; fuel tank out in front under the nose. Don't get me wrong, the Rossa was good but it wasn't perfect.
Enter the K3. Originally designed (Richard Oakes again) way back in 1988, the car was intended to be more of a Mk2 Rossa than an entirely new car. It was to have earlier Metro running gear and retain that car's A-series engine and 4-speeder. It was the shape you see here, but a styling exercise more than a complete reworking. In fact, GTM's Peter Beck had already built a body tub with A-series engine etc. by the time Rover became involved with the Metro and changed the whole thing.
In between all this happening, GTM had taken on board a host of kits from the recently defunct Pastiche Cars operation. These were the old NG (less the Henley which went to Challenger) and Midas Convertible kits (another Cakes design). All required a fair amount of resorting after Pastiche had been at them, and this kept Peter Beck and co-partner Paddy Fitch rather busy. The Mk2 Rossa was definitely on the back-burner.
With Rover's introduction of the K-series engine (along with major resorting of the Metro's suspension and general packaging), the decision to change once more and utilise these excellent mechanics was comparatively easy. The complete reworking of everything underneath the new bodyshell, on the other hand, was somewhat more difficult. Standing beside the new car, Peter's thrilled to bits with the end result and is rushing around showing me this and that, what it does and how clever it is that it does it so efficiently. Of course, he's right, too. There are loads of neat touches all over this car, and the majority will never be seen once it's on the road.
So, from the ground up, what do we have with the al@-new Rossa K3? Primarily, there's the central monocoque tub section, This is an all GRP monocoque, with no wood or steel reinforcement, and it is, apparently, considerably more rigid than the already impressive old Rossa. Incorporated into the monocoque are proper under-floor aerodynamics which help whip cool air up from under the car and onto the engine. The side vents are, as yet, only cosmetic but on the production kit they will be vented directly into the engine bay. This new monocoque is fundamental to the success of the K3. It's lighter than the old one, more rigid and allows the use of removable front and rear body panels...
These help to give previously unheard of levels of access in a GTM. Getting to the engine was a major problem on the old car; so much so that I'm convinced it would have put off some potential customers. The whole rear bodywork now pivots backwards, and can be quickly removed for really serious jobs like engine extraction or just making maintenance easier still. Excellent, no problems there.
Storage is available in both the front and back sections by way of large removable fibreglass 'bins'. Even with the battery and spare wheel situated under a dummy floor in the front compartment, there's still room for a squashy bag or two. The rear 'bin' is yet to come, but it will wrap around one side of the engine (over the gearbox) and behind it (over the exhaust area) to give another quite reasonable stowage area.
Staying with the GRP for a moment longer takes us to the interior, where there's a much needed dashboard redesign (courtesy of Paddy Fitch and which received the thumbs up from a critical Richard Oakes). A removable instrument pod takes the gauges from the Metro and makes for easy access to these components once the car is finished. Quality of all the fibreglass work is very good and the monocoque tub is particularly impressive - a highly intricate moulding.
So, on to the mechanicals. Whilst the new engine and suspension are undoubtedly superior to the earlier cars, there's another reason for using the more modern donor car. On a really practical basis, we're talking ease of disassembly. We (well, 'Jalopy' Jones, actually) have just stripped down an F-reg A-series based Metro for a forthcoming project, and the whole process was achieved in less then two days. That's right down to a bare shell. By comparison, we've also recently stripped down an old Citroen 2CV for another project. This was a far more basic car, but took almost a full week due to seized bolts, terminal rust and filth everywhere. The Metro's modern, unpluggable wiring loom and simple component packaging should also make it a doddle to reassemble. If you're not one for using a grinder on every nut and bolt, then a modern donor car is the way to go. You can count me in, for starters.
Leaving the engine aside for a moment, the K3 makes use of two front subframes from the Rover Metro. Whilst similar in many respects to the old Metro suspension (Hydrogas all-round), the Rover involvement has, amongst other things, introduced proper lower wishbones and linked the Hydrogas units front to back on either side. This is said to greatly reduce the pitching effect often associated with smaller wheelbase cars on uneven road surfaces. Using a front subframe at the back also allows the fitment of the new Metro's disc brakes (another improvement over the old Minibased Rossa).
Now to the engine and gearbox. This 1396cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve twin-cam, multi-point. fuel-injected engine (phew!) has been raved about since the day it was launched. Many of you will be aware of its use in the latest Caterham, where in standard tune it can push the little car to 6Omph in under six seconds. With its all alloy construction, it makes a massive weight saving when compared to the Caterham's Ford X-flow or GTM's A-series blocks. With an all-in weight of 730 kilos, just 1 90 over the Caterham, acceleration potential in the K3 is abundantly clear.
Electronic ignition and fuel injection mean you're also guaranteed a level of reliability previously only dreamt about with the old Mini lump. Finally, and as if that lot wasn't enough, there's the five-speed gearbox. At last, a GTM that will cruise effortlessly and not deafen the car's inhabitants. Sounds like heaven.
Final icing on the cake comes with the fact that GTM has tried, and succeeded, in using just about everything there is to use from only one donor. The advantage of that, in case you hadn't already guessed, is cost. Paddy Fitch and Peter Beck believe their latest creation can be put on the road for as little as £6000. That's pretty much what you'd have expected to spend on one of the old Rossas. Not surprisingly, GTM believes it won't be doing much more business with the old car (although it is still available). All in all, a pretty impressive package.
Seeing the car parked outside GTM's small but well-organised works was the first time I'd seen it outside of a show hall. Some cars look great inside a showroom, with all the lights reflecting off the bright paint. However, others really only come to life when parked outside, where the viewer can step well back and get a better perspective. The GTM K3 falls into the latter group, looking very low and purposeful. The new bulbous arches, stretched front and rear panels, lowered
roof line and more raked
screen combine to great effect. This really is a very
different beast to the meek and innocent Rossa of old. The
K3 looks every bit a sportscar.
On my arrival, Paddy and Peter were crouching over the rear suspension and adjusting the toe-in. Paddy explained they had been trying to sort out a slight tendency for the K3 to pull to the right under heavy acceleration. Nothing too drastic but highly irritating when you think you've got it right only to find out, for one reason or another, you haven't.
Whilst they were checking the rear suspension Peter noticed that one of the steering arms looked fractionally out of line with the others. Still, it was too late to change it now and, after some minor adjustment, Paddy went for another test up the road. The changes to the toe-in had slightly helped the road feel of the car but hadn't, unfortunately, cured the small pulling tendency. Since our visit, Paddy has confirmed that not only was the steering arm bent, but the whole engine subframe had suffered damage prior to the donor being written-off. Once replaced, this should cure the problem. It does, however, highlight how careful you must be when buying write-offs. If in doubt, change it,
The long door on the K3 makes getting in and out very easy, even with the hardtop in place. The Metro's GTi seats are instantly comfortable, with plenty of lumbar support and easily adjustable seat backs. They look good, too, and standard runners mean I'm quickly comfortable and able to appreciate these new surroundings. Even the Metro steering wheel is used, and it doesn't look bad at all. It also ensures that the donor's instruments are clearly visible. There are modern column switches, heater controls etc and a neat styling exercise for the whole dash area.
The internal door panels are yet to be redesigned and remain untrimmed, as is the rear bulkhead which just had some sound-proofing material loosely held in place. A small parcel shelf will fit in there eventually, Major impression of the interior is its roominess. In fact, the whole car feels quite large and certainly doesn't suffer from the slightly claustrophobic interior of many small kit cars. It's a real triumph.
Firing up the twin-cam engine
produces that lovely smooth thrum only modern engines seem capable
of. It suits the modern K3 down to a tee, and promises to
fulfil all the on-paper promises. Selecting first shows the
clutch to bite quite early and initial progress is hampered by a
tight and notchy gearshift. As Paddy explained, it's the Mkl
version, and only minor readjustment is needed to improve
it. Other early impressions are of the extremely light
steering - too light, in fact, even for a mid-engined car.
However, once again, it's a relatively straightforward job to dial
in more feel on the steering. The sticky gearshift is quickly
overcome, and progress can begin in earnest. The K3's
suspension initially appears over soft, and there is evidence of a
small degree of body roll, but one soon realises that it is
working very well and absorbing much of the road's
unevenness. Sevenesque cars fitted with independent rear
suspension have shown that you don't have to have a bone-jarring
set-up in order to get excellent handling.
That link-up between the front and rear Hydrogas units does seem to reduce pitch, and also helps to create this highly civilised road attitude. The slight pulling effect (due to the damaged subframe) that Paddy had mentioned soon became evident as 1 pushed on in the taller gears. The K3 gently tugged slightly to the right under acceleration and returned to normal when cruising or on the over-run. An odd sensation but only just detectable and one that many drivers might miss altogether.
The engine fitted to the prototype actually wasn't the Metro GTi unit with its multi-point fuel injection. Instead, it was a GTA engine with single-point injection. Still, it was good for ninety-odd bhp, as against the other unit's 103bhp, and progress was still pretty quick. As expected, it was beautifully smooth revving, red-lining at just over 700Orpm! If the wheel and tyre combination hadn't come directly from the donor car 1 might well have had serious doubts about the accuracy of the speedo. We were whipping along sweeping A-roads at increasingly unbelievable speeds, and a quick foray onto the dual carriageway confirmed that we going somewhat faster than the other traffic, that fifth gear being a complete saviour when it comes to motorway cruising. Absolutely effortless.
Within five minutes of setting off on my drive, the heavens opened and settled into a contented drizzle. The single windscreen wiper works well (although not utterly comprehensively for the passenger) and comes with the unheardof kit car luxury of an adjustable intermittent wipe! The Metro heater is also a marvel, working both in demisting and cockpit heating duties. With the hard-top fitted, the GTM K3 feels extremely snug. There's a little wind noise around the wing mirrors, and engine noise could be reduced with proper soundproofing. However, even in this prototype format, the cabin is very accommodating. All round vision with the hard-top fitted is good.
Due to the awful weather there really wasn't any opportunity to push the limits of the K3's cornering ability or ultimate performance. This visit was meant as just a brief look at the prototype, so that wasn't our intention anyway. Overall driving impressions of the new car are extremely encouraging and clearly prove the vast benefits of ditching the proposed Metro donor and going for the newer Rover Metro based car.
The monocoque chassis is also wonderfully responsive and extraordinarily rigid. A brief blast with the hard-top removed (with the rain still doing its best) showed there to be no visible scuttle shake at all. None, zero, zilch. The K3 was just as rigid as it had been with the hardtop fitted, and 1 can't immediately think of any car that could match it. Very impressive.
The aerodynamics of the K3 have got to be pretty spot on, too. There was minima buffeting in the cockpit and this didn't increase at all whether you were doing forty or seventy miles an hour. As for the hood, there wasn't one available for us to look at on our visit, but it will follow the highly successful design of the old car and will be fully foldable.
In conclusion, it seems the new K3 really does succeed in remedying all the reservations held about the old Rossa. The styling is considerably better; the interior is more modern; access to the engine is excellent; storage is better and the fuel tank is now behind the seat and in front of the engine (for better balance and well away from any impact zone). The list goes on, and the end result is a highly capable and enjoyable all-rounder, capable of use everyday yet always ready to supply exhilarating performance. This is one very exciting car.
Cost, you might think, is going to be a little frightening but, as I've already mentioned, GTM estimates most builders will spend around £6000. The cost has been kept down so successfully by the comprehensive one-donor policy. Everywhere you look there's another bit of Metro and, with Rover's involvement, that's not something to worry about.
Everything that isn't included in the donor car is supplied in the kit, down to the last nut and bolt. There is a Starter Kit available at £3200 + VAT which will allow builders to get the ball rolling, but GTM aims to push the Complete Kit package at £4250 +VAT which has the lot. This, if my slightly suspect maths ability is correct, leaves around £ 1 000 to get a suitable donor car. If it's the all singing and dancing GTi you're after, then a written-off version may set you back as much as £ 1 700, but GTAs and lesser models should fall into the former price bracket. Remember, with no costly wheels, tyres or paint job, the kit really will supply the lot. Budgeting has never been so clear cut.
Whilst there have only been a few new cars to enter the kit scene this year, the GTM K3 joins an increasing number of well-designed, thoughtfully developed, modernly packaged component cars that can only enhance the industry's image. When the first production K3 hits the roads later this year, Which Kit? will be there for the final analysis. We wait with baited breath.
THE QUESTION AS TO WHETHER
the GTM Libra will be a commercial success has been emphatically
answered by the 30 people who have already placed firm
orders. It's enough to enforce a nine month waiting list if
you were to put your deposit down tomorrow, although that will
soon get reduced as kit production gets into full swing.
Even then, at full speed the company can manage just one kit a
week, such is the complexity of the construction process. So
what is it about the car that has sold it to customers, some who
have never even been out for a test drive?
That complexity of construction is certainly one of the Libra's many appealing features. The fibreglass monocoque and fancy suspension are a real tour de force of technical innovation rarely witnessed to such a standard within the kit car industry (or indeed any other automotive scene). For those who appreciate the engineering aspect of car design, the Libra is simply outstanding.
Clearly, the dramatic external styling of the new car is another major area that has brought in the deposits at this comparatively early stage in the car's life. Richard Oakes, who has been responsible for many of the models already available within the GTW Midas range, is a man with a wonderful eye for detail. One only has to look at his own Blackjack Avion to appreciate that, but by comparison to the Rossa K3, Midas Coupe or Gold Convertible, the new Libra has an altogether more purposeful feel. If the others are a little safe, the new Libra is out to party.
But what about driving the n
car? Surely that's an important feature, too? Of
course it is, and b far the majority of customers finals begin
writing that cheque after a brief run out in the car, but one
suspects that if GTM said it wasn't going to give any test drives,
that the orders would still come in. More than anything
else, the new Libra has ' desirability written all over it.
Despite all of the above, what we here at Which Kit? really like to do with any new car is get behind the wheel and give it a damn good thrashing! There are still some unbelievably ugly cars in this industry, but because they drive like an angel on acid they hold a special place in our heart - in much the same way that if a kit with bodywork of a goddess drives like an old garden shed it's next to useless. So you can imagine the way in which we've been positively panting to get behind the wheel of the new Libra. Hardly a week has gone past since the car's launch in May that we haven't 'phoned GTM to try and book ourselves in for a spin.
Having held us off with a big stick for several months whilst it tried to sort out a few last details on the car, GTM almost begrudging relented and invited us up to its Nottinghamshire base for a provisional road test. Even then there were still some finishing touches to be done to this, the first demonstrator/prototype, in terms of inner wheel arch moulds, final interior detailing and minor suspension fettling as the company searches for the ultimate set-up. There's a real determination at the factory that the car should be perfect. So much hard work and effort has been put into the Libra over the last three years of development, that GTM is loath to stumble at the last hurdle.
But we've arrived and the Libra is parked up outside, looking better than ever. Complete with number plates and other external finishing touches, the car has moved on a long way since our last visit, when it was little more than a rolling shell. The trimmed doors now swing open to reveal a completed interior. Getting in is easy enough and the view from the driving seat is pleasingly uncluttered. The red centre console won't be in the production kits and the dash has been subtlety tweaked from this prototype version to include a glove box, eyeball vents and a slightly revised dash pod to house the Metro sourced instruments.
As it stands, this interior is pretty close to the final version in terms of overall shape and layout and it works well. The inner door panels continue the theme for simplicity, with just the manual window winders and door release pull cord breaking what is otherwise a largely flat surface. A neat little recessed edge at the bottom, just below the door release, acts as the pull to close the doors once in and it's a natty little feature.
The Corbeau seats are unlikely to remain in production kits they're just too big, bulky and fussy for the Libra, despite the fact that they are surprisingly comfortable. Even with them in place, there's generous space in the seemingly small cockpit and the
driving position is immediately familiar, despite the pedals being slightly offset to the centre. Visibility through the two wing mirrors is excellent, which is just as well, because the centrally mounted mirror struggles to give an adequate image back through the perspex rear engine cover.
The steeply raked screen adds to the sports car feel of the rest of this special interior and the removable roof panel is neatly held
in place by four plastic knurled knobs which can be released by hand. With the roof in place you are almost unaware that it can be removed and the Libra is most definitely a small coupe. However, such is the size of the removable section that with it removed there is a genuine feeling of openness not normally associated with a glorified sunroof. What's more, the roof section is easily stored behind the seats, although which ever seats you opt for will either need a tilting back or super smooth runners to help them slide forward. Indeed, this area behind the occupants is surprisingly generous, even when adjusted for a six foot driver.
The prototype is powered by a
140Occ Rover K-series engine from the donor Metro although as
160Occ and 180Occ versions become increasingly available it seems
extremely likely we'll see them coming into play. Certainly,
GTM has designed the rear engine cage with these units in
mind. A nice touch on the Libra is making the heart of the
car still visible to the outside world through the rear
screen. The K-series engine is a good looking little unit,
although you'll want to keep it clean to maintain the full effect.
Behind the engine in the rear bodywork, is a more than respectable boot. Capable of carrying a set of golf clubs (a prerequisite for any GTM model), it should easily cope with a couple of weekend bags. Up front the bodywork opens up to reveal the spare wheel and other less inspiring paraphernalia, but it's all so well packaged that even this otherwise dull area is a visual pleasure.
Those who followed the GTM Libra's launch will remember that both front and rear bodywork are held in place by a number of motorbike-style panel fasteners the idea being that once everything is finished, you'll have little need to dive into the engine bay, such is the reliability of the modern twincam engine. Not only do these fasteners add to the car's hi-tech image, but they also work well and, with practice, can be removed in pretty short order should you need to do some roadside maintenance.
As it stands, this donor engine is running like a dream, starting up instantly and settling into a regular tick-over. At idle the stainless steel exhaust system is wonderfully subdued, while on the run it crisps up nicely before hitting an all time high when the revs really come on song over 400Orpm. What's also particularly pleasing is how quiet the set-up is when you're motorway cruising, with wind noise becoming more of a feature than any engine drone.
Once on the move it's clear that the steering is right on the button, with no discernible bump steer and quick, positive responses to the driver's input. If there's some suspension work still to be done, then it must be pretty subtle stuff, because in just about every normal road situation the ride and handling seem well up to the mark. The result is an impressively stable performance, with no jinking across the humps and bumps like you can sometimes get on lightweight roadsters.
If we're being pernickety then we'd be looking for a fractionally more compliant ride over the back roads, but the overall driving impressions in this first prototype aren't helped by the car's hasty construction in order to meet the show season. Put these to one side and it's easy to see that the important areas of the car's design are working beautifully..
The monocoque chassis doesn't flinch at the worst potholes, more than backing up GTM's claim that the structure is more rigid than Lotus' acclaimed aluminium monocoque in the Elise. Getting this main structure right is vital in allowing all the suspension to work in the desired manner. Constructed from a wide variety of composite materials, with the addition of more than 20 fibreglass box sections bonded in around the main tub, it's a quite astonishing fabrication.
And the suspension is no less impressive. While the front end sees familiar double wishbones with coil-over dampers, the rear witnesses an altogether more innovative approach. The Metro upright is located off two trailing wishbones which are mounted on the rear bulkhead of the main monocoque. An inverted coil-over damper locates off the top wishbone up into the upper section of the monocoque. The benefits of such a set-up are no complex subframes, a more desirable suspension geometry and decent suspension travel. If nothing else, fitting a more conventional wishbone set-up around a midmounted engine and gearbox is intrinsically fraught with problems. 1 As my familiarity with the car grows 1 can begin pushing on a little harder and the Libra soaks up the punishment with aplomb. The gear change is better than any previous mid-engined GTM we've come across. It's still not on a par with the industry leaders (Dax Kamala, CC Cyclone and Noble M 1 0) but it's not far short and further subtle tweaking could easily see any vagueness in the gate banished for ever.
Gearing through the standard Rover 5-speed 'box is made slightly taller thanks to the sexy 1 6 " wheels and tyres. Whilst this doesn't particularly help the rev happy K-series, it certainly makes for an impressive top speed and more relaxed cruising ability. But it's revs which make the K-series tick. Hold on to the throttle and resist the temptation to change up early and you soon find yourself in another performance plain as the rev counter nods past 400Orpm and heads on up to the engine's 7300 rev limit.
Weighing in at a trim 700kgs,
the Libra makes the most of every one of the twin-cam's standard
103bhp. But however impressive the 140Occ unit may be,
there's little doubting that both the 160Occ and 180Occ versions
of the same engine would really sing, as well as providing an
invaluable hike in torque.
With discs all round the Libra pulls up just as impressively, and GTM has done away with its own in-house handbrake modification seen in the Rossa by using the calliper from the Rover 220 or 400 which already comes with a handbrake installation. Even GTM admits it's a vast improvement.
The more one drives the car, the more one picks up on the smaller features that become significant when running your own car - the Libra has a terrific turning circle, forward visibility is excellent thanks to the sharply dipping bonnet, the windows look to seal encouragingly well against the rubber although they don't retract down completely into the door, there's also no arm rest in the prototype and the lack of interior ventilation on this first car means the windows must be open when the roof is in place. But these are minor grumbles compared to the other overwhelmingly impressive attributes of GTM's latest launch.
Back at base, there's a chance to consider the cost implications of a Libra build. Every one of the 30 current orders is for the company's comprehensive kit package at some £8800. This figure should enable the home builder to realistically hit the road for around £ 1 0, 500. With the advent of Single Vehicle Approval, GTM has also taken the opportunity to offer customers the chance of a factory built car from a little over £15,500 something we'd expect an increasing number of purchasers to opt for.
So the Libra is almost certainly GTM's most expensive kit model to date, although one might also argue that it offers the best value for money. This car is sensationally styled, has huge engineering integrity and, best of all, it backs up both these features with a driving experience that's unlikely to disappoint. What more could you want?
For the Libra information pack contact GTM Cars, Trowell Lane, Sutton Bonnington,