There’s a certain class of car that we almost never really see anymore, but it’s a class of car I’m particularly fond of: the dramatically up-rated shitbox. The basic idea is you take a cheap economy car, then re-work it to make it perform better, be much more luxurious, and imbue it with a certain elusive desirable status. Think a Radford Mini like every member of the Beatles had, or, maybe the most modern variant, an Aston Martin Cygnet. The one I want to talk about today is the Frazer Tickford, and specifically I want to point out some genuinely bizarre writing in this old flyer I have for one.
A Frazer Tickford starts life as an Austin/MG Metro, a decent little city car made throughout the 1980s, a fairly conventional small, boxy hatchback design with 1 to 1.3-litre engines that were part of the same A-series that powered the original Minis.
In the UK at least it was fairly popular, only being outsold by the Ford Escort. They were never sent to major car capitals like America in any official (or, really, even unofficial) way, unless you were a really, really eccentric rich guy with some cash to throw around, because, according to this flyer, there was some company in Beverly Hills called Spur (run by Ray Denwood, it seems) that imported these things.
The version of the Metro they imported was the Frazer Tickford Metro. Frazer was a newly-created tuning company, and they teamed up with Tickford, who was Aston Martin Lagonda’s tuning arm, and both of these eager teams set hungrily upon the little Metro, slathering the interior in leather, cladding the body in all sorts of spoilers and air dams and fender flares, and re-tuned the biggest available engine (1275cc) with a new cylinder head to put out a decent 80 horsepower, good enough to fling the little box of luxury goods to 100 MPH, and to get to 60 in under 11 seconds.
These were interesting little cars to geeks like me, but it’s hard to imagine who in 1980s LA would have decided, yeah, this thing that everyone’s going to mistake for a Ford Festiva or a Yugo is the car for me! And it only costs $US30,000 ($44,544)!
Keep in mind, $US30 grand ($45 grand) in 1981 comes to about $US84,000 ($124,723) today. Back in 1981, this thing was more expensive than a Porsche 911! Who the hell was buying these things?
Well, the answer is almost nobody. A grand total of three of the LHD versions of these were sold, and I’m pretty impressed the number was even that high.
Maybe those three people were enticed by this line on the sales flyer, the thing I teased in the headline that I’m finally getting to now:
What the hell? Leech-like? I mean, yeah, ok, I get the basic idea — leeches grip you, hard and determinedly, and I guess this little warmed-over, jumped-up Metro grips the road in a similar fashion, but, really, are leeches the best analogy they could come up with?
Surely there’s other animals that grip things tightly that don’t also conjure up images of medieval medicine and bowls of blood. Maybe octopus tentacles or the grip of a boa constrictor around its prey or glue or tar’s stickiness or, really, just about anything else. Anything other than damn leeches.
Leeches aside, this would be a pretty cool little car to have today. If anyone knows anything about the whereabouts of the three Tickford Metros allegedly sold in America, don’t be shy!