Saturday 20th October: It's all over. Despite Strathcarron's efforts to perform a last minute U turn with a different engine, insolvency practitioners have now been called in to manage the winding up of the company. It's also looking like it's too late for anyone to step in and save the business.
Yet another sad chapter in the story of the gutsy little British sportscar industry. Caught on the hop by the Single Vehicle Approval rule changes and with no alternative plan ready, the mad rush to reengineer the car couldn't be completed in time. What looked like a well sorted business now leaves deposit holders hanging as they wait to see what can be salvaged from the assets of the company.
The handful of exisiting owners will also now be in possession of one of the rarest cars made.
Whilst it's easy to criticise Strathcarron's short-sightedness, we've followed their development over the last three years and were always impressed by the professionalism of the operation. Run by a team of very experienced engineering consultants and with backing from experienced businessmen the SVA issue will remain a sore point with the individuals involved.
Prone to changes in the regulations, Strathcarron sought reassurance from the powers that be on many occasions to ensure that rule changes wouldn't jeopeardise their business. Despite these reassurances, with the number of bike engined cars being made shooting through the roof, changes became inevitable to ensure that mass production of bike-engined cars wasn't a means of circumventing emissions regulations.
That spelled the end of Strathcarron.
Tuesday 16th October: Strathcarron's reengineering of their Roadster continues in cash strapped circumstances. The Rover K Series engined prototype - known as the SC-7 - is scheduled to be running in two weeks time with handling tests and configuration completed a few days later. The car will then be available for test drives and Strathcarron hope to return to a steady production.
Wednesday 26th September: Times are difficult at Strathcarron. Changes to Single Vehicle Approval rules have left the manufacturer high and dry and seeking a rapid alternative to the current motorcycle derived engine.
In a statement issued to creditors the company comments, "In July we were informed that contrary to previous information, the SVA rules were changing and therefore we would not be able to sell more than twenty SC5a cars in any twelve month period."
Unfortunately getting Low Volume Type Approval for the current Triumph engine would require considerable further development to ensure that the emissions regulation could be met.
It's left Strathcarron with a dilemma and a cash flow problem. With the car fully developed they now don't have the cash swilling about for more development and are only left with the option of replacing the unit with one that does meet the requirements. They've had to bring forward plans to install Rover K series engines which they intend to complete within the next two to three months. Production could then start in 2002.
It's left Strathcarron in a confusing position. Abandoning the bike engined philosophy is a major U turn for the company. On the positive side, if one of the more powerful variants of the K series is successfully transplanted then it would become a very different car and may then appeal to a different and possibly larger audience.
The clincher at the moment though is whether Strathcarron can sort out the funding required to survive the next few months.
The compact Strathcarron SC5-A has become a familiar sight to readers of PistonHeads and is making an increasing number of appearances at track days and motor shows around the country. Aside from its compact good looks, the simplistic, featureless interior and high revving engine are the two most notable features.
It's not until you drive the car that you the true merits of both these characteristics really hits home. Turning the key then flicking the starter switch down by the gear lever, fires the engine into life. Your eyes are drawn to the analogue rev counter as the engine idles at a fraction of it's 9,000+ rpm capability. Below that, the Stack digital instrumentation glows into life and a few depressions of the control button (again on the floor) selects the desired speed and oil pressure display.
Revving behind your head, the engine waits for you to reach to your right and notch the solid aluminium lever forwards into first. Easing up the clutch, the lightweight car moves away easily and without any drama.
Once on the move the differences between this and a conventional cars become very apparent. The amazing rigidity of the structure becomes obvious immediately. The ride is firm yet there is no discernable flex in the chassis whatsoever. Fractional adjustments to the steering guide the car around with a frightening directness which takes time to acclimatise to.
It takes time to get into the rhythm of how the car likes to be driven. Apart from scratching around to your left for a gearstick that isn't there, when you do nick back the lever on your right, a quick glance at the rev counter shows how pointless the gear change was. Changing up at 5000rpm misses the power band which appears from 6000-9500rpm.
With 125bhp the performance comes from the impressively low weight of the car (around 550kg). To truly experience this benefit you need to drop your passenger in the pits and grab yourself a few solo laps. With two up you've lost the weight advantage (two pie eaters admittedly) and you have to thrash the car hard to get the oomph to match its exquisite handling.
The car we drove was a development car, still to have ride and handling fine tuned but was impressive nevertheless, offering directness and feedback the likes of which aren't normally available on a road car. The straight cut gearbox used in the development car added to the noise of the engine which you would tire of on a long journey. However, this isn't a car designed for that. It's a no-compromise road legal track car. It's equally at home gliding around a race circuit or taking up the challenges of the twisty back roads, flicking up and down through the sequential box (clutchless is possible). Once you get into the rhythm and with your mind focused on the task in hand, you soon forget about the aural discomfort.
Just do it...
The lack of a roof might put some people off (a simple roof is under development) but it's unlikely that such fairweather fairies would be in the market for this no nonsense car anyway. This is a car for real driving enthusiasts who will wrap up warm on a clear winter's day and go do what should be done.
Currently being marketed in the UK, Strathcarron will be showing the car at the Geneva show in March with a view to tapping into the mainland European markets. Taking the SC5-A through the Alps or Pyrenees would be reason enough to indulge. Our American readers will also be glad to hear that Strathcarrons could well find their way to the US in due course too.