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The ELVA Courier .. quite a story 
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Post The ELVA Courier .. quite a story
This text was part of the many thousands of other words which I shared with Janos as part of the research needed for the publication of the award winning ELVA book. I thought that as many questions continue to be raised about the various Courier models, it was now worth sharing on the ELVA website with the view that some current owners might like to contribute with corrections and/or observations. It is far from comprehensive but might contain some facts that are not general knowledge, particularly if you do not have a copy of the book! So ...

THE ELVA COURIER

The Courier was not intended to be a racing car but as a spirited relatively quick road-going sports car that was designed by a team very familiar with competition cars and unsurprisingly the car had excellent neutral and therefore predictable handling. As a result many were to become track cars, particularly Stateside, some much upgraded with modifications unfamiliar to the original specifications of the early cars that left the Bexhill and Hastings factories.

Chassis # 100/1 was the aluminium bodied prototype built by Williams & Pritchard but some detailing remodelled by Alan Jenner which included the addition of the bumperettes and the curved top line to the doors.
The project was encouraged and financially supported by Continental Motors/Walter Dickson.
The first batch of cars, believed to be 30, were destined for the States, but three or four raced in the UK. Initial testing of the prototype rolling chassis was by Wally Wright and much further road testing was undertaken by Roy Veness using 100/2. These first cars had the unattractive split screen probably sourced from a boatbuilder!
The guys who built the Couriers ‘laugh’ at the current 'Mk.1/ Mk.2' designations as there were many modifications made to the cars on a week by week basis. This included chassis modifications and bodywork changes involving a complete new more efficient body mould. It is easy to take the 'Mk.1' to be the cars with the running/side lights/turn indicators sitting above the bumperettes, whereas the later cars had mould changes to allow for these lights to be positioned below the bumperettes.
Early UK drivers include Chris Meek, Pat Fergusson, Peter Gammon, Tom Barnard and soon Tony Lanfranchi. The 'Mk.2' had the neater curved one piece screen and locating ridge on the bodywork behind the cockpit to better secure the soft top, however the cars will vary in some details.
It would be fair to assume that the Courier production averaged out to 2 cars per week over say a 50 week annual period 1958 – 1961 and so this suggests a figure of ‘400’ (max) cars built at Bexhill and Hastings before the Trojan production began. Period articles suggested that the pre-Trojan production was 700 but is probably due to FGN promoting the cause!
It does seem that the chassis numbering 100/xxx designation continued to be used on cars being sent to the States in the 'Mk.2' format, so as always the numbers help to confuse!
Bexhill & Hastings cars ...
Numbers 'Mk.1' (100/xxx) ... in excess of 200 ... the first Courier dated 1st May 1958. The ‘BMC’ 1498cc unit was replaced with the 1588cc as at the 1st July 1959. The ‘V’ screen was fitted up to 6th June 1959 so the 'Mk.2' was offered June/July 1959. The 'Mk.1' ceased 6th September 1961 when Trojan took over and the first of the Trojan cars are dated May 1962 which indicates a gap when some cars may have been sold as ‘projects’ (from stock parts) or nothing was built for six months. No doubt there was a lot to be organised and sorted during that period.
A few cars were identified as 10/xxx which are thought to have been exported to Canada.
Numbers 'Mk.2' (200/xxx) ... approximately 100 produced.
The Spyder (300/xxx) although one was built showing the original style numbering but with suffix 'SR' (Spyder RHD) ... 6 likely but certainly less than 10. The Spyder was a competition version fitted with the 15” mag wheels, adjustable suspension, raked back screen etc.
Courier De Luxe (400/xxx) ... 9 likely but less than 10 (upgraded version)
Coupe (versions) ... there was one ‘in back’ coupe built (200/49/R) at Hastings which was also the ‘mule' for a Lockheed braking system featuring front discs, rear IRS with inboard drums.
Engine options were the 'B’ Series 1498; 1588 & 1622cc to MG specification however during the early builds some cars had non-MG spec units (single carb Austin Cambridge) and occasionally rebuilt 'Gold Seal' units due to supply problems.

The Trojan – Elva cars ... details can be much more precise. Cars show numbers E1001 to E1210.
The first cars were built on inherited stock so on tubular frames etc etc. These are numbered as E1001 – E1025 albeit E1025 was a ‘crash repair’ and so strictly not a new car.
Of these, 17 are roadsters, 7 are coupes plus the repaired car.
Numbers Mk.3 model ... E1026 to E1029 were the four Mk.3 demo cars being two roadsters and two coupes (shown at the RAC Club Epsom). Some cars were still built on tubular frames i.e. coupes E1030 and E1035. Other ‘milestones’ ... E1037 was first 1798cc car built for Ron Lutz; E1040 listed as ‘experimental car’; E1054 for Chris Meek; I believe E1057 had a dealer (W.J. Last) fitted Climax FWA; E1058 first GT coupe (improved version);
Numbers Mk.4 and T-Type models ... E1067 first Mk. 4 (beam axle) but I think that the Mk.3 versions were still being built alongside the Mk.4. E1125 was Mk.4 ‘T’-type demo car; E1137 was a ‘lightweight’ car for Lutz being the car modified for Le Mans (see my feature article at https://www.elvacourier.com/story/part2 ; E1138 for Equipe Elva (Baldet); E1139 & E1140 were lightweights for Gladwin & Campbell; E1153 to Ken Sheppard with Ford 1500cc GT power; E1172 to Bob Danvers-Walker; various cars were now being directed to Ken Sheppard (with Tony Ellis input); E1200 & E1201 the Sebring version to Equipe Elva; E1210 final build. Ken Sheppard built the final batch of cars on behalf of Trojan and were probably the best in terms of build quality. There occasionally appear incorrect reports that Ken Sheppard became the owner of the Elva brand, similarly McLaren, but this is not the case.
Sebring and Lightweight cars ... the two cars listed as ‘Sebring’ models are 1200 and 1201. These were considered ‘Team’ cars by Trojan. Special built cars with Barwell prepared full-race 1800cc ‘B’ series engines, however the Ford ‘Twin-cam’ a listed option, with many other competition extras including 5-speed ZF gearbox. The Sebring was offered with a hard top.
The Trojan built Couriers included 1588cc and 1622cc units and 9 Ford 1500GT engine cars, however not all the Trojan build records show the engine type fitted as of course some cars were supplied without power units for the customer to provide and fit. There was also the ongoing problem of engine supply from BMC (later British Leyland) which provided the final nail knocked into the Courier coffin.

I believe there were a total of 175 open/roadster, 35 coupe cars of the various types, totalling 210 cars built (including the one ‘crash repair’). Open/roadster ‘T’ Types numbers 55, the coupe ‘inback’ numbers 8, original ‘outback’ numbers 14 and the improved GT ‘outback' numbers 13 (total coupes therefore 35).
Coupe ... three versions ... the ‘Ford Anglia’ type reversed rake rear screen ‘inback’, the original ‘outback’ and the improved GT version with bigger rear window, wider arches etc.
The Mk.4 cars show 8 listed as ‘beam axle’ but this may not be 100% correct.

It is clear that Trojan were also not enamoured by the concept of producing dedicated racing Couriers and the observation by Peter J. Agg was ‘racing is damn expensive’. However, correspondence suggests that many of the racers who had previously enjoyed success in the Bexhill/Hastings cars were making overtures for a racing version of the Trojan built Couriers, particularly when the Company was promoting the latest cars as quick and improved sports cars. There were many engine tuning referrals to Barwell and Derrington and the introduction of some 'lightweight’ cars which included the use of GRP doors instead of the steel (Spitfire) doors on the Mk.4 and Mk.4 T-Type. The Sebring version used a much lightened chassis unit and probably the lightweight cars too.
In 1967, Ken Sheppard was promoting the idea of a ‘Courier Mk.4S’ as a full race version of the IRS car. Ken stated in November 1967 that he was in the process of building a competition Elva Courier Mk.4S to be called the Spyder with a 2L, fully tuned MGB 3 or 5 bearing engine to 156+ bhp, engine oil cooler, close ratio gearbox, limited slip differential with oil cooler, special discs with BR calipers on the front and Alfin drums at the rear. There was to be improved and strengthened suspension, anti-roll bars front and rear, a roll over bar, racing bucket seats, leather rimmed s/wheel, tuned exhaust. Wheels were to be 6.5” J rims x 14" front and 7.25” J rims x 14" at the rear x 14”. Also to have modified bodywork, adjustable dampers, twin fuel tanks and an optional hardtop. Priced at £1765 I do not believe any were built.
Similarly there was the Tony Ellis built one-off V6 Cougar 3000 which received good reviews but unfortunately financial support was not forthcoming and so the Courier production ceased.

Other snippets ...

There was much customer to Trojan correspondence relating to competition cars ... Dennis Morgan of ‘Spare Moments Racing Ltd.’; Chris Meek ‘Chris Meek Racing’ and Malcolm Wayne ‘Malcolm Wayne Racing’ amongst others. Chris and Malcolm have always been friends and competitors with success in the earlier Couriers, but seem to struggle to get what they considered a good financial deal with Trojan. Both moved away from Elva with Chris making the comment ...”I am sorry to have to break away from the old firm (Elva), but it does appear that the bigger the firm gets the less interest and attention the private man gets.” There certainly seemed to be difficulties with Trojan due to the various levels of bureaucracy involved with inter-office memorandums galore!
Dennis Morgan wanted ‘support’ from Trojan for his activities in the Couriers including an Elva ‘team’ which included drivers Keeling, Lomas, Cunningham and Watts.
Andre Baldet of Moto Baldet Ltd. , Westonia Garage, Wellingborough Road, Weston Favell, Northampton successfully campaigned the ‘Equipe Elva’ cars. Also Ernie Unger involvement.

There was a Financial Times article by Dudley Noble (July 1964) which included the new Mk.4 T-Type
Barwell Motors Ltd., Leatherhead Road, Chessington, Surrey.“Engine Design & Tuning Specialists”.
Ellis Motor Works, Victoria Road, Eton Wick, Bedfordshire. “Sportscar Specialists; Jaguar Specialists; Body Repairs; Spraying”.
Ken Sheppard Customised Sports Cars Ltd., Cage Pond Garage, Kind Edward Road, Shenley, Hertfordshire. “Constructors + Distributors” Paperwork showed Elva and TVR logo’s.
The Mk.4 ‘T’-Type irs suspension parts supplied ex.TVR. Grantura Engineering Ltd. (Blackpool).
Arthur Rothan, AWR Components, 42a Caves Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. “Coachbuilding; Glassfibre Laminating; Modelling; Prototype Sportscar & Formula Bodies”. Arthur was the works foreman at Hastings and Rye. I do not think he went to Croydon but did produce the mould for the prototype bodywork on the much improved Cougar 3000 for Tony Ellis; later ditto for the Ford GT70 which was produced in the ‘hay loft’ of his premises in Caves Road, St. Leonard's, nearly opposite Alan Jenner where the aluminium bodywork for the early sports racers was formed by the metalwork magicians ... the prototype Ford GT70 was lowered down to the road level using an old creaking crane jib; that must have been heart stopping!!

Trojan did set up dealerships ... I found evidence of Carbery Garage for area around Bournemouth; VW Derrington Ltd. for area around Kingston (Surrey); Lambretta Hire Service Ltd. for SW London areas; Stanley Beardsell & Co., for the Huddersfield area. I suspect others. However, it does appear that the sales people were happy to take cars to provide test drives to potential customers who had made ‘serious’ enquiries about the cars. An insurance scheme was set up and an Elva Guarantee was provided for some peace of mind to the new owners.
Stanley Beardsell & Co. made a request for a ‘four seater’ Courier. They required a modified but incomplete car being a Mk.4 without the hardtop to which they would fit a new soft top to allow two children or small adults to sit behind the normal seating. This ‘special’ would use the screen from the roadster and would be completed by the dealership for the customer. The Trojan sales manager G.D. McMullan passed on details of various technical difficulties and I suspect the car was not built.
Some cars were not sold completed i.e. without rear suspension units etc.; these items were available separately by a 'different' company which avoided the payment of an additional Purchase Tax (from memory around 20% at the time), however the car had to be completed by the customer and not by the dealership. It was a Government ruling but there are always ways of getting around the rules! However this provided a notable price reduction for the purchaser.

My observation regarding the Lambretta-Trojan Group of Companies and the Courier production is that they struggled to get to grips with the project, mainly because they were a large organisation perhaps not geared up to offer a ‘one-to-one’ personal service to individual customers that had been the case prior to 1961. Trojan were involved with a wide range of products and they perceived that they needed to produce an improved design over the original Courier concept with greater creature comforts. There was also the proposal to set up a more obvious production line, whereas the earlier cars were very much individually built, on a day-to-day basis, which meant that there were often some differences in specifications. However, in an attempt to encourage interest and sales Trojan were still prepared to build a few cars ‘individually’ whereas perhaps they should have just completed good cars with limited options and avoided time consuming ‘distractions’. That said, I think it most important not to underestimate the tremendous input made by Peter Agg at Trojan, as without his enthusiasm and financial input, it is likely that Elva would have not survived beyond the very early 1960’s.
Trojan products manufactured under the Peter Agg era include... the Trojan Airator, the forward control diesel vans and 13 seat coaches, munitions and general engineering work, the Trobike, the Trokart, the Toraktor garden tractor, the Trotent, the Monotractor, the Lambretta box sidecar, the Trojan 20 bubble car, the Trojan Bale Master, the Cable Car Cabins, many Lambretta scooters (assembled at Croydon) and there was something else .... ummm ... oh yes, there was the Elva Car Division! Of course the link with the Bruce McLaren Racing Team to build the series of McLaren-Elva big-bore sports racing cars was a prestigious contract and finally Peter Agg took Trojan into F1 alongside many other projects.
A very pleasant and helpful man.

The history of Elva should not only be considered as the ‘Frank Nichols Story’ as there were very many talented people who contributed so much, albeit under his direction. 'Father' Frank certainly had the foresight and determination to build up the talented and dedicated team, and he was extremely skilled at finding those people who could provide support for all his ambitions. It was his drive that made the Courier project a success until the company was forced into Voluntary Liquidation during 1961. However, like the Phoenix he was able to rise from the ashes to continue building the best of the Elva sports racers involving Porsche, BMW and McLaren.
He will certainly be remembered with huge respect and admiration.

In more recent times John & Jerry Trace who had both bought Couriers from the factory and have been long-term successfully Elva Courier campaigners; Jerry still uses his car in local sprints etc., he was the worthy winner of the BARC Thoroughbred Sports Car Championship in 1979.
There have been many more loyal and successful Courier owner/drivers on both sides of the Pond, in fact worldwide, rather more than can be listed here, but do please do feel able to contribute to this listing with your thoughts and suggestions.
Let's start with Mark Donohue, John Kelly, Lon McKinstry, Mark Brannon, Ed Brannon, Jesse Prather, Craig Chima and ...


RAD (23/03/09 and 13/09/18)

I can now confirm that the Courier shown below is indeed a Spyder version with chassis number 300/4/SR and at one time was owned by Uwe Schaper as at the early 1980's.


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File comment: A pretty early Courier possibly a Spyder. The race number 37 was used by Pat Fergusson but not confirmed as his car.
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Thu Sep 13, 2018 3:21 pm
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Post Re: The ELVA Courier .. quite a story
That is a beautiful race Courier pictured.
Does the boot script say "Spyder"? I noted the 15" cast magnesium wheels.

Thank you for taking time to post such a detailed explanation of the Courier story. Very much valued and appreciated.

Gary C


Thu Sep 13, 2018 9:19 pm
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Post Re: The ELVA Courier .. quite a story
Thanks Gary .. I did look carefully at what could be the script lettering on the rear of the Courier boot/trunk lid, but was not convinced it was the word Spyder. However looking again I feel it just could be, although it has been previously seen on the nose of a Courier Spyder. The 15" magnesium wheels were fitted a quite a number of the Bexhill and Hastings built cars, but were certainly a standard fitment on the few Spyder models produced.
As an aside, several sets of the Elva magnesium wheels were sold for use on non-Elva competition cars and provided a rather nice income stream for the company. One observer commented that had Frank concentrated on 'wheels' then he could have had far less problems with the financial roller coaster issues that he had to confront over the years. R


Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:05 pm
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Post Re: The ELVA Courier .. quite a story
People have asked over the years for a factory produced Courier parts list but that never happened in period, not least because the cars were continually being gently improved/modified. However, there were new owner "handbooks" produced and I recently sold the only original example for the Bexhill/Hastings Couriers but do have the Trojan published version which is in truly mint condition.
I also found a "temporary" version produced by Trojan for the Courier Mk.4 T-Type which is possibly unique.
The Mk.2 - Mk.3 Courier handbook in mint condition is available .. extremely rare particularly in this condition.
Please make an offer ... E: roger@elva.com


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Fri Sep 14, 2018 1:17 pm
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Post Re: The ELVA Courier .. quite a story
These white metal kits were made in very small numbers but given time and some patience will produce a nice model, and you can modify, if necessary, plus paint to represent your full-size 'pride & joy' Courier to either sit on your office desk top or in a display cabinet. Further contents images on request.
Best offer gets it ... plus shipping at cost. E: roger@elva.com


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Sun Sep 16, 2018 7:29 pm
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Post Re: The ELVA Courier .. quite a story
Early in my text above I explained that the Courier was not intended to be a race car, this statement resulted from many hours spent with Frank Nichols, but also with many members of the Elva team who actually built the cars. None of the Couriers were produced with a roll hoop, and the nearest model to a competition car was the Spyder in the late 1950's (maybe six built) before the very few Sebring and Lighweights models from the Trojan era.
I have just read again a very interesting email sent in December 1998 by Norm Babcock who tells of his time with Elva and of his important involvement in establishing various Courier sales both personally and via dealerships in Europe and the States. He did actively race Couriers in period but commented ..

" ON THE SUBJECT OF RACING COURIERS, FRANK WAS VERY MUCH OPPOSED TO RACING THEM. THEY WERE HIS TOURING CARS, AND HE JUST COULDN'T UNDERSTAND WHY ANYONE WOULD WANT TO RACE THEM. HE WAS NOT AT ALL INTERESTED IN MAKING CHANGES THAT WOULD IMPROVE THE PERFORMANCE (IN SPITE OF THAT TWO TONED BEIGE/BROWN PROTOTYPE COURIER WHICH SPORTED AN IRS, DISC BRAKES ET AL.) "

The two tone painted Courier than Norm mentions may have been a Spyder, but there is also original paperwork which refers to a Courier DeLuxe model .. That opens up yet another can of worms!


Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:30 pm
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Post Re: The ELVA Courier .. quite a story
This from an article by John Bolster entitled "Three Elvas" published in Autosport March 13th 1959.
The article preamble states that an energetic Frank Nichols and Elva was going from strength to strength and that there was a demand for a slightly more expensive version of the Courier for 'those who like to do a bit of racing occasionally'.
The new Elva Spyder would have a B-series B.M.C. engine tuned to give 85bhp; a changed diff ratio of either 4.2:1 or 4.5:1; a competition clutch and the unsprung weight reduced by fitting the 15" mag wheels and Dunlop R5 tyres. Lockheed brakes fitted with Alfin drums (F) 10" x 2.25"; (R) 10" x 1.75", plus 'numerous' small modifications made to the front suspension, in conjunction with a 5" lowering of the roll centre at the rear, and the replacement of the Panhard rod by triangulated trailing arms. The Armstrong dampers to be adjustable (all), with credit given to Keith Marsden for the competition type suspension redesign.
The car would have lower seating, and the curved windscreen more steeply inclined and/or an aero-type screen supplied plus all-weather equipment if required. A long-distance fuel tank was also available. The estimated price increase over the standard Courier was to be about £175.
John Bolster track tested the car and was very impressed as the handling was 'definitely better' and he assured future Spyder owners that are going to enjoy fun driving and experience really fast cornering.
In reality it seems that the demand was muted as only six appear to have been supplied, but this may have been due to the success of the Mk.IV sports racer which would have kept the then new Hastings factory more than busy.
The "Three Elvas" article featured the Spyder, an Alfa-engined Mk.IV and the unique Mk.IV fitted with a 1.5L twin-cam Climax power unit for 'Doc' Wyllie.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:40 pm
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Post Re: The ELVA Courier .. quite a story
I borrowed this photo from the web for educational purposes.
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UK 9FPE  Courier script nose.jpg
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UK 9FPE

It looks like a very early Courier wearing race #73. Wimpffen results suggest your group of drivers mentioned above: Barnard, Gammon, Fergusson, Meek, Morgan, Harris, Lanfranchi

Does the blister just in front of the windscreen help to identify this car?
What is the purpose of the blister?

Note the cut, or extremely raked, screen. script "Courier" on nose. sparse lights

Gary C


Fri Sep 28, 2018 9:46 pm
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Post Re: The ELVA Courier .. quite a story
Gary
I think that Chris Meek was the main owner/driver of this car .. the 'blister' infront of the screen was to vent out hot air from the engine bay .. sometimes there were side vents added too (see much later Sebring).
This image shows the correctly spaced registration number '9 FPE' and the updated screen, so as always competition cars were modified possibly after every outing!
We have corresponded about the UK road registration system and it could be that this number was transferred to another car, but without checking on dates, I believe that the lack of bumperettes etc on this other image was just part of the modification process and of course race cars get 'bumped'. I know I have an image of a Courier that Chris was driving that suffered from frontal damage. He didn't race to finish second!
I will look into my Chris Meek file to see if anything else to add ..


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Sat Sep 29, 2018 8:11 am
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Post Re: The ELVA Courier .. quite a story
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=157

My apologies. It looks like you addressed this car before. Blister, but no screen to help ID.
re: #85 photo … looks like large wheels.

Gary C


Sat Sep 29, 2018 2:05 pm
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