Classics World’s Rob Hawkins reviews the 1970 Davrian Mk3…
Davrian has been a familiar name within motorsport over the last 50 years and is still going strong under the rebranded name of Darrian. It all started in London in 1963 when structural engineer Adrian Evans saw a Hillman Imp prior to its release. The low-slung rear-mounted engine made it the perfect base for a sports car. Two years later, he acquired a crash-damaged Hillman Imp and constructed a plywood prototype using the floorpan, suspension, engine and transaxle gearbox. This evolved into a fibreglass model and eventually the Davrian was born. It didn’t have a chassis, but just like the Lotus Elite and the Rochdale Olympic, it featured a GRP monocoque body tub with poly-urethane foam-filled sills and bulkheads for greater rigidity.
The Hillman Imp was initially the donor vehicle for the Davrian, which was classified as a self-build kit car to avoid car purchase tax. The Mk3 version shown here has a one-piece body, whereas the Mk4 has a detachable front section. Some early cars had a removable hard top with half height doors for additional rigidity.
Designed for motorsport, the Davrian evolved with different engines and gearboxes and bespoke suspension. Production had started at premises in Clapham in London and by 1972, 200 kits had been built for circuit racing, rallying or road use. Production moved to Wales in 1976 with the help of funding from the Welsh Development Agency. By 1980, the Davrian Mk8 appeared, but sadly, the business went into receivership in 1983 after approximately 500 kits had been produced. The Corry Car Company in Northern Ireland acquired the manufacturing rights. However, by 1985, production had returned to Wales under a newly named Darrian Cars, where it still exists today. The design of this popular car has evolved further into the T90 GTR+ that resembles a cross between a modern Lotus Elise and a Noble M12.
The Mk3 seen here was for sale through AH Classics near Manchester. Its J-registration and logbook state that it has two previous owners, was registered in August 1970 and the most recent MoT certificate that can be found dates back to 1978 when 29,348 miles were recorded. There is now a mere 30,058 miles on the odometer, so it’s possible this Davrian hasn’t seen much use for the last 40 years.
There’s no escaping the fact that this particular car needs a complete stripdown and rebuild. However, all of the parts appear to be present, including the side glass, door cards and seats (the moulded shape of the GRP floor and rear bulkhead forms the shape of the seat base and back). The wheels are a lightweight magnesium alloy.
Inside the front compartment, most of the components appear to be present, including a front-mounted radiator and the master cylinders for the clutch and brakes. Fuel filler caps are mounted on the tops of each front wing, which suggests there are petrol tanks located somewhere underneath.
At the rear, the engine cover reveals an 875cc Imp engine with easy access to the dynamo, starter motor, ignition components, twin Stromberg carburettors and the coolant expansion tank. Fresh petrol, a new battery and a quick check of the points and spark plugs might be tempting to see if the engine will run, but don’t expect to be driving this car away – it needs to be restored.
Restoration projects are always a tempting entry into owning a particular car, usually because the initial cost of the vehicle is so much cheaper than buying one that is ready to be used. Priced at £4,250, it’s a realistic figure, especially when compared at the time of writing with a restored 1974 Mk7 that was for sale at £11,750. However, the £7,500 you save on buying this abandoned project could easily disappear in a restoration if the engine needs a rebuild, and the GRP bodywork is professionally resprayed. If you’re keen on finding an unusual restoration project, then the Davrian has the pedigree and recognition.
TOP SPEED: 95mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 30mpg
GEARBOX: 4-sp manual