The Rivals : Enfield Automotive 8000

The fuel crisis of 1973 led many into believing the end of the petrol-engined car was a near certainty – including Greek millionaire Giannis Goulandris, who oversaw fledgling UK carmaker Enfield Automotive’s entry into the EV market with the 8000.

With 8bhp and a top speed of 40mph it probably wouldn’t cut the mustard now – and neither could it back then, judging from its less than electric sales performance between 1974 and 1977.


The electric dream unrealised

Ahh... refilling the Enfield 8000 wasn't the work of a moment.

Electric vehicle development has been a rather sporadic affair. At the dawn of motoring, it was on an absolute par with the internal combustion engine – so much so that, in 1898, Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat broke the land speed record in his electric-powered Jeantaud Duc at Achères, Yvelines, France, and became the first driver to break the 60mph barrier. However, as petrol supplies and distribution improved, the internal combustion engine took the lead and never looked back – also helped by the arrival of the electric starter motor. But that didn’t stop a number of companies trying their hand at selling EV cars over the years.

In the 1970s, the UK’s best crack at making it came from an unusual source. Enfield’s path into EV manufacture came via firearms and speed boats and, in 1969, the company’ first effort, the 465, was introduced to an underwhelmed public. The problem with battery-powered cars in the automobile’s middle-age was simple – from a position of developmental parity in the early 1900s, petrol car development had accelerated away by such a degree that there was no reason at all to own an EV. The Enfield 465 was a great case in point – it had 4bhp and a maximum speed of 28mph…

Looks familiar? The 1967 Enfield 465 led to the 8000 of the '70s.
Looks familiar? The 1967 Enfield 465 led to the 8000 of the 1970s

However, spurred on by the prospect of subsidies from the Central Electric Generating Board’s predecessor, the Electricity Council, the company tried again. The prevailing economic climate moved in Enfield’s favour in October 1973 with the onset of the oil crisis. That was caused when the members of Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC (consisting of the Arab members of OPEC, plus Egypt, Syria and Tunisia) proclaimed an oil embargo as a response to the USA’s decision to re-supply the Israeli military during the Yom Kippur War.

In short – petrol supplies dried up, and pump prices went through the roof. That triggered a damaging global downturn which killed demand for larger cars, and had customers clamouring for as economical chariot as they could – all of a sudden, things looked good for Enfield.

Like the 465, the new 8000 was designed purely as an electric car, and Sir John Samuel was responsible for its overall engineering package. In terms of parts bin componentry, its suspension was donated by the Hillman Imp, and the doors were modified Mini units. The aluminium body as styled by Konstantine Adraktas, the Chairman and Managing/Technical Director of Enfield, was bespoke and aerodynamic (a Cd of 0.29 was reportedly achieved). The lightweight chassis and the underpinnings were a bespoke tubular steel affair. As a city car, it looked ideal – length was 2.7m (a Mini was 3.05m), and the turning circle was deliberately tiny.

However, the kerb weight for this tiddler was still the best part of a ton (965kg) thank to those batteries. The motor was rated at 10kW (DC), and transmission was a conventional four-speed plus reverse. Powering it were six lead acid batteries rated at 165Ah (three in the front and three in the back). That power pack came in at 308kg, the main reason for its less than sparkling performance – top speed was 40mph.

When it went into production in 1973, the 8000 looked modern and smart. It was initially built at a rate of one a week on the Isle of Wight, but the city runabout lacked even the most basic equipment such as a heater (though you could specify leather seats), and was limited to a range of four (very 1970s) colours – orange, red, white and yellow.

The combination of its unimpressive performance and lack of range (35 miles on a good day, but as low as 15 in sub-zero temperatures) proved something of a barrier to mass sales. A high price didn’t help either, and private customers would have to fork out £2808 to get one on their drive in 1975 – at a time when a Ford Capri 3000 came in at around the same price. Needless to say, the Isle of Wight-built car struggled to sell to the general public – the electricity companies took the majority (65) of the production run of 120 – and the Greek-funded operation soon began to hit the rocks.

The Chairman of the Electricity Council and other EC Board members on the date of signing the contract for the Enfield 8000.
The Chairman of the Electricity Council and other EC Board members on the date
of signing the contract for the Enfield 8000

Soon, production of the 8000 was moved to the Greek island of Syros after Enfield Automotive was incorporated into Neorion (also owned by Giannis Goulandris) and became Enfield-Neorion. The dream didn’t last long at all and the Enfield slipped into obscurity after three short years in production.

Actually, the Enfield 8000’s legacy lived on for years, because it joined the ranks of battery-powered cars of the 1970s that did their best to convince the general public that electric cars were slow and limited in range, looked like Noddy cars and couldn’t have a future. When the second oil shock of 1979 hit the West, it wasn’t sustained enough to re-ignite the electric dreams and the boom years of the 1980s and ’90s saw battery-powered cars marginalised.

It was only when environmental concerns were pushed up the political agenda going into the 21st century that battery car research accelerated at a phenomenal rate. It’s a shame the plucky Brit Enfield was rather too soon to benefit…

Specifications

  • Motor: 72 volt DC series wound
  • Control system: Dual high frequency pulse width modulation straight traction
  • Batteries: Flooded lead acid 220Ah
  • Transmission: Rear-wheel drive
  • Running gear: Reliant back axle
  • Suspension: Independent Coil over shocks all round with Macpherson strut front
  • Chassis: Tubular steel galvanised construction peripheral type
  • Construction: Non-stressed aluminium panels
  • 0-30mph: around 9 seconds
  • Top speed: 40mph
  • Range: up to 35 miles

Enfield 8000: a car without a heater in more natural surroundings, the Greek Islands
Enfield 8000: a car without a heater in more natural surroundings, the Greek Islands

Posted in: 8000 Electric
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

36 Comments on "The Rivals : Enfield Automotive 8000"

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  1. Andrew Elphick says:

    There is a bit in CC this month by one of the columists praising the Enfield, shame its followed by a very cheap shot about Prius’s and Leaf’s however. In the last B&W pic is it runing crossplies? Would radials not take the weight?

    • Jemma says:

      It might be more likely that in the wheel size radials would have been hard to find, plus over rated for such a top speed..

  2. Dennis says:

    I think saying the Doors were modified Mini doors was stretching it a bit. They’re a completely different size and shape. The top frame looks like the mini one, but again shortened and bent differently, so it’s more just a piece of steel channel.
    By the looks of it if they started off with mini doors they removed all the steel from them and worked with what they had left.

    They look like Mini wheels though.

    40mph was just about acceptable for a city car, but as with all these things the range just wasn’t, because the battery technology wasn’t up to it.

  3. David Dawson says:

    It makes you think! The average car of today is excessive for the average short, stop start trip to work. An Enfield with today’s tecnology would suffice. You would have the convenience of your own transport and much lower ‘travel to work’ costs. Trouble is, you would then need two cars – your urban jaunt vehicle and a proper car for all round use.

  4. Jim-Bob says:

    This is basically a 1970’s version of the Reva G-wiz. The G-Wiz is suited to heavy urban use just like the Enfield was and yet it too has failed to convert large masses of people to electric drive vehicles. If anyone wishes to question what would happen if the Enfield were sold today they need only look to it’s modern analogue for the answer. It wasn’t much good then and it isn’t much good now.

  5. Jonathan Carling jonathan carling says:

    Sounds like the Enfield suffered from a similar problem to todays electric cars – too high purchase price. That cd value, if accurate, was very impressive for such a small at that time, presuably helped by not having a radiator grille. I’m trying to decide whether it woud be of much benefit on such a low powered vehicle!

  6. francis brett francis brett says:

    a latterday toyota IQ! without sense.

  7. svenman says:

    “[The Enfield 8000] …was limited to a range of three (very ’70s) colours – orange, red, white and yellow.” As far as I can tell, that seems to apply only for rather psychedelic values of three…

  8. Magnus says:

    The dog seems particularly unimpressed. Good boy…

  9. Daveyp says:

    I came across one of these in a Gateshead scrapyard around 1990. Needless to say the batterys had been removed

  10. Snapdragon Snapdragon says:

    Not sure about the speedboats, but I’d be surprised if there was any connection between Mr Goulandris’ Enfield Automotive company and the Royal Small Arms Factory of the same name, as implied in this article.

  11. Big H Big H says:

    The bloke behind the wheel looks a bit Dodgy too

  12. cookie1600 says:

    The range also included a rather fetching Jeep style creation from the Syros team……..

    • Jemma says:

      Wow, that things ugly, it looks like a Mini Moke that was beaten senseless with the ugly stick.. Sort of the 70’s automotive version of an unlucky police informer..

  13. Mikey C says:

    well the girl is fetching anyway…

    With the battery life of those days, driving around the golf course is probably as much as it could manage!

  14. Marty B says:

    I have a photo of one that lives at the transport museum near Lowestoft. It looks rough as a bag of spanners, but Keith if you want to use the shot, drop me a line….Photo taken in May this year.

  15. Dickie524 says:

    So there is at least one survivor then!! Who’d have thought it – I can’t imagine any are still in use anywhere?

  16. Richard16378 says:

    I think there’s one at the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry.

    I few years ago I got the chance to visit the private museum of a vintage & veteren car collector, who had an Enfield in a container.

    He was planning to have it restored, but somebody had done some work on Enfields before had recently died & the collector wasn’t sure how to sort the elctrics out.

  17. g scothern says:

    6 heavy batteries ,today 3 would do .3cwt less wieght ,would give it 12 miles better range ,

  18. Terence G.Wright LRPS says:

    I have no 2 test car Enfield 8000
    need an overhaul and new batteries but all in one bit
    just needs a new rear window.
    covered just over 2000 miles
    orange in colour

    Regards T.

  19. johngie says:

    I can perhaps add some information here, as I worked with the Electricity Council’s test fleet and was on the “Battery Electric Vehicle Working Party” that was set up to monitor the fleet. First, the motor was a 48V series wound Mawdsley (not 72V) and in the early days, as I recall the controller was all contactor (no starting resistance) that put the batteries in parallel (12V), series parallel (24V) and all series (48V), with field weakening steps between. So starting was 12V full field, 2nd step 12V weak field, 3rd 24V FF and so on. It was very jerky, especially in low speed steps.

    The on-board charger fitted at the time was troublesome – I “reversed engineered” it that resulted in modifications across the fleet that improved the reliability.

    One issue we found that some fleets did well, others less so and it was almost certainly down to charging and use.

    I would imagine that any Enfield running now will have electronic motor control (in those early days, thyristor control was relatively new, expensive and not overly reliable).

    I would be glad to hear from anyone running one now.

    Regards

    John

  20. Chris Baglin says:

    @20,

    Your post is all Greek to me.

  21. Paul says:

    @ Johngie (or anyone else who can help),

    I have an Enfield 8000 in my girlfriends drive. It is in need of restoration and I need to access a manual. Any ideas where I can access one?

    Paul

  22. Richard Elms says:

    I know that there is one of these in Peterborough that is regularly used. It appears at a number of the clqassic car shows in the area during the summer as well so long as they are no more than 15 miles from the owners home!

  23. Patrick Sykes says:

    @johngie, Hi John,
    I’m assisting with a documentary about the Enfield 8000 for BBC radio, and it would be great to speak to you about your involvement with the project. If you’re interested my email address is patricksykes@whistledown.net

    Patrick

  24. smiffy says:

    Hi,
    The Ipswich Transport Museum have 2 of these (and a jeep version, hardtop so I’m not sure whether it’s a Bicini or not). We are currently (excuse the pun !) getting them ready to run on our ‘Electric Vehicle Day’ (26th May 2013).
    Any info about ‘modern’ options for traction would be welcome.
    Alan

  25. Huw Jones says:

    Get in touch with the Battery vehicle society, they have a few members familiar with the enfield and are very helpful.

  26. g scothern says:

    with todays batteries you would only need 3 .

  27. Michael Johnson says:

    BBC Radio 4 has a programme coming up on the Enfield 8000. Details and web article here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25117784

    Someone in my corner of West London has two – one, at least, in regular use on local shopping trips etc. I see it sometimes driving around…and once in Halfords car park, where it was getting some very bemused glances.

    When the G-Wiz came out I thought, oh – they’ve re-invented the Enfield 8000 – with incredibly bad panel fit!

  28. Michael Johnson says:

    Oh, and…

    This chap is building a dragster version:

    http://www.flux-capacitor.co.uk/blog.php

  29. George Brown says:

    Another similar project was the Scamp made by Scottish Aviation [SAL] at Prestwick, a firm better known for its outstanding Twin Pioneer aircraft. In the 1960s a prototype and about a dozen others were built in conjunction with the electricity companies but with 36mph maximum speed and only about 26 miles range it was hardly practical. I think one ended up in the Beaulieu collection. Does anyone know of any others?

    As the aircraft division revived the project was terminated and SAL went on to produce the Bulldog and Jetstream and is still in the aerospace subcontracting business.

  30. Antonio Barbosa says:

    There is one for sale here in Portugal. Check the link

    http://vilafrancadexira-vilafrancadexira.olx.pt/enfild-8000-iid-450726801

  31. Lee Osborne says:

    There’s one of these knocking around in the electricity exhibition at the Amberley Museum in Sussex. As others have said, it’s not exactly attractive, so I can see why it wasn’t much of a success. Only useful for very short commutes, and perhaps for use in factories etc.

  32. Jemma says:

    A thought occurs. How much more useful could this have been with a 350cc motorcycle engine? Even a modern 64cc piped two stroke will give you around 8hp. With the right set up you could unlatch the engine when you leave the car and carry it with you (using the built on fuel tank), how’s that for security?
    I barely ever have passengers in the car, and something tiny like this with a reasonable range and top speed, (50 miles on a tank of 50:1 and top speed of 70mph, so you can manage 60mph without over stressing things) would be ideal for most of the driving I do..

  33. Nate says:

    Given how decent it looks apart from the rear, it is a shame the car never received a small lightweight engine.

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