The Converters : Towns Hustler

The Hustler: not so much a car, more a way of life…


The Hustler started out as a simple yet striking modular concept devised by William Towns in July 1978 to demonstrate that such a car could be viable for low-volume production. When the first prototype emerged in the Autumn of that year, it was like no car that had gone before: built around a pair of Mini subframes connected by a low-slung, monocoque steel floorpan, its lower body panels and clamshell bonnet were formed from fibreglass, while its upper-body styling mated a rakish front end to a boxy, hatchback-style rear framework filled with large panes of glass, and topped off with the a vinyl-covered roof fashioned from marine-grade plywood. The finishing touch was provided by a pair of Matra Rancho-style spotlights mounted at the upper edges of the windscreen.

Inside, the car was just as unusual: seating came in the most basic form imaginable – a set of stacking, injection-moulded canteen chairs, while the floor was covered in practical yet stylish black rubber matting. Hanging from the simply-styled dashboard was a satchel, serving as Towns’ quirky interpretation of the glove-box. Access was gained via sliding glass panels – “windoors” in Towns-speak – on either side, with a top-hinged tailgate at the back.

The original prototype Hustler, as presented in the autumn of 1978. The blueprint-style rendering on the right clearly shows Towns’ novel use of canteen chairs…

The car received an enthusiatic reception from the press and, when Towns started to get numerous requests to build replicas, he was convinced that the car should enter production in kit form. After initial talks with Jensen fell through, Towns took the bold step of financing the venture himself and so, in 1979, he began turning out Hustler kits at his Interstyl Studios near Moreton-in-the-Marsh in Gloucestershire. Over the next ten years, over 200 kits would be sold, in a vast array of different bodystyle and mechanical configurations.

First to emerge was the Hustler 4, a simple 4-wheeled model which remained true to the original concept car, but could be built in a variety of different forms if the standard hatch-back style didn’t fit the bill; options included a pick-up (called the Hobo), beach car, flat-bed truck and even a camper. Demand for increased capacity meant that a longer version – the Hustler 6 – was soon added to the range, but as the name implies, the extra length was gained not by stretching the wheelbase, but by adding a further Mini subframe at the rear, making this version a very distinctive 6-wheeler.

Hustler 6 was guaranteed to stand out in a crowd. The Sprint version, shown on the right, sat some 8in lower overall, and had a more steeply raked windscreen, along with various body addenda

Needless to say, most (if not all) owners chose to forego the original austere interior treatment in favour of something more comfortable, and some Hustlers were very lavishly trimmed indeed. Towns quicky responded to this demand by introducing a leather-grained facia panel and headliner package, complete with aircraft-style overhead console, along with a variety of improvements to the structure and finish of the internal bodywork panels.

Next came the Hustler Sprint – a lower, sleeker sporting version with flared wheel arches, front spoiler and a comfortably-trimmed, 2+2 interior. During the 1980s, many more Hustler varieties would emerge. The extraordinary ‘Hustler in Wood’ was presented at the 1980 British Motor Show, demonstrating that anyone with average joinery skills and a set of plans could produce the car’s bodywork in marine plywood as an alternative to the standard fibreglass.

The eye-catching show car featured highly-varnished, mahogany-veneered ply edged in contrasting ash, and Towns could now justifiably claim that his increasingly prolific creation ‘grows on trees!’ The wooden version also brought several practical advantages: Interstyl could sell and ship the kits more cheaply without having to include bodywork panels, while the buyer was able to specify his own grade and finish of wood at his local hardware store. There was also the prospect of cheaper repairs for minor knocks and scrapes.

1982 saw the introduction of the Hellcat, a very basic open-top, Jeep-like version which dispensed with virtually all of the exterior body panels apart from the bonnet; again, this was offered in either four- or six-wheeled flavours. The following year, Towns added the Huntsman to the range, featuring revised styling, larger-diameter wheels and Hydrolastic or Hydragas suspension, reflecting the fact that this new model was based not on the Mini, but on ADO16 or Metro parts.

In 1985, the range was expanded still further, with the addition of the Force 4 and Force 6 models, which were the first Hustlers to feature convetionally-hinged doors. Later that year, Towns unleashed the last word in Hustlers: the awesome Highlander 6, powered by the 5.3-litre, 12-cylinder Jaguar engine, which apparently only found eight eager customers.

The back-to-basics Hellcat was just about as sparse as a car could be while still justifying the description. The eight-wheeled amphibious Hustler, pictured right, clearly betrays its Crayford Argocat origins

It didn’t stop there, though. According to Chris Rees’ book British Specialist Cars, later versions included the slant-fronted Holiday; a Crayford Argocat-based eight-wheeled ampibious version; and even a Hustler sailing boat, taking the marine plywood theme to the extreme! Rees goes on to explain that, by the late 1980s, plans were also afoot for a new, more rounded version of the car, this time being based around the Ford Cortina. However, Hustler production ended before this version saw the light of day and, in any case, by this time Towns’ attention had presumably turned to the Railton project.

Hustler to the max: the massive Highlander 6 version, of which only eight were built. The sticker in the window reads ‘HUSTLER has it!’ – in this case, ‘it’ was the V12 engine from the Jaguar XJ12…

 

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
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.
Keith Adams

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Posted in: William Towns
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.

32 Comments on "The Converters : Towns Hustler"

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  1. Brod says:

    I have a 1975 austin hustler estate fully refurbished and in v good condition can yoy tell me anything about this vehicle can oly find info on 1978 and above many thanks

    • Bob says:

      hi just seen your comments on your hustler I know it was in 2011 but if you still have it and did you find an answer I have just picked on up a 6 wheeler hustler force I would like to hear from you I have just posted on this site cheers bob

      • Bill Adair says:

        Hi I have had a few Hustler 6 wheelers in the past Give me a ring if i can help (028 81648428) Cheers Bill Adair

        • BOBKAT says:

          hi Bill many thanks for replying would love to speak to you on the phone but am very hard of hearing and can’t hear on the phone would it be ok to correspond by email thank you again regards bob

  2. Richard Davies says:

    I remember the Africar project in the 1980s looked similar.

  3. Chris Baglin says:

    @3, Richard Davies,

    The Africar was based on the 2cv though- which gave it pretty good offroading performance.

    Town’s designs did tend to be remarkably distinctive. I am probably the only other person apart from Towns himself who likes the Aston Lagonda of ’76 vintage.

    Probably his most successful work was the design he did for Auto-Sleepers motorcaravans. The almost unique at the time AS coachbuilt one-piece fibreglass body still looks fabulous decades from when it was first debuted, even when based on humdrum Bedford CF or Talbot Express chassis. Because, unlike most forms of coachbuilt bodywork for motorhomes, it doesn’t suffer from water ingress issues, is inherently robust, and is repairable, there are still quite a few still on the roads.

  4. Fred long says:

    I have a w towns wood hustler i built it about twenty five years ago done about 300 miles since builtd just about to refurbish been stored under cover wraps for all this time based on the 850 mini poss may want to sell when completed with mot still looks good any intrest made out off mahogany with ash trim

  5. K Travers says:

    Hello Fred Long,

    Did you ever re-furbish your wooden Hustler?

    Very interested in seeing if it is available.

  6. Fred Long says:

    Restoration still ongoing. Minor works still need to be done. I have just fitted new wheels, tyres and battery. I originally built the car for my wife and it attracted a lot of attention, but was hardly used before being stored.
    On holiday at the moment, but home next week. Ring if you want more information 01873/890881.

  7. Elliott Cowton says:

    Calling Fred Long. Do you still have the wood Hustler? I parted with steel floored Hustler 4 (serial no 002) a while back but I have always hankered after a wooden one. If you still have it I could be very interested.

  8. Fred long says:

    Elliott still got the hustler ring me on 01873 890881 anytime regards fred long

  9. Benny Ben Adams says:

    Someone around the Stafford area owns this one I’ve seen out on the road a few times.

    http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4079/4886262146_1343aeb4d0_o.jpg

  10. Bob says:

    hi just acquired a hustler 6 wheeler with most of the bodywork 1 bit of glass (rear) with all the subframes have started to paint the chassis with red hammerite to protect the frame for the winter been talking to a chap called bruce who has owned a few of them hoping he will be able to help me to know what I have got and if any thing is missing would also like any body to help pointing me in the right direction would like a build manual or copy off one willing to pay thank you bob ps since found out it may a hustler force as it has doors

    • Lawrence says:

      First saw one of these on a TV programme (about a futuristic Zoo? where it was used as an ambulance), found a magazine (Custom Cars where it was on the cover about 40 years ago I think) and have sporadically looked for it ever since. I really like the 6 wheel version but would love the concept to be updated and be a bit more eco friendly and a central driving position (that’s part of my wish list) good look on your refurbishment. Please keep me (and everyone else updated). Regards Lawrence.

  11. Bob says:

    I have decided to sell my Hustler Force 6 wheeler. After much thought I am never going to get round to starting it let alone finishing it.
    wiliam towns (aston martin fame) hustler huntsman 6 wheeler

    thought I would try this on here to see if anybody would be interested + getting it in the neck from mein fuhrer about all the stuff on the front drive also I am not well enough to get it finished google it give you a better idea hustler huntsman 6 wheeler will give a few details here most of the fibre glass body work double skin doors ect rear glass front subframe 2 rear subframes (these go back to back to give 4rear wheels upper and lower space frames ( bolt together) fibreglass center section 7 12 inch minilites 1300 mini cooper engine and box ecu ect disc brakes lot of bits and pieces + 2.0 lt Vauxhall red top engine and box loom ecu ect injectors x2 4 branch manifold driveshafts + complete modified front mini subframe to take the redtop and fit into the huntsman will also fit into a mini loads of paperwork and info on the car loads of bits on the doner car mini cooper id plate ect. the best thing is its an easy build as its all mini based although you could put any thing you like in there there are a few that were factory built with jaguar parts including the v12 engine so the worlds your oyster if you want any information just ask or some photos bob if its any help will throw the wife in for free

    • Dave says:

      Hi Bob,

      I’ve found what appears to be a Hustler Force 6 for sale and would like to tap some of your knowledge on them to assist with the purchase. My email is lordhumphreys@gmail.com

      • Keith sharp says:

        I have a wooden 6 wheeler based on a 1972 Austin 1300 mk3 which as you sate aware has hydrolastatic suspension as does the force 6 model. So what do you want to know?

  12. Keith Sharp says:

    The one around Stafford is mine! It’s just had its 30th birthday (sept2015) based on Austin 1300 mk3 powered with1750 Austin Maxi engine! As far as I’m sear it’s the only 6 wheeled hydrolastatic wooden one ever built

  13. Lawrence dDale says:

    Hi my dad built a wooden version of the Huster 6 when we were kids my brothers and I played in it for years as it never quite made it to be road legal although nearly completed.
    It disappeared about 25 years ago
    My brothers and I wish to build another one in honour of our dad
    Dose any body know where we can find the original plans / drawings

  14. Keith Sharp says:

    Hi Lawrence d Dale

    to make life easier I cut up the 4 A0 sheets into A4 sheets and photocopied a working set. As I said a working set which I think I threw away as of no longer of any use
    I could photocopy another working set if you are serious about building one to honour your father
    I also have a full set of the aluminium framework but no glass. the original glass was4 mm toughened with a slight tint
    .3 lock set is sourced from a reliant robin/simiter.
    The lights set where originally trailer/caravan lights but you can now get some very nice LED sets
    I would suggest that you do away with the sun roof s you have to purchase 1 piece of 8×4 12 mm marine plywood just for the roof.
    Get the best plywood you can get even if you cant afford it!!
    DONT use wbp or external plywood only marine plywood
    and when you come to varnih I t uuse a micro porous varnish so r=that the wood can breathe and nnott contain under theuface which will turn the wood black!!

    • Lawrence dDale says:

      Hi thank you so very much I would love the plans and very interested in the framework.
      And any other parts or advice you may have.
      Our dad passed away last week and was a joiner it’s strange that some our fondest childhood memories were of him and the Huster.
      We are very serious about the build
      And I take on board your advise regarding the sunroof I remember the day dad fitted his.
      We actually had a discussion about varnish today as dad’s car badly peeled after about five years e did buy some special lacker but didn’t get to apply it.

      If you wouldn’t mind getting in direct contact I am on 07812249154
      Or lawrence.dale16@gmail.com
      And will call you back to discuss further.

      Many thanks lawrence

  15. Keith Sharp says:

    CONTINUING ON AS I HIT THE WRONG KEY AND IT GOT POSTED BEFORE I’D FINISHED!!!!

    and when you come to varnish it use a microporous varnish so that the wood can breathe and moisture not be trapped beneath the surface which will turn the wood black!!
    hope that’s whetted you appetite
    any more info let me know

    Regards

    Keith

  16. John Matheson says:

    Hi guys
    Is anyone still reading this thread ?
    I would really like to have a copy of the plans if possible.
    Also I could be interested in buying a Hustler, eventually.
    Cheers
    John M

  17. Bill ADAIR says:

    Hi everyone Anyone interested in setting up some kind of ledger or data base on current Hustlers/parts info Cheers Bill Adair 028 81648428

  18. Darren says:

    Hi everyone.

    Anyone interested in a part built, rolling chasis Hustler Highlander?

    For more details email me;

    dsimms4@sky.com

    Regards.

    Darren.

  19. DGate says:

    Looking for my old Hustler six, has anyone run across it?
    The interior dash layout was unique in having a full width carpeted parcel shelf and the instrument module was mounted on the steering column just behind the wheel.
    I used Citroen CX switch pods at each end of the cluster and a digital readout computer for speed and other functions.
    It originally had automatic trans and also the heater system was mounted in the engine bay.
    Would like to know if it survived.

  20. Paul Temple says:

    Hi.I just stumbled upon this thread .I have just completed a hustler 4 .it spent its whole life at Heathrow Airport moving luggage I would be interested in adding to the pool of knowledge and have a few spares .I met William Towns when I was apprenticed atAston Martin,I’m a panel beater and he was overseeing the Lagondal facelift .Clever man.email or txt on 07789 302 359,thanks Paul

  21. Paul Temple says:

    Hi.I just stumbled upon this thread .I have just completed a hustler 4 .it spent its whole life at Heathrow Airport moving luggage I would be interested in adding to the pool of knowledge and have a few spares .I met William Towns when I was Aston Martin,I’m a panel beater and he was overseeing the Lagondal facelift .Clever man.email or txt on 07789 302 359,thanks Paul

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