Crayford Engineering was founded by David McMullan and Jeffrey Smith in the 1962, their first product being a £100 soft-top conversion for the car of the moment, the Mini.
Operating from a small workshop and showroom in Westerham, Kent, Crayford Engineering built an enviable reputation for the quality of their conversion work on a wide range of cars, from the legendary drop-top Cortina MkII to the lesser-known Mercedes-Benz S-class estate and VW Scirocco-based Tempest convertible.
As the company grew, it established a subsidiary company, Crayford Auto Developments Ltd, in the 1970s to handle the conversion work. They worked closely with several BL dealerships – notably Mumfords and Spikins – to design and develop commissioned conversions on cars such as the Marina and Allegro. Crayford also worked in partnership with Devon-based Torcars, developing the well-known Princess estate conversion for production at Torcars’ premises.
In the 1980s, Crayford started to diversify its operations, and consequently the focus moved away from conversion work. In 1980, it farmed out its neat but expensive Cortina MkV convertible to independent coachbuilders Carbodies. Carbodies’ recently-appointed MD, Grant Lockhart, was keen to add some new strings to the company’s bow, thus reducing their dependence on the FX4 taxicab, and the idea of attaching their name to a convertible (even a Cortina-based one) seemed attractive.
However, despite Crayford’s great experience and reputation as Britain’s foremost converters, Carbodies were not impressed with the way the Cortina conversion had been implemented. There were no proper technical drawings for the job, no jigs to hold the body in shape while the roof was removed, and quality, fit and finish of the hood and the windscreen area were far below the standards that Carbodies were used to working to.
In fact, far from marking a new beginning for Carbodies, the Cortina project would prove to be one the last before they decided to concentrate solely on the production of the FX4. Crayford, meanwhile, concentrated their efforts on the production and development of its Argocat all-terrain vehicle, and this still forms the core of the company’s business today.
Here you can take a look at some of Crayford’s conversions based on BMC/BL models.
|It wasn’t until the last decade of the Mini’s long, long life that its manufacturer offered an official convertible version. Crayford, on the other hand, had rolled out their first convertible version before the car had reached its fifth birthday…|
|Natural successor to Crayford’s Mini and Allegro conversions, the Metro Politan followed the same principle as Rapport’s Metrosport. The rather fanciful photo shown here is a retouched press photo used by Motor magazine when news of the conversion first broke in January 1981, to illustrate how they thought such a car might look…|
BMC 1100 estate and 1300 convertible
BMC 1800 estate
|BMC’s own hatchback-cum-estate derivative of the 1800 never got beyond the styling studio, but Crayford came up with their own version, using the standard car’s side panels.|
Austin 3-litre estate
|Amongst the more conventionally-styled estate cars produced by Crayford over the years was this one, based on the Austin 3-litre…|
Rover P6 estate
|This elegantly styled estate version of the Rover demonstrated that Rover missed out certain sales success by not building their own version…|
The Crayford-Spikins Allegro convertible
|This Crayford-designed conversion was carried out and marketed by BL dealers Spikins of Twickenham.|
The Mumford Marina convertible
|BL dealers Mumford, who also produced caravanettes and utility cars based on the Marina-derived van, commissioned Crayford to produce this open-top Marina.|
18-22 series/Princess estate
|As a natural follow-up to their 1800, Crayford were quick off the mark in giving its replacement, the 18-22 series, the hatchback that BL somehow managed to leave off the spec sheet.|
|This ill-fated conversion sought to turn the TR7 into a sporting estate, but only a handful were ever made.|
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics 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 unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
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