The converters : Crayford Engineering

Crayford Austin 1100 hatchback
Crayford Austin 1100 hatchback

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 Limited, 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.

Business diversification for Crayford

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.

Convertible Minis

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…


Metro Politan

The 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

Crayford carried out two conversions based on the 1100/1300: first came an estate car, somewhat reminiscent of the contemporary Austin A40 Countryman. Then, following the introduction of the Mark II bodystyle, they produced a two-door convertible. (The article at that link also contains brief details of two non-Crayford projects: the Mystique hatchback and Jensen 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

Among 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.


Triumph TR7 Tracer

This ill-fated conversion sought to turn the TR7 into a sporting estate, but only a handful were ever made.

Keith Adams


  1. Thanks Very Much for pictures of all those original oddities. Amazing TR7 Estate: I never even knew it existed, let alone seen one.

  2. I love the Austin 1100 Hatchback. The Crayford 18-22 series estate was ahead of its time too.

  3. The 3 Litre Estate looks more like a hearse than most hearses. Seeing passengers getting out of the rear could’ve spooked any casual passerby.

  4. Having been brought up in sleepy Crayford Kent though the 60s/70s, with family members who were car and bike fanatics, I find this Crayford Corsair history fascinating. Crayford saw the evolving of airships, the bouncing bomb (engineering and casing made at Vickers), and then could be argued almost the birthplace of the hatchback car. Not so sleepy after all!

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