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.
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…
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…
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.)