by Brian Allison
No not the kind of BS our politicians are so fond of spouting - this is about Bohanna and Stables. Many of you will have seen my post about their BS Nymph, mass production of which was planned but never came to fruition. So what happened next?
After the Nymph/Chrysler fiasco it would not have been surprising if Peter Bohanna and Robin Stables had crept quietly away to lick their wounds. Instead they set about developing their next project which they named Diablo, (Devil) by another name.
The Diablo was to be a Mid engine sports car with power supplied from a Austin E series, 1500 cc engine, yes the same engine as fitted to the Maxi. Well engineered and considered by most to be an attractive car, the prototype was exhibited at the 1972 London Motor show , were it aroused a lot of favourable attention.
One of it's admirers was the well respected and long established British car manufacturers AC Cars. In fact AC were so enamoured of the Diablo that they bought the project outright from BS. This decision was no doubt influenced by AC's need to find a new model to enable them to continue as a manufacturer. At that time they were engaged in making only two models at their Thames Ditton works. One was the AC 428 also known as the Frua, but this was selling in increasingly small numbers. The other was a government contract for the Invacar, a three wheeled invalid vehicle.
So, how come we never saw the AC Diablo on our roads you ask. Good question!.
In their infinite wisdom Ac decided that a few modifications were needed before the Diablo would be ready for production.
Did I say, "A few modifications"? By the time AC had finished it might well have been designed by someone other than BS.
The Maxi engine was ditched in favour of the 3ltr. Ford V6 for starters followed by so many changes that by the time they'd finished even the chassis was radically different to the original and the name had been changed to the AC 3000 ME.
A non running prototype was shown at the 1973 London Motor show. With it's low slung good looks and retractable headlights it got a very good reception and production was salted to begin the following year - 1974.
Unfortunately for AC world events in 1973 made that target impossible to reach. Firstly the Yom Kippur war ( Egypt/ Israel) led to a world wide energy crisis, and secondly, and perhaps more disastrous for AC, new motor vehicle Type Approval regulations were also announced.
These new regulations were being frequently upgraded, and with the attendant cost of designing and implementing the required changes placed much more stress on small companies like AC than on the major manufacturers.
Having initially failed this test in 1975, necessitating yet more modifications, it was 1978 before the 3000ME was finally launched.
Although initially well received it found, due to the length of time spent in development, that it now faced even stiffer competition in the form of the Porsche 924 and Lotus Esprit. The Lotus in particular, due to it's starring role in the James Bond film "The spy who loved me" and Lotus's track success's was very stiff competition indeed.
Apart from that, the delays and costs before they could actually launch the 3000 ME meant that from a projected £3,000 to £4,000 the actual launch price had risen to just over £11,000, and even that figure didn't reach the break even point.
The motoring press were quick to point out how attractive and well built the 3000ME was, albeit with reasonable rather than starling performance, but they were also critical of it's handling, especially it's tendency towards extreme lift off oversteer. AC politely, but firmly rejected suggestions that a rear suspension redesign was needed, saying that the problem was not with the car but with the journalists lack of driving ability.
Initially Ac had projected a output of twenty 3000 ME's a week, and with the Invicar contract having expired in 1977 the 3000ME was the only card they had to play. In the event sales were so few that only 76 cars had been built before AC were forced to cease production in 1984.But even then the Diablo's offspring refused to die easily.
A Scottish entrepreneur , David McDonald bought the rights to the 3000ME and set up business in Hillington, just outside Glasgow. His intention was to produce a Mk 2 of the 3000ME, in the meantime producing the existing model.
Sales were hard to come by though and although a prototype Mk 2 was almost complete, production ended in 1985. Still this extraordinary story was not quite over.
Aubrey Woods, the former Technical Director of BRM, and John Parsons purchased the remnants of David MacDonald’s company. They completed the Mk2 prototype, fitting a turbocharged Fiat twin cam engine in place of McDonald's Alfa Romeo V6, and in an attempt to raise capital to fund it's production showed the now renamed, Ecosse Signature at the 1988 British motor show. Unfortunately no new backers were found and the Ecosse Signature project faded from view and so ended the Diablo story, or did it?
The Devil had to have the last word, and it almost resulted in his resurrection.
At the 1981 Geneva Motor Show Ghia presented a re bodied 3000ME simply labelled the AC - Ghia. It won many admirers but alas none willing to put it into production.
What started in 1972 as a two man project had managed to last almost ten years before it's flame was finally extinguished.
1 - SB Nymph
2 - Original SB Diablo
3 - AC 428 (Frua)
4 - Invicar
5 - AC 3000ME
6- AC Ghia
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