Kimber-Smart Roadster: to wear an AC badge?
26 Jul 06 15:33
The reborn Smart Roadster, to be built by UK firm Kimber in Wales, may wear the AC badge, according to the latest rumours. Kimber - named after the founder of Morris Garages - had originally hoped to do a deal with Nanjing Automotive to brand the car an MG Midget, but has been left without an appropriate British name to use. The Healey and Austin-Healey brand-names are spoken for, ruling out its renaming as a Sprite, though there have also been whispers that Kimber is negotiating to revive Triumph.
Now stories have surfaced that Kimber is to do a deal with Alan Lubitsky, current owner of AC Cars, to use that British name. AC, still building its Cobra but now relocated to Malta, dates back to 1903. AC has not yet commented on this story.
More details have also emerged on Kimber's plans for reviving the Roadster. It is to use the latest 1.0-litre, three-cylinder Mitsubishi engine, which will also be supplied to Smart for the Mk2 Fortwo; this will come in normally-aspirated and turbocharged form. And thankfully, the original Smart clutchless transmission will be axed: the Roadster will receive a Getrag-supplied manual gearbox.
Though it will remain similar to the Smart original, the Roadster will undergo a minor makeover. Former Jaguar designer Keith Helfet has been signed up to restyle its front and tail ends to freshen it up, and to distinguish it from the Smart-built Mk 1.
Kimber aims to start production at its new base in Wales, where it is installing the tooling brought from the Smart factory at Hambach, next summer. It is hoping to build 7000 Roadsters in its first year of production, going up to 11,000 a year once properly up and running. article continues below