Thursday, October 7, 2010

Williams & Pritchard Body Kits

Mention 'body kits' and you likely think of the bolt-on extravagances that are seen on Asian vehicles not too far away from the scrap heap. Actually, the early days of fiberglass kits brought forth some rather interesting products from England.

Williams & Pritchard was a coachbuilding firm located in London. As with most body constructors of the day, they had extensive experience and skill in forming steel and aluminum into objects of beauty. After the second World War Len Pritchard and Charlie Williams took the expertise gained in building bodies for Bentleys, Rolls-Royces and other fine chassis and formed a partnership with an aim to build racing bodies.

The firm's early client list reads like a 'Who's Who' of car builders: Lotus, Lola, Elva, Cooper, Lister, Gordon-Keeble, to name but a few. They constructed aerodynamic cowlings for racing motorcycles and did repairs on shunted Jaguar D-Types.

W & P expanded their business by offering fiberglass body parts when that technology was still new. They discovered that fiberglass could be comparatively 'mass' produced (build one mold - make many parts) whereas aluminum required a very high degree of skill and considerable time to build. One of their earliest fiberglass kits was the Speedwell Sprite Monza bonnet, where the Bugeye bonnet was replaced with a more wind-cheating design.

During the '60s and early '70s there was a large demand for 'bolt-on' body mods in the UK. Most were hardtops for roadsters, but many were much more elaborate with entire replacement bodies on offer. It was possible to turn a dowdy Mini into something that looked like it was from another planet.

The W & P firm found a receptive audience for GT-style hardtops that covered the car from the top of the windshield back to the boot lid. These modifications were reversible but it took some time to accomplish. One of the kits on offer was for the Jaguar E-Type roadster. Your friends might have a removable hardtop, but your car could like something between a roadster and coupe. As hard as it would be to improve on the looks of the E-Type, Williams & Pritchard tried and sold many of their kits.

Does anyone besides me see a little inspiration for the Jaguar XJ-S roofline here?

There is a very complete and intriguing web site dedicated to preserving the work of this company.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rodney, I do see the similarities with the XJS and perhaps the inspiration for it. Around this time W&P were also doing work for Costin Automotive Racing Products and Frank Costin. The Costin Amigo which was designed by Frank had this same design with a rear window and flying buttresses surrounding the boot lid. Perhaps Frank influenced the W&P design and thus the XJS!!!!


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