The K19 was another Imp engined and rather elegant design which differed from the previous K18 and K16 models in that a light weight, one piece, glassfibre body shell was superimposed over all the mechanical components, rather than being bolted onto the centre steel section. The styling of the body was carried out by the coach work division of the Innes Lee Motor Company. Underneath the new body the monocoque tub chassis had altered little from the K18, although it was 3'' longer for better interior accommodation. The body had pop up headlamps operated electrically by a pair of windscreen wiper motors rather than using the pop up mirror system patented by Killeen in 1959.
Tom Killeen became the technical director of the new company and Andy Wotherspoon was appointed to manage the technical development. Larry Reeves was responsible for finance and Tim Gresty of Commercial Advertising Services (Didsbury, Manchester) was responsible for advertising and public relations at the launch.
The Killeen cars K16, K18 and K19 have identical stressed steel monocoque constructions consisting of a tub centre section with built in roll hoop and additional bars to support the windscreen and doors. The monocoque has huge sills, which reach halfway up the sides of the car making gullwing doors the only sensible means of entry. It is for this reason extremly safe to drive. These sills and roll bar together with front and rear stiffened bulkheads and a stiff backbone tube through which the gear linkage pass, made the chassis very torsionally rigid. A triangulated A-frame of square section steel tube projects backwards to carry the engine, and the rear suspension cross member is attached to box section outriggers bolted to the rear bulkhead just below this. A steel box projecting from the front bulkhead gives leg room for the occupants and also allows the front suspension and various ancilliary components (including specially made petrol tank) to be attached.
The K19 Scorpion is thus very similar in design to the previous K18 Mirage, which was indeed the road test prototype. It differs in having a strengthened backbone and ss some 3" longer overall giving improved legroom in the cockpit. In the K19 all enclosed parts of the chassis, such as outriggers, sills and forward triangulation boxes are filled with expanding polyester foam to reduce drumming and further increase the strength, at the cost of virtually no extra weight.
The production was ambitious, with specially made five slot alloy wheels, specially made seats by Restall with built in head restraints, and a specially made laminated windscreen (about which more below). Interest was high, in part because of the widespread publicity. The car was even evaluated for rally use, according to Cars and Car Conversions, June 1974, the Gemini Rally team took the first one for £2250.
Several examples of the Scorpion are still known to exist, and it is thought that around 10 were made in total. Of these probably seven were assembled hy Inness Lee, and two built up later from the remaining parts. One final car was auctioned in component form and bought by Anthony Reeve who was thus able to construct the final complete car. The company had been dissolved following poor sales caused by an alarmingly high price of £2650 for the finished car in 1973 (a Ginetta G15 could be had at the same time for only £1500). This was aggravated by alleged financial irregularites when the company was sold to a Welsh concern.
Before owning a Scorpion I discussed the car with an army vehicle enthusiast at one outdoor classic car show. He said that he had driven a car transporter which took a number of Scorpions away from the factory on behalf of the receivers. They were delivered to creditors in part payment of outstanding debts, one such being a local garage who had provided petrol on credit for the test cars and staff. There is a widespread but unproven belief that more than 10 cars were in fact made.
The Scorpion project was almost the undoing of Chesman Engineering, famous for Imp engine tuning. A number of fully built up 998cc engines had been tested and provided to the Telford factory, but no payment was received. With great forsight a van was despatched one evening to recover the engines a matter of days before the receivers were called in. Security staff at Stafford Park were unperturbed by this, as they explained the rent on the factory unit had not been payed for at least 6 months!
I have since heard of one Scorpion lying in a lockup garage in London. It has been seen in photographs and has apparently collapsed in the centre due to a rotten tub. Another one has been seen in Newark-upon-Trent (chassis number 2). Its current owner has driven it, but dismantled it in 1988 with the intention to repair the chassis and then to do a full restoration. When seen it was still in pieces in an old stable building of his parent's house. One Scorpion is said to have been auctioned in London a few years ago. Car number 7 was bought by RJA from David Susans of Southend-on-Sea where it had been badly crashed. Another example, car number 3, was advertised for sale in the Leicester Mercury 11/1193 and was bought by RJA.
[Photographs show RJA's Scorpion numbers 3 and 7 and the last one when it belonged to Anthony Reeve.]
A surprisingly large number of people have heard of the Scorpion, but few have actually seen one. This is possibly due to the good publicity carried out by the Commercial Advertising Services company who produced brochures which are, more than 20 years later, still readily available.
Tim Gresty was responsible for providing these brochures. He was also present when the first body shell was pulled from the mould in 1973 and built up into a car, but with no engine. This was towed to north Wales and pushed onto the beach at Blackrock Sands. A model was required and the wife of one of the managers, who did occasional modelling, volunteered. The car had an extraordinarily high ground clearance due to its lack of engine, and the numerous transparencies made required heavy re-touching before the brochures could be released.
A little later a stand was acquired to launch the car at the 1973 Earl's Court Motor Show. This appearance was also problematic. As the car was unloaded from its transporter the windscreen, which had already caused difficulties, popped out of the body and broke. It was a specially moulded item from the Tudor Safety Glass Company, but another one was sent down the following day from the factory. Because the Innes Lee company had not accurately specified dimensions, this second windscreen proved difficult to fit into the body. The car appeared before the press sheathed in laurel leaves to hide the gap. Rumour has it that the laurel leaves were commandeered from the lobby of the hotel at which the Innes Lee staff were staying. Windscreens seem to have been a big problem with these cars, as was confirmed by the suppliers in 1975!
A photographic session took place with Shirley Bassey (the Welsh connection again), who is later alleged to have said "you wouldn't catch me dead driving one of those f***ing things".
What is thought to be the only remaining body mould was re-discovered in 1989 in a garden in Wrexham, Wales. It had been advertised for sale in Kit Car magazine (Apr'1990). RJA wrote subsequently to the given address, having acquired his first Scorpion GUX 735N (chassis number 7) by that time in need of substantial body repairs. The letter was answered by the new owner of the mould, who was extremely helpful. He needed to sell quite soon and RJA was therefore able to purchase the mould in order to carry out his restoration.
In 2012, I got an e-mail from Terry Fisher who at one time owned Scorpion reg. GUX735N. He told me, he had owned this car for a while and purchased it from a "Delboy" like chap in Thanet, Kent. It needed loads of work to get it up to a reasonable standard.
He made a mistake of getting a local engineer to take off the body to weld up the chassis and he broke the screen. Being stuck, he then gave it to his brother as a project and he worked on it for a while but then swapped it for a Ford. The last time Terry saw the car it was outside a pub in Thanet called "The Orb". Does anyone else have memories of this?
Terry told me he had much fun with this little car, but there were a few breakdowns, maily due to broken donuts. The car was written off by another owner in 1988.
The Scorpion, aka K19, was one of Tom Killeen's designs. You can find out more about them on my Web site: http://tardis.dl.ac.uk/Mercia/killeen_book/index.html.
As can be seen in the photographs GUX 735N is still not on the road again. It is one of the last Scorpions build, and was registered on 19/12/1974. It has to date had a new ``monocoque'' chassis, actually rebuilt as a tubular steel space frame with superficial sheeting, and new suspension, and is having a body fitted with new front section taken from the original mould. All mechanical components will then be replaced, along with the black vinyl interior and beige seats. Plans are to tune the engine to full 998cc race specification, for occasional playtime use only!
This car differed in specification from those described in the Innes Lee brochures. It had a rear radiator (they all seem to have had one), circular headlamps and 5x13" Wolfrace wheels. It was originally metallic purple.
Register of Cars:
|1||after publicity use, went to Gemini Rally Team|
|2||currently dismantled in stables near to Newark upon Trent|
|3||MAW 418W||red, bought by RJA in 1993, chassis scrapped in 2002|
|7||GUX 735N||originally metallic purple. Owned for a while by Terry Fisher, Thanet, Kent. Bought by RJA in 1990 after it was written off in 1988. Destroyed in a fire in 2010.|
|8||RUX 288N||sold in auction 24/3/74 lot 218|
|9||RUX 290N||lot 217, no engine. Chesman engine number AC324 74/16 Dq fitted, and overhauled by Hartwells 1994. Chassis sandblasted and protected with marine epoxy paint system. Body shell, bonnet, boot windscreen and door frames, but no door skins. Unfinished state still in 1994. Owned by Roy Venton-Walters who has paid the car tax. For sale in 1994 for £4,500.00.|
|9a||Body mould bought by RJA in 1991|
|10||lots 214 and 215 of auction, this car was bought as separate components by Anthony Reeve and later built up and sold in 1975|
|11||lot 216 no body|
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