Half the reason I started this Flux Cap project is because I was fascinated to delve into the history of this quirky pint-sized British EV. The more I read about the development and design of the Enfield, the less I laugh and the more I realise it was a pretty decent attempt at an urban plug-in zero emissions two-seater.
When I wrote a piece in the Sunday Times about my ambitions to turn a flood-damaged old electric ruin into Britain’s fastest street legal EV, the response was huge. People really did come out of the woodwork, not least the guy responsible for project designing the Enfield 8000 when new.
John ‘Ackers’ Ackroyd first sent an email and then we chatted via landline. He is not only one of the jolliest blokes I have ever met, but one with a career so varied you couldn’t make it up. Turns out he’d just finished writing his autobiography, and it really is a fascinating read. More fascinating than Tiff Needell’s.
Born and bred on the Isle of Wight, he is the main reason the Enfield 8000 started production there. He designed the tubular space frame chassis and was there in 1971 to witness MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association, in Nuneaton) testing three of the little EV prototypes on their track, in their wind tunnel and in the crash lab.
Besides taking a genuine interest in the Flux Cap project (I think he was glad someone remembered the car from the paths of time), John casually mentioned that before the Enfield project he’d designed hovercrafts (hence the above photo, John’s on the right).
Post Enfield, he did a few little bits and bobs – like help design the fastest car on earth. Yep, the man that did the chassis of the Enfield was also instrumental in Thrust 2, the jet powered ‘car’ that Richard Noble drove 650mph to victory 30 years ago. He even got a ride in it.
And as if that isn’t a decent enough nugget of trivia for retro EV nerds, here is an awesome photo showing Thrust 2’s ceremonial Lord Mayor’s procession through London in November ’83, a month after clinching the land speed record. My finger is pointing towards the head escort vehicle used through the capital – non other than a humble Enfield 8000.
Apparently it was pure coincidence, but I love the fact that there is a photo in existence showing these two unlikely machines rubbing shoulders. And better still, a distinct link from the jet propelled Thrust 2 to the 48-volt 8hp Enfield EV thanks to John Ackroyd.
History serves to inspire and motivate the next generation, and in my little way I’m hoping the Flux Capacitor will be as fast as we need it to be to pay tribute to the handiwork of ‘Ackers’. He’s already invited me to take it over to the Isle of Wight when it’s done. We’ll see. Let’s finish it first. More on that very soon. I’ve got lots of pics to show you…
John’s book ‘Jet Blast and the hand of fate’ can be bought here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blast-Hand-Fate-John-Ackroyd/dp/0954435788