New Zealand Classic Car - - Kits And Pieces -


Whilst brows­ing through Trade Me in 2009, Robin Hart­ley caught the car builder’s bug. He spot­ted an un­fin­ished Fer­rari P4 replica for sale — un­for­tu­nately it proved to be out of his reach, and was even­tu­ally pur­chased and fin­ished by Bren­den Van Schooten (see New Zealand Clas­sic Car Au­gust 2015).

So it was back to the draw­ing board, lit­er­ally, as Robin started doo­dling his dream car on pa­per, re­fin­ing his de­signs by reg­u­larly brows­ing web­sites such as mad­about-kit­ He did not know if he had the skills to build a car from scratch, but dream­ing about it took no skill at all. He never ex­pected to come across a car al­most ex­actly like the dream car he had been sketch­ing, but dur­ing one of his brows­ing ses­sions, that is ex­actly what he found. Apart from the car’s iden­tity, there was no in­for­ma­tion. All he knew was it was called a Pelland/ku­dos. His in­ter­est was piqued — it was time to do some sleuthing. Robin spent the next few weeks try­ing to track down its owner. As the car was based in Eng­land, it was quite a dif­fi­cult process. Start­ing with Mad About Kit Cars, he fol­lowed the trail that even­tu­ally led him to Us­ing this web­site, he man­aged to make con­tact with Gra­ham Boul­ter, the owner of the car.

Know­ing that the body­work is the most dif­fi­cult part of the car to cre­ate, Robin hoped there was an op­por­tu­nity to ob­tain one. Sadly, Gra­ham was not in the busi­ness of mak­ing bod­ies, his car was purely a rac­ing car. He was not pre­pared to strip it down to point where a mould could be taken off it, but he hap­pened to have an un­fin­ished Pelland, stashed some­where at the back of his farm.


Gra­ham’s car was ac­tu­ally called a Ku­dos, and had been built by Square One De­vel­op­ments Ltd. It was one of about five kits pro­duced be­tween 1992 and ’95. The car had been the brain­child of Peter Pel­lan­dine, a well-known fig­ure in the English kit-car world. His first cre­ation was the Ash­ley 750/Fal­con MKI, sold here dur­ing the late ’50s as the Tiki and Puma. An­other was the Fal­con MKIII, one of the UK’S best-sell­ing kit cars, with around 2000 sales (an in­ter­est­ing aside is that the Fal­con MKIII was de­signed in Gis­borne, NZ, with the help of Jim Mccul­loch).

Un­til the late ’70s Peter was churn­ing out car af­ter car. The Pelland Sports, a car that would even­tu­ally evolve into the Pelland, was de­signed while he was liv­ing in Aus­tralia. Although some were sold in Aus­tralia, most were pro­duced and sold in Eng­land upon his re­turn, in 1978. Af­ter the Pelland, Peter took a break from car de­sign, and it was 10 years be­fore break­ing the world steam car speed record tempted him back to the draw­ing board. Break­ing world records is not cheap — Peter needed money to fund his at­tempt, and the best way to make money was to de­sign and build cars. Which con­ve­niently brings us full cir­cle to Robin’s car.

To fund the at­tempt, Peter mod­i­fied the fi­bre­glass mono­coque car he was build­ing for the steam land speed record to take Al­fa­sud parts, and called it the Pelland Coupé. The styling of the orig­i­nal Pelland Sports was up­dated, and a roof was added. Peter built at least two of these cars be­fore sell­ing it as a com­plete project to Square One De­vel­op­ments. Square One chopped off its chisel nose and called it the Ku­dos.

Robin’s car had been sold as a kit, by Peter Pel­lan­dine, to an­other Mr Hart­ley. Now what are the chances of that? Robin has a copy of the hand­writ­ten let­ter from Peter to Mr Hart­ley ex­plain­ing why he had not had time to take photos of the fin­ished pro­to­type, as he was in the process of per­for­mance tun­ing it for Brands Hatch. This was dur­ing April of 1989, and leads me to be­lieve that Robin’s car was the sec­ond Pelland Coupé.

Now that he knew the back story, Robin was more than smit­ten with the car. Well, apart from the chisel nose of the Pelland Coupé. He pre­ferred the Ku­dos nose that was on Gra­ham’s car, so he asked him if he was in­ter­ested in tak­ing a mould of the front of his Ku­dos. For­tu­itously Gra­ham had cre­ated the mould al­ready, as he knew from ex­pe­ri­ence that rac­ing in high-speed events would re­sult, at some stage, in dam­age to the front of the car.

Be­fore he com­mit­ted to buy­ing it, Robin wisely in­ves­ti­gated how easy it would be to get a fi­bre­glass mono­coque car cer­ti­fied as road le­gal in New Zealand. The car only had four kilo­grams of steel in it, and he was not look­ing to buy an ex­pen­sive gar­den or­na­ment. For­tu­nately he con­tacted the Con­struc­tors Car Club, which was very fa­mil­iar with this type of car. Once as­sured that the build was fea­si­ble, the deal was done. The rolling car, along with a freshly moulded re­place­ment nose, ar­rived in New Zealand in May 2011.

Kiwi build

Robin set about pre­fab­ri­cat­ing the parts he knew from talk­ing with the Con­struc­tors Car Club that he would have to re­place. The front and rear wish­bones were up first, as they had been made from steel with too light a gauge, and braze welded. Be­fore he could start, he drew up the de­sign for the new wish­bones, and sub­mit­ted them to LVVTA for ap­proval. The old wish­bones were used as the tem­plate for the new draw­ings. Some mi­nor mod­i­fi­ca­tions had to be made, but Robin says it was not a very dif­fi­cult task. He added, “Peo­ple think­ing of im­port­ing a kit from the UK or over­seas should con­tact the man­u­fac­tur­ers and get them to send the rel­e­vant draw­ings out with the kit”. As the Pelland had been out of pro­duc­tion for many years, he was not able to do that. Fi­nally he says, “Hav­ing a friendly cer­ti­fier on board at the start of the process is crit­i­cal for a suc­cess­ful out­come.”

The next is­sue was get­ting hold of a donor car to pro­vide most of the run­ning gear and me­chan­i­cal parts needed to fin­ish the project. Peter Pel­lan­dine had opted to use the Al­fa­sud/33, with the en­gine and drivetrain mounted mid-chas­sis and driv­ing the rear wheels. Af­ter vis­it­ing Gra­ham Boul­ten in 2012, Robin knew that he had to have the Alfa 1700 mo­tor, as it had su­pe­rior per­for­mance to its sib­lings. Once back home he pur­chased a 1990 Alfa Romeo 33 with a 1700 quad cam mo­tor and a five-speed gear­box. For the dash­board, he pre­ferred the Alfa 156 re­cessed clus­ter over the sin­gle Alfa 33 bin­na­cle.

The wind­screen that came with the body was a ma­jor prob­lem, as it had started to de­lam­i­nate and could not be used. The orig­i­nal had come from a Saab 900, cut down to fit. It took a while to find a good wind­screen, as Saab 900s are not as com­mon in New Zealand as they are in the UK, but even­tu­ally he was able to find one that had the right tint, along with a cou­ple of shabby ex­am­ples sourced from Pick-a-part.

Glass cut­ters that he ap­proached to cut the wind­screens to size did not want to know about it, so af­ter watch­ing how it was done on Youtube, Robin de­cided to do it him­self, start­ing with the shabby ones as prac­tice. Hop­ing that he would only break two of the three wind­screens, he cut them as per the video. His suc­cess rate was 100 per cent, with none of them break­ing. From that point on, Robin says the rest of the build was rel­a­tively straight­for­ward. Well, there was the is­sue of the gear­stick be­ing in the wrong place. Repo­si­tion­ing it took a bit of think­ing about, but now it works a treat.

Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of a car is al­ways a worry, and dur­ing the build Robin’s car was checked four times. The first check left him with a long list of changes and adap­tions to be made, but all were solv­able, and even man­aged to sort out a few squeaks and rat­tles that Robin had been chas­ing. He has no com­plaints about the process. It added a bit more chal­lenge to the build and gave him a bet­ter car, so in the end it was a win-win sit­u­a­tion.

Road man­ners

His car has been on the road since Jan­uary 2017. Robin says that its han­dling is ex­em­plary, sim­i­lar to the Lo­tus 7 but with a roof, and con­se­quently a lot less wind blast. With its mid-en­gine lay­out it has a good weight distri­bu­tion, with 40 per cent on the front wheels and 60 per cent on the rear. Get­ting in and out can make for a bit of a contortion, but once in­side, there is a sur­pris­ing amount of room. It has been painted in Bri­tish Rac­ing Green, the same colour be­ing used on late­model BMW Minis. With a height just 51mm more than a GT40, the car has a very low cen­tre of grav­ity. Robin was very im­pressed with the way it per­formed at a re­cent Man­feild Track Day.

To­tal build time was six years, mainly be­cause some prob­lems took longer to fig­ure out than ex­pected. These days he is en­joy­ing driv­ing his dream car, which started life as a doodle on a bit of pa­per. Al­ready, Robin is plan­ning fur­ther re­fine­ments to the car, as well as tak­ing it on hol­i­day with his wife.

Left: The first pic­ture that Robin saw of his fu­ture car Right: Robin with the Pelland shortly af­ter its ar­rival in New Zealand — at this stage it still has the old chisel nose

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