The 1970’s are known in the car world as a difficult time for cars. There was an oil shortage caused by some war or other, the usual story – greed, oil, a decline in stock and a rise in prices. In addition, people were starting to realise that living in a smog-infested city wasn’t much fun, nor was having asthma and so something had to be done. The Californian’s introduced their clean air bill, which ironically gave rise to the SUV that meant, via a quirk of legislation, that the V8’s that had previously powered saloon cars now powered all-wheel drive trucks. At the other end of the spectrum, manufacturers also decided that there was something to be done with smaller, more efficient engines. Ford brought us the 4-cylinder Mustang, while others looked elsewhere, as oil was out so perhaps electricity could be in.
One such company was Enfield Automotive of Wimbledon, that made a small aluminium bodied electric vehicle some may recognise from the last few years as having been the base for Jonny Smith’s Flux Capacitor electric-powered dragster.
Nevertheless, the Enfield has an interesting history all of its own. The diminutive car (its 1.72m wheelbase and 2.84m length made the original Mini look huge) was even described in an uncannily familiar way in 1975 by Trevor Smith, Transport superintendent at Stockton depot of North Eastern Electricity Board (NEEB), stating: “It is compact, highly manoeuvrable, almost silent, completely fumeless and economical. But perhaps the most important aspect is the contribution they can make to the wise and efficient use of the nation’s resources.” However, the Enfield was never likely to set the world alight, as it was only ever intended for low-volume production, predominantly based on orders by the Electricity Council of Britain – who bought 61. The Enfield 8000 had 8hp, 48V, 6kW, 4-pole ventilated DC- motor driving the rear wheels and a claimed top speed of 40mph. Oddly for such a slow vehicle, aerodynamics appeared to play an important role in the design and the drag coefficient was a low 0.29 cd. A little known fact is Enfield’s were built on the Isle of Wight, thanks to John Ackroyd, who went onto design notable vehicles including Thrust 2 World Land Speed Record breaking car. Some components were borrowed from the British parts bin, namely Hillman Imp suspension and a Reliant three-wheeler rear axle. The chassis was similar to racing cars of the day, made from steel tubes while the aluminium body was said to be more sustainable than the fibreglass body of the Enfield 465 that came before it. Eight 12V 110Ah lead-acid batteries, weighing 38.5 kilos each, were distributed evenly between the front and rear and stored enough energy to provide between 25-55 miles range, while a separate 12V 55Ah battery powered the ancillaries. The speedometer was linked to a rotating cam that operated micro-switches connected to a solenoid, which in turn controlled three voltage stages; 12V, 24V & 48V.
In total just 120 little Enfields were built at the Cowes factory on the Isle of Wight. Production was eventually moved to Greece, where Enfield Automotive’s flamboyant owner, John Goulandris, hailed from, although assembly continued in the UK for a short time.