New Wildcat Unveiled…But it’s not a Buick

By Andy Bannister

08.08.2008

They breed ambitious dreamers in England, and none more so than would-be sports car tycoons. Recent history is littered with the wrecks of brave-but-doomed two-seaters hailing from this green and pleasant land and supposedly poised on the edge of worldwide sales success.

With those words of caution in mind, here’s the newly- unveiled Melling Wildcat, the brainchild of millionaire businessman, Al Melling, responsible for creating a series of successful engines, including one for the late, lamented TVR.

Take-them-with-a-pinch-of-salt plans even suggest a transatlantic version of the car will be built in Las Vegas, although presumably under a different title. Wildcat is a wonderfully evocative name but sadly was last used on a production car by Buick from 1962 to 1970, and GM are bound to own the trademark.

The new Melling Wildcat is a V8 two-seater tentatively priced at £45,000 ($90,000). The firm aims to deliver the first Wildcat road cars to the UK buyers from its factory in Rochdale, Lancashire, by the end of the year. Ultimate production could be 20 cars a month.

The early 1960s Rochdale Olympic (pictured) was an endearingly-homespun sports car with rather Porsche-like looks. It used a BMC engine featured in the equally-forgotten Riley One-Point-Five, a sort of GT version of the Morris Minor.

Creator Al Melling once made a failed bid for legendary British sports maker TVR – currently defunct – having designed the company’s successful AJP V8 engine. It’s hard not to applaud his passion and determination.

Melling clearly is obsessed with failing to gain control of the TVR marque, and describes the Wildcat as “the car the TVR Griffith should have been”.

The Wildcat is slightly longer and about four inches wider than the Griffith and features a traditional, even plain design. Its creator says the car has been kept deliberately simple and robust to give owners the opportunity to modify it to their own specification.

As standard the Wildcat gets a tuned, 460bhp GM V8, with a six-speed manual gearbox. The chassis is an all-new, box-section steel structure, with built-in roll hoops and side-intrusion protection.
The Wildcat isn’t Melling’s only grandiose plan for sports car glory. The company has previously shown the wildly ambitious Hellcat, dubbed “the British Ferrari”.

This is said to have a 5990cc V10 of Melling’s own design producing over 700bhp.

Rochdale, a slightly grimy former mill town on the edge of the Lancashire moors in the heart of northern England, seems an unlikely place for a sports car venture, although it’s not that far from Blackpool, where TVR was once based.

Surprisingly, the town does have a track record of a kind. It had its own marque, also called Rochdale, which existed in some form from 1948 to 1973, and while it didn’t exactly set the motoring world alight it does have a respectable place in motoring history.

The Olympic was a fun little vehicle for its day and still has a loyal following.

Around 250 were built and the Olympic was actually the second ever glass-fibre monocoque bodied sports car to enter production (after the original Lotus Elite).

It will be interesting to see whether the Melling company can match the track record of its predecessor.

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Author: Andy Bannister

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2 Comments

  1. It sounds as if it’s very fast. Hopefully the cars stay together better than the TVRs did.

  2. You’re right, we’ve all seen this movie a couple of times. Cheeky upstart British company makes a sportscar which is one man’s personal vision of what a sportscar should be and the people applaud, but there needs to be a business behind it, and it is almost never there. It is difficult to make any small, new manufacturing enterprise work and making a new speicialty car manufacturer is even more difficult than most. I hope they make it, indeed, I hope they prosper, but it’s going to be a hard road.

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