Four decades of brilliance

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The birth of the Merlin sports car is attributed to the efforts of Leonard Witton, a British designer, who launched the project in America. Throughout his project, he focussed his efforts on instilling the most powerful features of The Roadster, Great Britain’s most popular sports car, into his design. The model he developed was equipped with VW Beetle flat-four engine and was named the Witton “Tiger”.

In 1975, the model underwent a makeover when Washington-based Thoroughbred Cars started accepting custom orders for the body and frame. The company designed personalised box-section frames and the new models were equipped with Ford or GM V-6s and small-block V-8s at the front and VW or Porsche engines at the rear.

In 1980, Peter Gowing, who owned a business specializing in VW accessory sales and body transformations, imported two Witton “Tiger” body shells into the UK. One of those shells was used to manufacture a VW-based car, which was named “Merlin Trans-axle”. The manufacturer had to use extensive advertising to sell the car, after which the original Witton shell was redesigned.

Early days

Gowing used the second shell to design a chassis and utilised Ford Cortina running gear during the process. The Gowing model was named “Merlin Type Ford” and its speciality was primarily defined by the presence of a Ford Pinto engine at its front. Notably, a total of three hundred cars were produced in the period 1980-1984. In 1985, Gowing launched the “Merlin Plus Two” model, under the name “Paris Cars”, replacing the “Type Ford” model. The effort included the redesigning of the chassis as well as the rear suspension.

Paris cars introduced a two-seater edition of the “Merlin Plus Two” and named it “Merlin Two Seater”. In 1992, the company launched a Ford Sierra-based chassis design that went on to contribute to approximately 75 percent of the sales. This model was named “Merlin iRS”. In May 1988, Paris Cars stopped the production of Merlin with over 700 cars gracing its portfolio during that time.

In 2017 Merlin was reborn at its new location in Lincolnshire under the stewardship of Andrew Imms and his team at The Old Gym Works. As well as offering the classic Merlin our team are working on an all new model for 2018.

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