A somewhat brief history of Erin
1950 to 1957 - The Early Days
Erin Motorsport founded in 1950 and begins by competing in various local racing tournaments with road cars. Enters Le Mans in 1951 for the first time with the SP-1. It does terribly, but they gradually begin to get better. By mid-50s, they’re known as ‘the underdogs of motorsport’, competing in major European events like the Millie Miglia and Targa Florio. Wins the S-2000 class at Le Mans in 1956, and follows it up the next year by winning the S-3000 class with the SP-3A. That same year, a rich American entrepreneur called Frank Greenwald personally requests his own road-going Erin sports car; he gets a converted SP-3A called the ‘Liama’, which leads to…
1957 to 1961 - The Beginning of the Erin Motor Company
…the founding of the EMC, who begin handbuilding sports coupes based off their race cars. Gradually, orders began to increased, and by 1958, plans had been made for a factory in the south of Nottingham to accommodate for the extra demand. It’s also during this time that the idea of expanding out of sports cars comes about, and from this, plans for the first Erin Merna come to light.
Significant cars: Erin Tegra, Erin Tierza
1961 to 1968 - From Obscurity to Formality
1961 sees the launch of the Erin Merna Mk1 and the Erin Lagana, two of the companies most famous cars. Erin Motorsport begins to enter into the expanding world of GT car racing whilst continuing to be at Le Mans, winning the race in 1961 and with a stunning multi-class victory in 1963. The team introduced its first mid-engined racer, the SP5-M in 1964. They also enter the Merna into BTCC and begin a near-60 year long domination of the series. The X Department is informally set-up after the launch of a tuned version of the Merna, which was essentially an early hot-hatch. Erin enters the premium GT market with the Ghaleda 2+2 and later the Fusilla. Howard Forgely becomes Chief Designer and Arnold Clark joins the company and becomes one of its most important members.
Significant cars: Erin Merna (Mk 1), Erin Lagana
1968 to 1977 - The Golden Age
The period where many of the most popular Erin classics come from. 1968 sees the launch of the Lira, a small two door V4 powered sports car, designed by Marco Erin (Dominic’s son). It also sees the launch of the Merna Mk 2, which properly proved that Erin had become a serious car company. Success continues in BTCC and other touring car events for the Merna, while Erin becomes one of the big players in the World Sportscar Championship. The company restructures in 1970 to create three separate but connected sectors of the company: Erin, ErinSport and the X Department, while Dominic retires to work in ErinSport and Marco takes over. The fabled Board of Directors are introduced to help with running the company. ErinSport works on the Civera Silhouette project, which turns the entry level GT coupe into a racing legend for the company, seeing wide use in Group 2-4 and later 5 racing in both Europe and America. A string of excellent sports and GT cars are made by the company during this period.
Significant cars: Erin Lira (Mk 1), Erin Civera (Mk 1)
1977 to 1980 - The Financial Meltdown
An increasing push from the Board of Directors to ‘normalize’ the company meets resistance from the Design Team and some of Marco’s advisers. With a number of model revisions on the horizon, the B o D wanted to introduce new cars to directly compete with European rivals, while the Design Team wanted to maintain Erin’s focus on more unusual and sportier cars. This problem becomes embodied by two cars: the Mk 2 Nedala and Mk 2 Comprida, the latter of which was not approved by the Board of Directors but made it into production after the Design Team essentially redirected funds and developed entirely by themselves. It didn’t end up being a very good car, and soon began losing sales. The Mk 2 Nedala, however, was a disaster too; the B o D had completley misread the market, and the car was far too expensive to do well. By 1979, the bad press being created by these internal disputes was trashing Erin’s image and leading to massive losses in sales, forcing the still small car company to cut production of all by the Lira and the Merna by the end of the year. Arnold Clark, Harold Forgeley and the Design Team all resigned, many of whom had been at the company for over 15 years, and the B o D was dissolved by Marco. Some of the engineers who left went to work for OAM and develop the second gen Chevalier. By 1980 the company was barely making a profit and in financial ruin.
More on this here and here.
1980 to 1982 - Preparing To Fight Back
Erin plans its comeback; Marco recruits 25 year old postgraduate design student Chris Famerley after being impressed by his simple but modern designs. The company plans to widen its range to include its first supermini and a new full size executive saloon, but decide that a new sportscar is needed to lead the way for this revival. They begin by finishing off plans for a mid-engined midsize coupe (then called the Advanced Sports Prototype) and bring it to production. In late 1981, they reveal the Nasaro, the first production MR car from the company, signalling a whole new direction in terms of design and marketing. It goes on sale the following year to great success.
Significant cars: Erin Nasaro
1982 to 1986 - The Restoration
With the Nasaro now bringing in some cash, the company feels confident enough to press on with the launch of its three new normal market cars. The Mk 4 Merna is finally launched, alongside the new Visto supermini and Berlose executive saloon. While development had to be rushed in some parts, they did bring a number of innovations to the Erin lineup, including an injection-only engine lineup and a focus on safety. Erin also partners with Saminda to expand its name around the world and save on development costs, launching 3 badge-swap cars between 1984 and 1989. Ironically, this sees Erin become a more normal car company, competing directly in specific areas of the market. But, unlike the first time they tried to do it in 1977, it isn’t being done because a board of officials want it; it’s being done because it’s in the company’s interests too. This period also sees the beginning of ErinSport’s Group C Development Program, as they pour lots of investment into mastering this new racing class. Meanwhile, the Erin Nasaro rises to prominence in the Group A touring car championships across Europe, with 1985 being nicknamed “The Year of the Nasaro”.
Significant cars: Erin Merna (Mk 4), Erin Berlose (Mk 1)
1986 to 1991 - Back In Shape
1986 sees the launch of a new sports coupe, the Scarlet, perhaps the company’s greatest marque ever. Erin are back to doing what they do best it seems, but this time with a more professional feel. The profits from the Saminda partnership really start to come in, and a series of facelifts for their range help to significantly improve their lineup. The real success story, however, is in the World Sportscar Championship; the Group C Development Program reaches its peak, with a series of great cars. Its CRP-4 platform proves to be the most succesfully, winning a stunning 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans in 1988 and the WSC overall, and doing it again in 1990. Many of the innovations from this program, including steel alloys, carbon fibre usage and V10 engines make their way onto later race projects and road cars, particularly i5 engines.
Significant cars: Erin Scarlet (Mk 1)
1991 to 1999 - The Renaissance
A series of brilliant cars, major motorsport prowess and numerous innovations make the 1990s perhaps Erin’s greatest period in its history. The Scarlet Mk 2 and Mk 3 become the halo cars for the company, with the latter being regarded as the best car they’ve ever made. The Mk 5 Merna becomes the most successful generation in the marque’s history, also being regarded as the most ‘normal’ car Erin has ever made. The Mk 2 Berlose introduces a new curvy and smooth design style to the company. In 1996, an sportier version called the X-AllDrive is launched alongside the X-tuned Scarlet, and the two become a performance car power couple for the company. In motorsport, the Scarlet’s GT glory days take place, consitently being one of the most competitive cars in the BPR Global GT series and in IMSA in America. The ‘GT’ era of prototype racers begins with the GT95 in 1995, which wins Le Mans that year and stays in racing until the end of the decade. Meanwhile, the X Department begins to experiment with using aluminium and the steel alloys developed during the Group C era, and plans are drawn up for a ‘car of the future’ that will make these materials usable on affordable cars. The results of this project become a new mid-size sedan called the Tauga, which launches in 1999.
Significant cars: Erin Scarlet (Mk 3), Erin Merna (Mk 5)
1999 to 2013 - The Tricky 2000s
A new focus on efficiency takes over the company, for better and for worse. The Tauga becomes a big success for the company, but the push to introduce its efficient Millenial engines and advance materials to the rest of the range leads to issues with the Mk 3 Berlose and Mk 6 Merna. Meanwhile, the GT01 aims to continue the GT name in endurance racing but struggles to be competitive, and is nicknamed “the most frustrating race car of all time” by CEO Marco Erin. But, by becoming the first prototype racer that Erin starts selling to amatuer teams, they help to increase brand awareness in the US and see a big increase in export sales across the pond. 2006 to 2008 sees the whole range replaced, to much success, with the Mk 4 Berlose and Mk 2 Tauga being treated far more equally than before. The weaker sales of this decade and the damage to their brand image lead to a big push for a bold new era of the company. Marco Erin retired in 2009 after 39 years as the CEO, and his son, Paul Erin took over the company. He has since led the company into a new period, currently being nicknamed…
Significant cars: Erin Tauga (Mk 1), Erin Berlose (Mk 3)
2013 to Present - The Pureron Era
All new design, advancement across the board and more cars than ever; Erin are reestablishing themselves as one of the most prominent European car makers and a leader in the British auto industry. A new era of ultra-efficient engines, called the Pureron range, power today’s Erins, while usage of aluminium and steel alloys extends across the range. Two new sports cars, the pint-sized Nardella and back-from-the-dead Scarlet Mk 4 continue our sports car legacy, while the latest versions of the Tauga, Berlose and the new Aventa see us asserting a position in the premium sedan market. The Bino, launched last year, is our first ever city car, and joins the new Visto and Merna Mk 8 to complete a strong hatchback lineup .