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Vincent Automotive (1952-Endgame)


#1

Vincent Automotive, founded as a maker of luxury coupes for the elite, now produces a wide range of cars for almost any budget from the low end Erupt to the full size Caldera, Monolith and Spectre. Vincent is, nowadays, known for its progressive design languages that have evolved through the ages, with some complete revolutions in styling along the way. Here we go through, not in any order at all, the story of Vincent Automotive and their pioneering designs.

First though, we need to cover some basics-
Post 1985, there are 4 trim levels for each model, these are:
EcoLine - The Eco model, focused on being high tech and very fuel efficient, these cars use smaller vaiants of the EcoSport engines to maintain an engaging drive.
EcoSport- the eco model with a twist, not the most economical, but faster and sportier than EcoLine.
ComfortLine - The comfort oriented trim, it will have a bit more of a lazy engine and a more supple ride than EcoSport.
SportLine - The sport model, with a powerful engine and a more sporty setup than EcoSport, SportLine cars mean business on road and track.
Vincent also has an in-house team of petrolhead loonies (because every company has one of those these days) that was formed in 1976, initially, they took the name VRS (Vincent Race Sector) but, in 1985, to coincide with the new concepts, was changed to VST (Vincent Sport Tuning).

Design was always important to founder Vincent Lee Laithwaite, who decreed that every model should be uniform and represent Vincent in a way that stands out from the crowd, he gave each of these design languages names to reflect their look, a tradition which Vincent Automotive still follows to this day.

1952-1965: Atomica
1966-1978: Capacia
1979-1985: Sportiva
1985-1990: Futurisma
1991-1996: Late Futurisma
1997-2004: Millenia
2005-2010: Moderna
2011-2014: Arrow
2015-endgame: Arrow Minima

Founded in 1949 by Vincent Lee Laithwaite of Ynysybwl, Wales, near Cardiff, Vincent Automotive had its first factory located just west of Pontypridd as well as 2 showrooms, one in Cardiff and one in Swansea, built and ready for use by 1951, at the same time, Laithwaite was designing and engineering his first model, it was in production by 1952. Laithwaite, a recent engineering and design graduate from Oxford, was confident in his designs and was intent on having only the highest quality parts go into his cars, the upshot of this was that it was easily the most reliable car in the UK, but, it was very expensive and only the upper middle and upper classes could realistically afford one at that time, despite this, it sold well nationwide and Vincent Automotive went on to be the top British automaker every year since 1968.


#2

And finally, I have the first example of the early Atomica design language with the original Vincent Atomica coupe. The first model to be penned by Laithwaite featured a dramatic, wide faced stance and a fascia reminiscent of recent high end cars in the USA. Indeed, the whole car was very American in style with is high ride, long hood, and curved front screen. Laithwaite is quoted as being “heavily influenced” by the trendy Atomic Age styles adopted by those west of the Atlantic immediately after the war. The styling proved polarising on home turf and many customers, those in East Anglia, Wales and Scotland especially noted that the vehicle’s large stance and floaty ride, while nice on the motorways, de-restricted in those days, at speeds of over 125mph, made it a handful on tight country roads. This setback was practically disregarded by Laithwaite as he had more nimble things up his sleeve…

But for the mean time, have a look at some photos of the car.


#3

That’s a very interesting design concept… I like it! Can’t wait to see more designs, I’m especially interested in Arrow.


#4

Arrow is the first design I actually made, and I have quite a few cars in it atm, but I’m going to go through the languages chronologically. Capacia is coming.


#5

The late 1960s, fuel prices were low, cars were cheap, the population, booming. The number of cars on the road was increasing at a rate that the industry, try as they might, struggled to keep up with, but Vincent Automotive’s sales were falling. After a very simple analysis of the situation, Laithwaite noticed that the sales of high-end cars industry wide was down in favour of more practical, cheaper cars that other automakers were already offering and selling by the boatload. In order to ensure Vincent made it through the era, it had to reinvent itself, cars of the late 60s were still, at this point, not far removed from the flowing lines of the 40s and 50s, Laithwaite had an idea, a new design language that used simple ‘boxy’ shapes in order to increase interior volume without increasing the actual size of the car. This also meant that construction was cheaper as the number of complex folds was lessened by no small amount and some parts of the production line could be replaced by machines to speed up production and lessen costs. Enter Capacia, the new revolution in styling, lead by Vincent Automotive. The first car in this bold suit was the 1966 Evora, a mid sized family car, and by far the most customisable car in Vincent’s history, with customers being able to choose from 2 and 4 door saloons, 2 and 4 door estates and a coupe. The base trim level featured an efficient 1.8l 4 cylinder engine, this time, coupled to the front wheels in order to remove the hump in the cabin floor that made back seat passengers feel claustrophobic, especially in cars with dark interiors. From this year on, FWD is commonplace on Vincent cars, as is the economical trim level. The Evora was initially met with criticism for its ‘bland’ design, but the public eventually warmed to its simple yet characterful design, citing that its presence was ‘understated enough to blend in, but just enough to look good’. The public liked the way it drove too, the FWD setup meant that grip leaving a corner was much increased, and the suspension setup negated a large portion of the understeer that previous attempts at FWD setups had become known for. Customers thought that it drove as well as or better than the Austin Minis that were much smaller than the Evora. The Evora was a complete success and placed Vincent in the #2 spot for sales, behind Austin and their Mini, by 1967.

Here is the design, seen here with the 2-door estate ‘shooting brake’ body:


#6

As the 80s neared, it became clear that, to stay ahead of the curve, Vincent needed to update its style and set a new trend. However, a new image was in the works already so the design wouldn’t end up lasting too long so only an evolution was needed in the mind of Laithwaite. Sportiva was the name given to the new design owing to the car’s low slung, sporty appearance. The design features a full length chrome strip running from headlight to taillight with door handles built in to make for a clean and modern aesthetic. The double headlights and front/side indicators are housed within the same ‘cluster’ for the first time on a Vincent car, underneath the black plastic bumper strip, a simply designed double lower grille houses the license plate and fog lights, in order to protect the car from car park scrapes, the bumper strips extend to the wheel arches and the lower part of the door is equipped with a similar black strip, another pair of ‘cluster’ housings carry the rear lights, reverse lights and rear indicators while an inset black strip, bordered in chrome to link the lights and the badge to eachother, hides a boot catch release handle, the rear bumper is almost identical to that of the front, a double grille setup, although completely sealed shut with plastic, carries the license plate and exhausts, dual exited on this 3500cc example. License plates are updated in promo shots to the new UK style, with black on white on the front and black on yellow plates on the back. This example is the 3.5l Inline 6 powered Monolith estate which received praise for its engaging drive characteristics and comfortable ride, the engine in this is also the first engine by Vincent to receive Fuel Injection technology, however, despite this new technology, the 3.5l Monolith received harsh criticism for its very poor fuel economy, achieving only 14.3mpg UK in testing, despite this, the fuel injection did deliver on its other promise- much increased power output, this 3.5l 6 cylinder engine makes over 200bhp, a similar figure to the 6.2l V8 in the 1952 Atomica and over 3 times the power of the 1.8l i4 in the Evora, an engine half the size. The Monolith sold well and proved that the advances that Vincent made with the new styling and new technologies was here to stay.

The promo material, however, for legacy’s sake, did not change much.





#7
  1. The time has come for the first stage of the great Vincent Automotive global re-branding, due to issues with obtaining modern tooling equipment for a more ahead-of-the-curve, curvy styling, the new design had to make do, until 1991, with a similar, boxy, body shape to the outgoing models. The new design featured a pair of futuristic, angular headlights, the full length chrome strip remains, as do the reach-under door handles, the rear has a familiar, squared off shape with another pair of futuristic light clusters capping the inset plastic strip, a carry-up from the Capacia and Sportiva eras, the fake rear ‘grille’ houses the yellow license plate and, in the case of this SportLine model, dual exhausts exit through the end segments, this SportLine model features a rear wing of new design and front/rear lips. As with Sportiva, the lower front grille houses the fog lights in its end segments, however, the license plate is placed just above it rather than inside it. Customers liked the new deisgn, commenting on its forward thinking front end and enhanced interior. The media, however, were very cynical, commenting on the new, entry level Erupt’s customisable interior trim pieces that were designed to be removed by the customer in order to change the colour or pattern of that segment, remarking “The supposedly consumer customisable interior trim is tacky and is simply too easy to take off, our test driver worried that pieces may fall off mid drive”. When it came to the high end, the praise was never ending, one outlet reviewed the SportLine trim of the Mk. 2 Caldera, commenting on its rapid acceleration, good handling and satisfyingly raspy Boxer 6 engine. This rebranding also brought some new colours- Nightfall Black, Blood Maroon, Midnight Blue and SportLine Green. These promo shots feature the Mk.2 Caldera SportLine in matching green colour.



#8

After 6 years of producing the Futurisma style, Vincent Automotive had successfully obtained the advanced tooling products that would allow the originally planned Futurisma body shape to be produced en mass. This style would be called “Late Futurisma” to show that it is an evolution from Futurisma as opposed to a complete restyle, as all previous design eras had been until this point. The new design, due to its being an evolution, wasn’t much to talk about in comparison to early Futurisma back in '85. Apart from, that body style, the new, sleek curves wowed customers and gave them a sense as to what the future would hold, indeed, this overall shape would be imitated by automakers the world over for the foreseeable future, well into the post millennium. Customers and auto-reviewers alike loved the evolved design and how it managed to stay true to the history of the company with the full length chrome strip and the inset plastic strip connecting the rear headlights while also presenting a bold, modern aesthetic. This example is the updated Caldera, this time in ComfortLine trim, with the top of the line 3.5l Inline 6, complete with a turbocharger and electric fuel injection, and presented in the elegant Blood Maroon





#9

As the Millenium drew near, automakers all over the world were experimenting with wacky styles in order to bring the space age onto the roads. Vincent, on the other hand, took the opportunity to heavily refine their styling. With a less severe upward rake in the body as compared to 1991-1996 models, cars appear longer, the flatter face of new models gives them a more cohesive look as they better align to the shape of the body. Amongst this redesign, was a new, mid-spec model, called Europa, which quickly gained notability for its incredibly efficient ES4-180ti engine, a 1.8l turbocharged and electronically fuel injected inline 4, which made 160bhp, despite its larger size and high power output compared to its rival, the Toyota Prius 1 with its advanced 1NZ-FXE + Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain, it was not far behind at 50.4 miles per UK Gallon, in fact, customers found the Vincent more economical in practice as its higher output lower down meant that it did not need to be driven as hard, its design also earned it sales against the Prius with its elegant styling that matched that of the larger Caldera Mk.4 and the estate version matching that of the Monolith Mk.4. As with most Vincent models, Europa was praised for its comfortable ride when cruising and engaging handling on the small circuit, although, Gear D did note that it did seem to “run out of guts” on their downhill back straight and that it “ploughed” with understeer through the slingshot when at speeds of over 105mph. The public generally liked the refreshed design language, commenting on its lack of “blobbyness” to quote one Monolith buyer. The media were also positive about the new series of powertrains, with more FWD and AWD options than prior, cars were more manageable at road speeds if less engaging on track.