Hampton Motor Group (HMG) [Generations II]

Hampton Motor Group (HMG) [Generations II]

Overview and Early History

The Hampton Motor Group was established in 1948 in Warwick, England and has grown from relatively small beginnings to a major volume manufacturer. Its origins can be traced back to 1936, when the Warwick Motor Car Company was established. It was intended to launch with two models, the Voyager and Wayfarer, but the outbreak of the Second World War halted these plans due to the factory being destroyed by a Luftwaffe air raid. However, after the war, a young entrepreneur named Toby Hampton saw the potential in these two models, and bought out the entire company along with the rights to its model and engine range, renaming the former after himself in the process. By the autumn of 1947, the factory had been fully rebuilt, and production of the Voyager and Wayfarer commenced in the spring of the following year, marking the start of HMG as a whole.

Historic Model Range

This list will be updated as more models are added to this thread over time.

  • 1948: Voyager (small car), Wayfarer (large car)
  • 1956: Ferret (junior), Valiant (senior), Nevis (utility), Transtar (van), Shrike (small sports car), Peregrine (large sports car)
  • 1960: Vanguard (full-size luxury car)
  • 1966: Ferret II (compact), Valiant II (mid-size)
  • 1969: Vanguard II (full-size luxury car)
  • 1974: Fennec (subcompact)
  • 1977: Ferret II (compact), Valiant III (mid-sized), Vanguard III (full-sized luxury car), Nevis II (large pick-up), Fairlie (small pick-up), Transtar II (van), Harpy (sports coupe)
  • 1985: Fennec II (subcompact), Ferret III (mid-size), Valiant IV (full-size executive car), Vanguard IV (luxury sedan), Peregrine (sports car), Transtar III (van)
  • 1987: Nevis III (pick-up), Transliner (people mover)
  • 1991: Fennec III (subcompact), Valiant V (full-size executive car), Vanguard V (luxury sedan), * Venator (grand tourer), Braemar (SUV)

1948: Hampton Motor Group debuts, launches Voyager and Wayfarer

The Voyager served as HMG’s entry-level model in the company’s early years. It was very basic, with minimal interior trimmings and simple underpinnings inherited from the original Warwick blueprints to reduce costs. Initially, it was only offered as a four-door sedan, powered by a 35-horsepower 1.0-litre overhead-valve inline-four mated to a two-speed manual gearbox.

For those with bigger budgets, the Wayfarer offered an overhead-valve, 70-horsepower 2.0-litre inline-six in a larger, more spacious body, sharing its chassis layout (albeit lengthened) and two-speed transmission with the Voyager but with a more spacious and upmarket interior. Unlike the Voyager, the Wayfarer was only offered as a four-door sedan.

1952: First Updates for Hampton Range

In 1952, the entire Hampton model range was updated with larger, more powerful engines and new taillights. The Voyager’s base engine now displaced 1.25 litres and made 43 horsepower, and three new body styles (estate, 4-door convertible and 2-door coupe) were added.

In anticipation of the completion of the first motorways, a 1.5-litre version of the Voyager’s overhead-valve engine became optional that same year. Voyagers fitted with this larger engine were distinguished by a chrome strip running down their bonnets.

The Wayfarer also received an optional larger engine as well in the form of a 2.5-litre version of the straight-six, developing 90 horsepower. As with the Voyager, examples fitted with the optional engine also had their bonnets bisected by a chrome strip.

1952 also saw the adoption of automatic transmission (again with two forward speeds) as an optional extra on both the Voyager and Wayfarer. By then, both cars had sold well throughout Europe on account of their affordability and mechanical simplicity, but by 1955, the time had come to replace them both - and seeing that his company could not survive on European sales alone, Toby Hampton also decided to expand into the American market for 1956 with a new range of cars, built using platforms and engines that were designed fully in-house. A new and exciting chapter in the company’s history was about to begin…


1956: Hampton Enters U.S. Market

The all-new 1956 Hampton model range, from left to right: Ferret sedan in Petrol Blue, Wayfarer sedan in Marble Red, and Nevis pick-up in Olive Green

In 1956, Hampton began selling cars in North America for the first time. They launched with three completely new cars: the compact, four-cylinder Ferret, the larger six-cylinder Valiant, and a large truck called the Nevis. All of them had all-new unibody construction (with struts up front and a coil-sprung live axle at the rear) and were powered by single-overhead-cam engines, except for the Nevis, which retained a ladder frame and an overhead-valve engine for reliability’s sake.

To distinguish the Valiant from its smaller sibling, Hampton offered it with a premium interior and AM radio as standard, in an effort to appeal to wealthier customers seeking a more upmarket car. This contrasted with the smaller Ferret, which was pitched as a cheaper economy car for those with tighter budgets. Both cars could also be optioned with a two-speed automatic gearbox - an option more popular on the Valiant due to its greater power and upmarket positioning. Also, in a first for the company, all three were fitted with radial tires as standard.

Although the Ferret and Valiant had the same underpinnings, the former used a shrunken version of the latter’s chassis, with a shorter wheelbase. This was a conscious decision undertaken by company CEO Toby Hampton to reduce production costs. Meanwhile, the Ferret’s predecessor, the Voyager, went out of production in 1960, four years after its larger sibling, the Wayfarer had been discontinued in favor of the more modern Valiant. However, even before the new range had come out, Toby secretly harbored a dream - to see a sports car powered by his engines. To realize his dream, he would either have his company develop such a car in-house, or sell the engines to another manufacturer. The story of the Hampton Motor Group would soon take an interesting turn…


Based on those numbers, I think KATSURO Automotive will be a rival of Hampton. I look forward to the competition!

Other Hampton Models Introduced in 1956

Note: These models were not entered in Round 1 of Generations II, due to either not fitting into any categories or the presence of other vehicles from the same category in the HMG model range.

In addition to the Ferret, Valiant and Nevis, Hampton’s range included a small sports car called the Shrike, and a larger grand tourer called the Peregrine. These two-door coupes differed significantly in mechanical specification and standard equipment. While the Peregrine used an enlarged, 3.2-litre 150-horsepower version of the Valiant’s straight-six and received double wishbone suspension front and rear, the Shrike rode on a shortened Ferret floorpan and made do with a 1.8-litre straight-four developing just 80 horsepower. Moreover, the Peregrine had a premium interior with a higher-grade radio as standard, while the Shrike had a mid-grade radio available as an option. The Peregrine’s larger size also meant that it could be ordered with an optional pair of rear seats, unlike the Shrike.

The sixth model in Hampton’s expanded lineup was the Transtar, a van built on the same platform as the Nevis, but powered by a 1.8-litre overhead-valve straight-four. This bare-bones delivery vehicle was initially sold exclusively to fleets, mainly in Europe and North America. However, some surviving examples have ended up in the hands of private collectors in the decades since the original Transtar debuted.

Left to right: Shrike fixed-head coupe in British Racing Green, Peregrine 2-seater coupe in Admiralty Blue, and Transtar cargo van in Beige

Both of Hampton’s new sports cars attracted plaudits for their performance and handling, while the Transtar turned out to be immensely popular with fleets. However, the cost and rarity of radial tyres forced Hampton to relegate them to the options list across the entire range in 1957, with the exception of the flagship Peregrine. All in all, Toby was pleased with how his new, much larger and more diverse model range was performing commercially - and the company was in good financial shape for the start of the coming decade.


1960: Hampton Expands, Updates Lineup

Above, from left to right: Hampton Peregrine Sprint, Valiant 3.2 Deluxe and Vanguard 3.5.

Much of Hampton’s model range would be updated for 1960. The Peregrine was now powered by a 3.5-litre straight-six, developing 144 horsepower in regular trim or 172 horsepower with the optional Sprint Package, which included a sportier suspension tune and a close-ratio gearbox. The Valiant, meanwhile, was now offered with either a 3.0-litre or 3.2-litre straight-six in place of the earlier 2.8-litre unit - a necessary change in view of the first motorways having opened in 1958, and a Supreme trim line, powered by a 3.5-litre engine, also became available on the sedan and Coupe, while the entry-level Prime trim was retained. However, most significantly of all, there was an all-new flagship four-door luxury sedan, the Vanguard. It’s 3.5-litre straight-six was shared with the Valiant Supreme and the regular Peregrine, and its interior was upholstered in genuine Connolly leather, with real wood accents.

Both the Ferret and Valiant were now available in estate form, but while the former could now be ordered as a convertible, the latter could not; instead, the third body style for the Valiant would be a two-door coupe. However, unlike the Peregrine, the Valiant Coupe was a full four-seater instead of a 2+2. The Ferret’s engine was enlarged to 1.8 litres, and a 3-speed automatic transmission became optional for the first time.

Above, from left to right: Valiant Prime 3.0 Sedan, Valiant Deluxe 3.0 Wagon, and Valiant 3.5 Supreme Coupe at the 1960 Detroit Auto Show. Below, from left to right: Ferret 1.8 in Light Blue, Ferret 1.8 Convertible in Daffodil, and Ferret 1.8 Estate in Crimson.

The Shrike would not be neglected for 1960, either: to offset the weight gain from additional standard equipment, a 2.0-litre version of the Ferret’s straight-four was now standard across the range, which now included a convertible for the first time ever.

Above: Shrike Coupe in Maroon (left) and Shrike Convertible in Imperial Blue (right). Below, from left to right: 1960 Peregrine range - Sprint Coupe in Hampton Green, 2+2 in Black, and Convertible in Bright Red.

Finally, as a bridge between the entry-level Ferret and the more upmarket Valiant trims, the latter was now available in entry-level Prime specification for the first time in North America. This cheaper, decontented trim level had already been on sale in Europe from the outset, with a smaller 2.5-litre engine; however, for the facelift, it received a 3-litre engine, as used in the more upmarket trims.

1956 Valiant Prime 2.5 in Ebony (left) and 1960 Valiant Prime 3.0 in Sterling Silver (right)

From just one model upon its inception in 1948, the Hampton Model Group now had a well over a dozen passenger car variants, plus three utility vehicles (Nevis pickup and wagon, Transtar van) by 1960. This diversity was, quite frankly, necessary in order for the company to cover all bases, especially since the opposition (mainly Continental European makes, along with a few Far Eastern imports and North American motoring giants) was also trying to catch up. Nevertheless, Toby Hampton remained proud of what he had done not just for himself and his company, but also Britain as a whole, along with its people.


1985: A New Dawn in Frankfurt

Note: Due to the next round of Generations II being delayed by much more than expected, I had to insert this post at short notice instead of one depicting their 1966 lineup. It will, however, be linked to a corresponding post in Generations II when the time comes for me to do so.

After struggling through much of the 1970s, the Hampton Motor Group began to experience an upturn in its fortunes in the early 1980s, thanks to chairman Toby Hampton’s decision to invest in an almost entirely all-new model range, underpinned mostly by a single scalable rear-drive platform with fully independent suspension. To go along with this, he ordered the company’s powertrain department to develop dual-overhead-cam versions of its existing four- and six-cylinder passenger car engines, still with two valves per cylinder, but now with alloy heads for the first time.

The smallest of these cars was the fourth-generation Ferret, powered by either a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, or a range of six-cylinder engines from 2.8 litres to 3.5 litres, mated either to five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions.

Above, left to right: Examples of the 1985 Ferret range - 2.2 Prime estate, 3.0 Deluxe, 3.5 Supreme coupe, and 2.8 Deluxe convertible.

For the large executive car segment, a new generation of Valiant would also be introduced, Unlike the Ferret, it was available exclusively with six-cylinder engines, and there was also a Sprint variant, built to homologate the car for Group A touring car racing. This high-performance trim was only available as a coupe or sedan, and a five-speed manual was the only transmission offered. Buyers could even pay extra to make it even more potent with a Performance Pack that included high-performance tires, a more aggressive suspension tune, and a shorter final drive.

Above, from left to right: Examples of the 1985 Valiant range - 2.8 Prime estate, 3.2 Deluxe sedan, 3.0 Deluxe convertible, and 3.5 Sprint coupe with Performance Pack. Below, from left to right: 1985 Valiant 3.5 Supreme coupe and Valiant 3.5 Sprint sedan w/o Performance pack.

The third and largest car to use this new platform was the third-generation Vanguard. With a more luxurious interior, a highly advanced sound system and an improved self-levelling hydro-pneumatic suspension, it stood apart from its smaller derivatives with a greater focus on luxury, and could only be ordered with an automatic transmission for the sake of comfort. As with the Valiant, a Sprint version was available, although it was produced in far more limited numbers than its smaller cousin.

Above: 1985 Vanguard III 3.5 Supreme (left) and Vanguard III 3.2 Deluxe (right). Below: 1985 Vanguard III 3.5 Supreme Coupe (left) and Vanguard III Sprint Coupe (right).

The real headline-grabber, though, was the all-new Peregrine II, reintroduced after a decade-long absence. This reborn icon reverted to the original car’s configuration of a small, light, rear-drive two-seater powered by a six-cylinder engine mated exclusively to a manual transmission, and offered either as a fixed-roof coupe or soft-top convertible. Cleverly tuned double-wishbone suspension at each corner made it one of the best-handling road cars of its time, and it was fairly quick off the mark, thanks to its use of the Valiant Sprint’s highly-tuned engine.

Above: 1985 Peregrine II Coupe (left) and Convertible (right).

Earlier in the year, Hampton’s first front-wheel-drive car, the Fennec, also received a redesign. This wasn’t an all-new car, since it used the same transverse-engined platform of its predecessor, but new powertrains and styling meant that this version would be referred to as the Fennec II. It was now offered in a wider variety of trims than before, including a high-performance, three-door-only Sprint, powered by a 1.8-litre straight-four and aimed at the burgeoning hot hatch market. Lesser Fennecs made do with smaller, less powerful 1.6-litre or 1.7-litre four-cylinder engines, but all of them returned good mileage thanks to a cleverly tuned multi-point fuel injection system being standard across the range, as was the case on their more upmarket cars.

Above: 1985 Fennec II 1.8 Sprint (left) and 1985 Fennec II 1.6 Prime (right)

All 1985 Hampton models, from the Fennec to the Vanguard, also benefited from improved rust protection and build quality compared to their predecessors, and in the case of the Vanguard and the more upmarket Valiant trims, anti-lock brakes, either as standard or as an option. In addition, every car they sold would now come standard with a three-way catalytic converter and run solely on unleaded fuels, no matter where it was sold.

Although these innovations made them more expensive to build and develop, they sold in greater volumes globally compared to their immediate predecessors, more than making up for the company’s initial investment and restoring the brand’s reputation. As a consequence, the Hampton Motor Group enjoyed several years of strong, steady profits, putting the company in a strong position by the early 1990s.

Link to 1985 Hampton Peregrine

Link to 1985 Hampton Valiant

Link to 1985 Hampton Vanguard and Ferret

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1966: Hampton Joins the Muscle Car Craze

Back to Generations lore this time after a long hiatus.

Having successfully bought the rights and tooling to a discarded prototype MAD small-block V8, the Hampton Motor Group began searching for suitable platforms into which it could be fitted. Fortunately, the new Valiant II was more than capable of swallowing it up in its engine bay. To this end, Hampton began selling the first-ever Valiant Sprint in the fourth quarter of 1965 as a 1966 model. Displacing 5.0 litres and developing a solid 245 net horsepower, it was capable of sending the flagship Valiant to 60 mph from a standstill in just 7 seconds, thanks to the car’s relatively low weight compared to most other muscle and pony cars.

Above, from left: Ferret II 1.8 sedan, Valiant II 3.0 Prime sedan, Valiant II 5.0 Sprint coupe, and Transtar 2.0 panel van.

Lesser Valiants were once again offered with updated versions of the company’s overhead-cam straight-six or straight-four engines (depending on trim level), and unlike the Sprint (which was coupe-only at launch), they were all available in a wide range of body styles (coupe, saloon, estate, convertible); the smaller and cheaper Ferret, on the other hand, was offered solely with straight-fours, and only as a saloon or estate (at least initially), in keeping with its positioning as Hampton’s entry-level car. Meanwhile, the Transtar saw very few changes for 1966, with the exception of its engine being enlarged to 2.0 litres.

Above: There are few 1960s motoring experiences more memorable than driving a Hampton Peregrine V8 Coupe on a winding mountain road.

Hampton’s flagship, the Peregrine, also received the 5.0-litre V8, but in a slightly more aggressive state of tune, and in this application, it replaced the earlier six-cylinder engines outright instead of supplementing them as they did on the Valiant. Unsurprisingly, it was now much faster than it once was, but Hampton also retuned the suspension accordingly, which meant that it was still as agile in the corners as it had always been. The smaller Shrike, on the other hand, made do with four-cylinder power, but with 120 horsepower from 2.2 litres, it too was more powerful than it had ever been before.

Above: The Valiant 2.2 may have had a more primitive chassis configuration than the Peregrine, but it was cheaper to buy and run, and was also smaller and lighter.

With its model range revitalized by a new engine family and a comprehensive redesign of its core range, the Hampton Motor Group enjoyed another wave of growth, one that would last well into the Seventies - until the first oil crisis forced a reevaluation of the company’s plans.


That’s quite a lot of power from 2.2 litres in 1966. I wonder how it is on fuel economy?

1972: Polishing the Breed

Left to right: Valiant II 3.5 Prime, Valiant II V8 5.0 Supersprint, and Vanguard II V8 5.0.

By 1972, most of Hampton’s model range had received minor trim and equipment upgrades. For the Valiant, however, there were more significant changes under the skin, with the Prime’s standard engine now a 3.5L I6 and a Supersprint package (with long-tube headers, high-flow intake and a more aggressive cam profile) being optional on the flagship V8 Sprint.

As for the Vanguard II, it was launched in 1969 with a choice of six- or eight-cylinder engines, but by 1972 only the 5.0L V8 remained. Detuned to provide 200 horsepower instead of 270 (as it did in the Supersprint trims of the Peregrine and Valiant II), it nevertheless provided a welcome boost in performance. Boasting fully independent rear suspension and a novel hydropneumatic system (both company firsts), and a high-end interior with an 8-track player, it was now Hampton’s most advanced and luxurious car to date.

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I could maybe see the Valiant II being a worthy competitor to the GTE trim of the Hillstrom Talladega (look up the movie/tv challenge two rounds ago for reference) and the question might have been buy British or stay patriotic, what do you think?

As submitted in that particular challenge, the Talladega GTE had a 219ci V6 - solid for 1974, but the Valiant Supersprint came out two years earlier, and with a 305ci V8 developing 270 net horsepower, the V6 Talladega would unfortunately have struggled to keep up in a straight line. The V8 might have closed the gap somewhat, though.

Sure, but the optional V8 might have made a difference, with the V6 basically being a budget alternative with 2 cylinders cut off, hence the 90 degree layout (totallynotlookingatyouGM).

1977: Hampton Adapts to the Unleaded Age

Left to right: Fennec 1.6i in Bittersweet Vermilion, Valiant III 2.8 Prime in Olive Green, and Nevis II in Sand Beige.

The 1970s would see the most drastic changes to the Hampton lineup since the company’s inception. After the oil crisis, performance was out, while economy, comfort, and safety were in. To that end, the Sprint and SuperSprint trims of the mid-size Valiant were axed with the 1977 redesign, which adopted a sleeker shape and larger bumpers in accordance with new Federal regulations. However, the upmarket Deluxe trim was retained.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the range, Hampton’s entry-level economy car, the Fennec, debuted in 1974 on the company’s first-ever transverse-engined, front-wheel-drive platform, before being updated three years later with a larger engine. This, along with all other Hampton passenger car engines, was fitted with mechanical fuel injection as standard - a company first. Chairman Toby had deemed it a necessity to take full advantage of the reduced emissions brought on by a combination of unleaded fuel and the catalytic converter mandate in the US market.

The Nevis also received a redesign for 1977, but its mechanicals were similar to those of its predecessor: a carbureted 3.2-litre straight-six up front, solid axles front and rear, and a galvanized steel ladder-frame chassis. These simple underpinnings were deliberately chosen to keep purchase and maintenance costs down.

Above: Vanguard MkIII 3.5 (left) and Ferret 2.0 (right).

As part of the wholesale changes to the entire Hampton line-up, the compact Ferret and flagship Vanguard were also redesigned for 1977. The former was available exclusively with mechanical fuel injection as standard in the U.S. market, with engines displacing up to 2.0 litres, and slotted in between the entry-level Fennec and mid-size Valiant. The Vanguard lost its V8 option, and in its place was a fuel-injected version of the long-serving Hampton straight-six, developing 150 horsepower.

In short, Hampton’s focus on efficiency and safety - two of the most important selling points in the US market in the immediate aftermath of the oil crisis - left it in better shape than many other British car manufacturers. However, this meant that the much-loved but aging Shrike and Peregrine also had to be discontinued after two decades of continuous production. This would have left Hampton without a true sports car (or any high-performance cars, for that matter) in its lineup for the first time since 1955, if it were not for a last-minute decision to use the Valiant platform for the basis of a new sports coupe, called the Harpy. Performance would eventually return to pre-crisis levels, but not until long after the oil crisis had ended.

Even more worryingly for enthusiasts, 1977 also saw the axing of the original Hampton V8 engine. Chairman Toby, after seeing sales of his V8-powered cars fall off a cliff in the aftermath of the first oil crisis, realized that he had to take drastic action just to save his company - and the V8 line was the first to go. Hampton as a whole would not have a V8 in its lineup for well over a decade afterwards. It would return during the 1990s - and this time it would be developed entirely in-house - but that is a story for another post.

Postscript: A Rude Awakening and a New Transtar

The earliest examples of the 1977 Nevis II were powered by a carbureted straight-six due to cost-cutting measures imposed after the fuel crisis. However, this resulted in an unusually unreliable car, and this engine was replaced by a fuel-injected version from late 1977. The resulting Nevis II 3.2i fixed its predecessor’s Achilles’ heel, and was more efficient to boot. In fact, all carbureted examples were re-engined with the new fuel-injected powerplant shortly after the 3.2i was released to the market.

In addition to this, Hampton also redesigned the Transtar for 1977. Still built on a separate chassis with solid axles front and rear, it now had a more angular body, and shared its 2.2-liter inline-four with the Valiant III. This new van was not an off-road machine in the vein of the Nevis II, but a work van primarily intended for use on tarmac.

Above: Nevis 3.2i (left) and Transtar 2.2i (right)

Along with these two, Hampton also launched a smaller, cheaper truck based on a shrunken version of the Nevis platform - the Fairlie. Despite only having 70 horsepower from its fuel-injected inline-four, its light weight, off-road suspension and tires, closely spaced gearing, and a permanent 4x4 system borrowed from the Nevis made it very suited to rock crawling.

The botched launch of the Nevis II marked the first time that Hampton rushed a product to market in an attempt to beat its rivals to the punch - but after seeing this plan backfire spectacularly, Chairman Toby did everything he could in his power to make sure it would be the last, by decreeing that no vehicle or its powertrain should be launched unless it has been properly tested in all conditions. This was an essential part of his “Quality Improvement Plan”, as he called it, and ensured that the next generation of Hamptons would be better built than their predecessors.


1981: New Decade, New Horizons

Above, from left: Hampton Fennec 1.6i 3-door, Hampton Harpy 3.5 GTS, and Hampton Vanguard III Elite LWB sedan.

Most of Hampton’s passenger car line-up would receive minor mechanical and trim updates for 1981, including the compact Fennec, full-sized Vanguard and Harpy sports coupe. The latter had actually been introduced in 1977, with seating for two or four occupants, and unlike the Peregrine it replaced, it was exclusively available as a fixed-roof coupe. Despite sharing its platform with other RWD Hampton models, it was better to drive than expected, thanks to well-tuned 4-wheel independent suspension. However, it was not until 1981 that the Harpy really came of age, with the release of the high-performance GTS model. Its engine now developed 190 horsepower, which made it competitive against other contemporary sports cars, and unlike lesser Harpies, it was available exclusively with a manual transmission, while a mechanical LSD was also standard - a first for the company. Visually, the GTS was distinguished from its lesser brethren by a hood bulge, front air dam, rear spoiler, and pop-up headlights, the last of which became standard on all Harpies from 1982 onwards.

The flagship Vanguard range had been expanded in 1977 with its latest redesign. Three body styles were available: short-wheelbase sedan, long-wheelbase sedan, and short-wheelbase coupe. Hydropneumatic suspension was standard on the long-wheelbase model and optional on all short-wheelbase cars. Yet even without it, all Vanguards benefited from a comfortable ride and a highly luxurious interior. By 1981, it had earned a reputation for being Hampton’s most opulent offering to date.

Above, from left: Some short-wheelbase Vanguard variants - 1977 sedan (red), 1977 coupe (green), and 1981 sedan (silver).

The Ferret also received a redesign in 1977, but was updated slightly in 1981 to keep it fresh, especially against foreign competition.

Above: A facelifted 1981 Ferret cruising through the Scottish Highlands just after dawn. Below: A pre-facelift 1977 Ferret next to an early long-wheelbase 1977 Vanguard.

Even though the Hampton Motor Group had been plagued by inconsistency throughout the 1970s, it was still in better shape financially than most other British automakers. As a reward, a limited run of 1500 30th Anniversary Harpies was produced in 1978, all painted bright yellow; this was followed up by another 1500 35th Anniversary Harpies, all finished in black. Chairman Toby even received a Harpy as a 60th birthday present, and used it as a test bed for mechanical and styling upgrades that would appear on the GTS model.

Above: 1978 30th Anniversary Harpy (left) and 1983 35th Anniversary Harpy (right).

With so much of its range being updated for 1981, the Hampton Motor Group was ready to confront the challenges and excitement of the new decade - and it had to, given that foreign competitors had not stood still either. But Chairman Toby had seen them coming, and having recently implemented a raft of new quality control and testing policies, he would now lead his company through what would turn out to be a prosperous decade.


1987: The Hampton Renaissance Continues

Click here for more information about the 1987 Hampton model range

The 1980s were generally kind to the Hampton Motor Group as a whole. By 1987, most of their newly revamped model range was not only selling like hotcakes, but was so well-received by critics that public opinion of the brand had significantly improved compared to a decade earlier. That year, the Transliner people mover joined the line-up. Available with four to eight seats depending on configuration, it took the company into what was, up until then, uncharted territory. Meanwhile, a 2.8-liter engine became optional on the Ferret for the first time.

As for the Nevis, it received a new body and electronic fuel injection as part of its second redesign, with the latter finally being standard equipment on the entry-level Fennec. Advanced safety systems would also be offered across the whole range, either as standard or as an option. This was inevitable given the fact that the Hampton Motor Group was under immense legislative pressure at the time. Ultimately, however, their investment in these new technologies would pay off; by 1988, when the company celebrated its 40th anniversary, Hampton was more profitable than it had been in any prior year up to that point.


1991: Hampton Enters the Modern Era

The early 1990s saw the most drastic changes to the Hampton lineup as a whole. Most of their range was powered by an all-new range of all-alloy engines with multi-point EFI, four-valve dual-overhead-cam heads, and variable intake valve timing, making them the most advanced and efficient engines the company had made up to that point. In addition, many of their models were either completely redesigned or significantly updated during this time. Their range for 1991 included the following vehicles:

Fennec III - Hampton’s entry-level hatchback, with subcompact dimensions and good fuel economy making it an ideal fit for urban driving. Its curvaceous, cheerful styling was in complete contrast to the boxy, angular lines of its predecessor.

1991 Fennec range, from left to right: 1.6 Essence 5-door, 1.8 Prime 3-door, and 2.0 Prime 3-door.

Ferret - Revised for 1991 with a minor front- and rear-end facelift. All-alloy HE6 (High Efficiency 6-cylinder) range of straight-six engines are the only powertrain options available in the US market as the Ferret moves upmarket.

1991 Ferret range, from left to right: 2.8 Prime sedan, 2.8 Prime wagon, 3.0 Deluxe convertible, and 3.2 Supreme coupe.

Valiant Mk. V - Now available only as a 4-door sedan or 5-door estate, the Valiant is built on an all-new platform with a double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear end - the first Hampton ever with such an advanced setup.

1991 Valiant range, from left to right: 2.8 Prime sedan, 2.8 Prime estate, 3.0 Deluxe sedan, and 4.5 Supreme sedan.

Vanguard Mk.V - The most luxurious and prestigious mainstream car Hampton has made to date, built on a long-wheelbase version of the Mk.V Valiant platform. Air suspension is optional on the 4.5 V8 Supreme and standard on the 6.0 V12 Elite; however, both models come with adaptive dampers as standard.

1991 Vanguard range, from left to right: 4.5 V8 Supreme, 6.0 V12 Elite.

Venator - This flagship 2-door grand tourer effectively replaced the Valiant and Vanguard Coupes, and was offered as a coupe or convertible. It shared its engines and air suspension with the fifth-generation Vanguard.

1991 Venator range, left to right: 4.5 V8 convertible, 4.5 V8 coupe, 6.0 V12 convertible, 6.0 V12 coupe.

Transliner - Updated for 1991 with a mild exterior facelift and a more powerful 2.0L 16-valve straight-four as the standard engine.

1991 Transliner showing its revised front end.

Braemar - Built on an adapted Nevis III platform, and powered by all-iron, single-overhead-cam, 12-valve versions of Hampton’s straight-six - the HD6 (Heavy-Duty Six-Cylinder). 4x4 with manually locking differentials are standard across the board, as they are on the Nevis.

1991 Braemar range, from left to right: Braemar 4x4 2.8 and Braemar 4x4 3.2.

Nevis III - Also powered by the Hampton HD4 straight-six, this facelifted version boasted improved performance and efficiency.

1991 Nevis III 2.8 (left) and 3.2 (right) - the other workhorses of the Hampton range.

Transtar - Updated to Series II specification for 1991, and now powered by the HD4 (Heavy-Duty 4-cylinder) engine, in addition to being facelifted, but otherwise mostly unchanged. The Transtar remains the workhorse van of the Hampton lineup, as it has always been since its introduction in 1956.

1991 Hampton Transtar 2.2 Series II making a delivery run through the desert.

This large-scale modernization of the entire Hampton range cost the company billions of pounds to implement - but the newly promoted Chairman Tony was confident that he could recoup his investment within a reasonable time frame, as were his colleagues. By 1991 the core range was mostly sorted out - but Chairman Toby had bigger ambitions in mind as well. The Group A racing program was gone by then; however, a complete absence of performance models would not be tolerated, and to that end, Toby wanted a range of dedicated sports cars to join the range, from the affordable end of the performance car spectrum to the rarefied air of exotica. It would not be until the following year that they would be launched, though, but Toby assured his customers that they would all be worth the wait.


What happened to wayfarer, harpy, and transtar?

The Wayfarer was one of Hampton’s first cars, alongside the Voyager, and was only produced from 1948 to 1956. The Harpy, meanwhile, was only produced from 1977 (when it was introduced as a replacement for the original Peregrine) to 1985, when the Peregrine II took its place. As for the Transtar, I will update my most recent post as soon as I can to feature a revised version of it.

And regarding the company’s plans to have at least one new sports or performance car on sale by 1992: I had originally intended for this to occur around 1994/5, but eventually decided that Hampton could do so a few years earlier, to better fit existing lore.

Shouldn’t transtar have I6 and deisel-spec engines?

Operating costs were a key priority for Hampton, so an I6 option was not considered, as had been the case in the past. Nor do I know how to simulate a diesel engine in Automation. The I4 in the facelifted version does provide improved economy and performance, though.