The T.G.Sports (1955)

HISTORY      -              REPORTS ,ARTICLES & FEEDBACK 


"A Piece of New Zealand History"

1983 and #1                                              2001 and #300

  

N.Z.'s most successful car, kitset or otherwise.

1983-1991 -
Marks 1 through 4, Triumph Herald chassis with either Triumph Herald motor, or Nissan A series 1200,1400, or 1500cc motors.

1991-2002 -
Mark 5 Custom made chassis with Nissan Z series 1800 or 2000cc motor.

2003 - TODAY -
T.G. Sports utilising all Mazda Miata MX5 mechanicals including the motor & gearbox.

Russell Hooper entered into the auto body assembly business in 1984 as one of the earliest New Zealand manufacturer of kitset cars.

Russell was a medical supply representative for some 30 years, and always had a desire to own an MG TF, but could never justify the cost of ownership. In the early 80’s he decided to build his own, utilising the Triumph Herald platform chassis, that vehicle being the only modern car with separate chassis. Many companies in the UK were using this donor vehicle as it provided all the mechanical parts required to complete an affordable car.

By 1983 the first, and so far only, car had been shown at the Auckland Motor Show and enough interest generated to indicate a healthy demand for the vehicle in kitset form.

Kit Kars Ltd was formed in 1984 as the manufacturer of kitsets of the 1955 M.G. TF. These replicas were built by individual customers from body parts supplied by the company. The car was named The T Car.

Warwick Tweedy, a personal friend of Russell’s doubled the one man band in 1984 and assisted in the marketing and brain storming of the car. His main efforts were directed at sales.

From 1983 to 1985 the company supplied 20 Mark 1 kitsets. This model had 100% Triumph Herald chassis and mechanical parts, plywood floor and firewall, fibreglass grill with rod bars, and a tub made up of 5 panels.

# 22 (Mr Hugh Cooper) had the new one piece body tub but retained the old grill shape. These were designated as MK1A with 6 being made. Some customers, over the years have upgraded these cars to MK2 by replacing the bonnet panels and grill to the later shape.

# 21, Oct 1985, (Mr Con Hickey) had the MG TF grill design, although in fiberglass.

All Mark 2’s had a one piece tub with its floor and firewall being built in with the TF grill shape. During the model’s life there were several modifications to the grills, from the Mark 1, to a fibreglass replica of the TF, to an ABS plastic, to a steel, to eventually a brass one. All the while it was being attempted to chrome plate the grill but only the last 2 attempts succeeding.

From 1985 to 1991 the company supplied 186 Mark 2 kitsets. This model still used the Triumph Herald chassis and running gear but moved to more modern motor and gearbox, namely the “A” series Datsun (Nissan) in either 1200, 1400, or 1500cc sizes with 4 or 5 speed gearboxes, although the Triumph motors were still occasionally used.

By this time two other people involved themselves in the project.

Mr Alex Rohde, a gifted engineer who had already been involved in the creation of the one piece body tub, became more involved wit the further development of the car.

In 1993 the first Swallow was born to a Mr Doug St George. Doug had earlier built a Mark 2 T Car and wanted to get a larger car. While the Swallow had largely already been developed, a lot of small items remained to be worked out. Not wanting to wait for the final development of the car Doug spent many hours researching and searching for the parts to make it all work. The company demonstrator was therefore the second car to be built in 1994. The Swallow continued until 2003 with 10 Mark I, and 4 Mark 2’s made. The Mark 2 had the new boot shape.

Warwick ceased his involvement in 1997 due to lagging sales caused by the great influx of Japanese imports. From this point on Alex would be contracted and consulted to make all the steel work for the T car, including the steel/brass grills. His company was to be known as Multicraft Services Ltd, and later as Rohde Engineering.

Mr Jim Woonton became the upholsterer of choice and he certainly has done the majority of cars to date.

In the late 1980’s it was decided that the NZ market was just too small for future growth and it was decided to develop our own chassis and redesign the total car to comply with the ADR’s (Australian Design Rule).

To this end a consultant design engineer was employed, Mr Richard Wong, who designed all items that required ADR specifications. Later when family commitments no longer allowed him the time a Mr Walter Wing carried on.

Over the years the company had used various fibreglass laminating companies, but in 1992 decided to do it all in house. This decision was made due to the poor service and quality being provided at that time. One person was employed and the new company of AC Fibreglass was started with just 1200 sqr feet of factory. Within 4 years this was to grow to 11 staff and 12000 sq feet of factory space.

In 1996 Kit Kars Ltd changed its name to Alternative Cars Ltd.

The Mark 5 was born (the 5 or V chosen to stand for the Viva suspension) in 1991, # 197 to a Mr R Mooney. The all new Mark 5 T Car utilised the Vauxhall Viva, or Holden 4 cylinder Torana LC or LJ in Australia, front and rear suspensions in all their entirety, and were powered by the Nissan Z series motor and box, 1800 and 2000cc. Very late models then swung to the Mazda Miata MX5 1600cc motor and box. The Mark 5 was sent to Australia and experienced some success, the first to a Mr Bill Walters #250 in 1996, who was appointed as the Australian distributor. This model also had some developments, but they were mainly cosmetic. One major change, however, was a change in powerplant. In 2001 it was decided to upgrade to an injected motor to assist with compliance issues in Australia. The Mazda Miata MX5 was chosen as it was one of the few rear wheel drive cars still in production. The company’s silver demonstrator was the first to use it and was launched at the National motor Show 2001.

1999 saw the company build a small workshop, 600 sq ft, off to the side of Won-Door Ltd, a company owned by Russell and his wife, Betty Ann. This was the first time that it operated away from either Warwick’s or Russell’s homes.

In Jan 1990 Russell purchased a SS100 replicar built by the late Bill Gardner, who unfortunately died prior to completing the car. It was finished by Everson Panel and retained by Bills widow. The kitset was of Antique & Classic Corp (USA) origin, an American kitset of the 1937 SS100 Jaguar. This car was purchased from his family to get an idea of other manufacturers design. The car was lost to fire in 1993, suffering from the typical problems of Ford Pintos.

In 2002 the T Car club donated to Southwards Auto Museum in Paraparamu, a T Car purported to be old #1. For the record it is in fact # 5, sold to a Mr Chris Carter in 1985 and who subsequently donated it to the T Car Club.

75 Mark 5’s were made up to Oct 2003, and continue to be available to those who want to be more “hands on” in the building of their cars.

In 2000 it was decided to invest in developing a model for LHD markets, primarily the USA, and to utilise the entire Mazda Miata MX5. It was not until Russell returned from the 2002 Carlisle Kit Car Show in Pennsylvania that any momentum was gained on this development. He also returned with a commitment from an interested party to being an agent, and also to show the new car at Knotts Berry Farm Kit Car Show in April 2003. The pressure was on, as the new car had not yet been developed and a shipping date of the 3 March 2003 loomed ahead. A solid team was formed with Alex Rohde at the helm of the development with Russell being the chief motivator. The car was delivered to the freight forwarder with 2 hours to spare!

The car was shown and won the coveted “Peoples Choice” trophy at Knotts Berry Farm, California, and then transported to the Carlisle “ National Kit Car Show” Pennsylvania.

Agents are currently active in the USA, Canada, UK, and Australia.

The new car, “The T G Sports 1955” (domestically the Mark 6) is primarily aimed at the export markets. The name TG is derived from the TF, but because in 2002 MG launched the new TF so depriving us of that name, it was decided that the G, being the next letter in line, and supposedly better, should be the new model.

The TG was also significantly different from its predecessors in that it was no longer a kitset car, but a “semi built “ vehicle, or as known in the US a “turnkey minus”. The car would now be delivered direct to the customer in a case, in a completely built up state, upholstered and painted, depending on customer option. The car could now be driven within days of receipt. All that had to be added was the Mazda Miata MX5 mechanicals saving countless hours of assembly. This opened up, namely the professional and female, markets, customers, who in the past did not have access to the car because of lack of skill, time, inclination, or space.

A change of Australian distributor took place in 2002 to a Mr Daryl Swaine, who retained the name of Alternative Cars Australia Pty Ltd. Daryl also involved himself in the rental car market with just two T Cars, his own white one, that he built, and the silver demonstrator from New Zealand.

In 2006 Russell completed building a replica of a 1954 XK140. This was powered by a Nissan 280Z and used all Holden Torana suspension. This car was called the XK130 as it was a mixture of XK120 and XK140 features.

Production of T Cars, Swallows, and TG’s (2008)

  • T Cars Mark 1 19
  • T Cars Mark 1A 7
  • T Cars Mark 2 191
  • T Cars Mark 5 55
  • T Cars Mark 5A 21
  • T Cars Mark 5L 2
  • T Cars Mark 6 (TG) 17
  • Swallows 15
  • Total (up to and including 2008) 327