Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bond - The Industrial Design Link

Being an Industrial Designer, or just an all-round car geek, I have an avid interest in the (sometimes) secret design history behind the cars I've owned. I guess most of us assume our cars, no matter how 'classic' or full of character they may be, have been designed by a faceless committee or Engineering Department. Increasingly, this is the case, but more often than you'd expect, there's an interesting design story behind our cars.

The Bond Equipe GT is a good example.

The rare Invisi-Bond Equipe!

Bond introduced the 4-cylinder Equipe to its range in 1963, based on a Triumph Herald, as an addition to it's range of oddball 3-wheeler Minicar's. The car was a rather humble, if stylish little machine, designed to fill a budget fastback market niche. It continued to improve over the years, but the release of Triumph's 6-cylinder Herald variant, the Triumph Vitesse, gave Bond the chance to lift the profile of their range with a more luxurious grand turismo. So Bond called in designer Trevor Fiore.

Fiore's claims to fame were few at this stage, although he was well publicised due to his new TVR Trident concept (a car that went on to become the Trident Clipper). Bond were keen on this concept and called in Fiore to adapt the design to the Vitesse's chassis and scuttle. Frustratingly, the results seemed not to anyone's satisfaction - Fiore departed, leaving Bond draftsman (or draughtsman, if you prefer) Alan Pounder to join all the pieces together.

The Trident Clipper - never mind the gate, just look at the size of those tyres!

Alan Pounder may have felt his role in the company somewhat diminished, as he's constantly referred to as their 'draftsman' (actually officially Chief Design and Development Engineer), despite his styling, engineering, prototyping and testing roles - Nick Wotherspoon's book features a great picture of him testing an early Bond 'jetski' wearing a gnarly cable knit sweater! Fiore went on to productionize the Trident in 1967, plus styling Elva's Elva-BMW GT160 (1968), the magnificent Monteverdi Hai (1969), and the insane Citroen Karin (1980), before vanishing off the scene completely.

The result of Pounder's adaptation the Equipe...well...kinda looks like a TVR Trident stuck to a Vitesse, I'm afraid, but a unique and not unattractive end result. It was favourably received on release in mid-1967, being discontinued in 1970 when Bond Cars was purchased and wound down by Reliant (a British competitor, who purchased Bond about 12 months earlier). It featured a fibreglass/steel construction (so can rust as well as crack) and suffered from all the same afflictions as a Herald/Vitesse (yes, that perilous swing axle rear end). Unique design features were gutter-free windows (for early models, they gave up eventually) and an incorporated aerial (glasses into the rear R/H 'C' pillar).

Bond had one last hurrah, when Reliant released Tom Karen's iconic 3-wheeler, the Bond Bug (1970 - 1974). Although it was Reliant conceived (and powered), still not a bad way to go.

Behold, the Bug! Some of our friends up North don't like these babies getting out of the Kingdom, but I'll import a Bug here one day (just don't tell the missus). PS: Let me know if this is your car - any copyright infringement is absolutely unintentional!

As an aside, Bond Minicar's were imported into Australia for a short period in the early 1950's. Several 4-cylinder Equipe's are in the country, plus at least 2 Bond Bugs - if there are any more 6-cylinder Equipes, I'd love to know!

So, there you have it, the design history of the Bond Equipe GT in a nutshell.

Have a look at the Bong Bug forum HERE, with some information on Tom Karen too, designer of the Bug and the Raleigh Chopper. Woot!!!

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