Car: Stimson Scorcher, 1976

Britain’s licensing authorities weren’t too sure what to make of the Stimson Scorcher in 1976, hesitatingly classifying it as a motorcycle-sidecar combination.

1976 Stimson Scorcher
This three-wheeled kit car from the fertile mind of Barry Stimson is a rare and sought-after beast—but it’s hard to decide if it’s car or motorbike

By law, that meant “rider” and “pillion” had to wear crash helmets but the third occupant—the Scorcher seated three in a row—was legally the sidecar occupant and, thus, could ride bareheaded. However, designer Barry Stimson advised Scorcher occupants to all wear helmets because his outrageous trike, with British Leyland Mini subframe, engine, and gearbox at the front, could touch a daredevil 100mph (161kph).

The plastic body was made of fiberglass, and the engine was completely exposed, hot-rod style—unless you splurged on the optional plastic hood.

1976 Stimson Scorcher
1976 Stimson Scorcher

Mr. Stimson was a seminal figure on the burgeoning British kit car scene of the 1970s. His company Noovoh Developments sold the Scorcher as a self-assembly package, for £385, that could be carried home on a roof rack. Capable, enthusiastic mechanics could then build their own Scorcher using salvaged mechanical parts from a decrepit or crash-damaged Mini.

Stimson’s initial kit car design was the Mini Bug of 1970 which became one of Britain’s best-selling kit cars. New Stimson designs, however, soon followed, including the six-wheeled Safari Six, also relying on Mini parts, and then the Scorcher, of which a mere 30 were made in four years. Barry Stimson is in the kit car business to this day, and surviving Scorchers rarely change hands.

“It’s the worst seller of all my cars, but the most famous—I find that weird. You either work to make a living by designing exactly what people want, or else you go a stage further by being a bit different and you have no market.”

Barry Stimson, 2003, On The Scorcher

Video: model of the car Stimson Scorcher

Specification: model of the car Stimson Scorcher

PLACE OF ORIGIN: Brighton, East Sussex, UK
HISTORICAL STATUS: production car
ENGINE: four-cylinder, 52–78ci (848–1,275cc)
MAXIMUM POWER: up to 76bhp
LAYOUT: front-mounted engine driving the front wheels
BODYWORK: doorless, three-seater roadster
TOP SPEED: 100mph (161kph)