Dutton Cars, based in Worthing, Sussex, England, was a maker of kit cars between 1970 and 1989. In terms of numbers of kits produced, it was for a time the largest kit car manufacturer in the world.
The company was founded by Tim Dutton Wooley and ran from a small workshop where a series of cars based on the P1 prototype were built, no two being the same. Things stabilised in October 1971 when a production model, the B-Type appeared with a more or less standard specification and based on Triumph Herald components. A move was also made to a larger factory in Tangmere, Chichester.
The B-Type eventually evolved into the Dutton Phaeton. Later versions of the Phaeton were based on Ford Escort components and were produced until 1989.
In 1979 Dutton announced the Dutton Sierra, an Escort-based estate car with off-road looks. In 1982, the Ford Motor Company decided to use the Sierra name for a new model, and claimed sole rights. A court case resulted and Dutton won the right to continue with the name on kit cars as the judge ruled that these were a separate category from assembled cars. Dutton was awarded costs against Ford and gained immense publicity. The Sierra is claimed to be the biggest selling kit car ever. A further move to larger premises back in Worthing was made in the same year with glass fibre body making at a separate works in Lancing.
By 1984, 70 people were employed and production topped 1000. In 1989 the company was closed down and the designs sold. A new model had been developed called the Maroc, a heavily modified Ford Fiesta with convertible body, and this was made by Hacker Engineering in Littlehampton. Initially it was available as a factory finished car but prices became too high and from 1993 kit versions were made available. The design has been sold on to Novus of Bolney, Sussex and a modified version is still available (2006).
After leaving the kit car business and closing down the company Tim Dutton Wooley operated as a consultant but returned to the automobile making business in 1995 with the Dutton Amphibian and Dutton Commando, amphibious cars based on the Ford Fiesta and Suzuki Samurai. One has been driven across the English Channel.
Dutton kits are now hard to come by. Most Duttons have already been assembled and are only available to purchase as second hand cars, usually in need of some restoration. When a Dutton is purchased in 'kit form' the person building it will require a donor car. The donor car is used to provide the engine, gearbox and many other essential components for the car. Fords usually make perfect donor cars. Most people use donor cars that would no longer be road worthy and use the spares to create a new kit–car.
In August 2008, Tim Dutton Wooley was convicted of selling an amphibious vehicle unfit for carrying fare-paying passengers, contrary to the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.
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