Africar 1983 -

Go to content

Main menu

Africar 1983

Automobiles from 1980 > Extra about cars in 1980

The Africar saga is a sorry and twisted tale of high ideals, financial chaos, and technical incompetence. But it’s also the story of a fascinating project that promised cars tailor-made for Third World drivers. Anthony Howarth was an Oscarnominated documentary filmmaker whose assignments took him to poverty-stricken outposts. He’d noticed that mainstream vehicles built in developed countries often couldn’t handle primitive roads, and in 1981, he resolved to create one that could. To achieve this, his Africar had an abnormally wide track so it could surmount rutted dirt-tracks, aided by 12in (30cm) high ground clearance and soft Hydragasdamped suspension for a huge vertical wheel movement range. The bodywork was of plywood soaked in epoxy resin with fiberglass reinforcements, building toward Howarth’s vision of franchized local manufacture with minimal capital investment. Power came from front-wheel drive Citroën 2CV mechanicals. Three such prototypes completed an 18,000-mile (28,968-km) excursion from the Arctic Circle to the Equator. Howarth filmed the adventure for a memorable UK TV series, and orders consequently poured in. This basic concept worked but, with the 2CV and its engine soon to be axed, Howarth tried to design his own. This engineering was way beyond him (and his budget), yet he still accepted deposits for cars-talking grandly of production plants from Bangladesh to Botswana. By 1988, Africar was bankrupt.

Africar 1983

Africar 1983
PLACE OF ORIGIN  Lancaster, Lancashire, UK
ENGINE  flat-two-cylinder, 37ci (602cc)
LAYOUT  front-mounted engine driving the front wheels
BODYWORK  two-door, three-seater utility; four-door, six-seater station wagon; others proposed
TOP SPEED  70mph (113kph)
Back to content | Back to main menu