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Bond Equipe

Published: 6th Sep 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Bond Equipe
Bond Equipe
Bond Equipe
Bond Equipe
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Bond is 50 – no not that Bond, but the Equipe that took a Triumph sports car and made it even more desirable

What do you get when you put an 1147cc Spitfire engine into a Herald chassis, add a few Triumph panels then wrap the result in GRP? If your name is Lawrie Bond you end up with a Bond Equipe GT, which burst onto the scene 50 years ago, in 1963.

Bond had a business relationship with Sharp’s Commercials which dated back to 1948, when he’d shown his three-wheeler prototype to the MD, Lieutenant-Colonel C R Gray. The latter rejected Bond’s new proposals first time round, but when the government terminated its lucrative military vehicle refurbishing contract, Sharp’s suddenly had the space and capacity to take on a new venture.

So when Bond approached them for a second time in 1948, Sharp’s took him up on the plans, and there followed no fewer than seven generations of Minicar production, with Bond overseeing the first two before selling the design and manufacturing rights to Sharp’s. The Minicar was a great success, seeing off competition from Reliant (Regal) and AC (Petite) but in 1962 they were all scuppered by a government move to slash purchase tax on new cars to 25 per cent – there was no longer an incentive to have three wheels on your wagon, when you could now have one at each corner. It didn’t help that Reliant was going from strength to strength, the unveiling of its Regal 3/25 at the 1962 Motorshow putting the writing on the wall for Sharp’s.

This move coincided with Sharp’s getting a new md, Tom Gratrix, who decided his company should produce its first four wheeled car under the new name of Bond Cars Limited. This would sell alongside an all-new three-wheeler, the 875, with Lawrie Bond commissioned to design both vehicles.

The 875 was a response to the new Reliant; it used the new Hillman Imp engine over the traditional Villiers motorcycle unit for more power and reliability. For the four-wheeler the only commercially viable option was to use the separate-chassis construction favoured by Standard Triumph – so that’s what Bond did.


Standard Triumph was so impressed with the resulting Equipe GT that it insisted the car was sold exclusively through its main dealer network with a full warranty; not bad for the Bond company’s first ‘proper’ car. The GT was well received by press and public alike. However both wanted more headroom in the back, along with an opening boot lid, so work commenced on an updated version almost immediately in early 1964. Lawrie Bond submitted various designs, but the one ultimately used was conceived by Bond Cars chief designer Alan Pounder. Known as the GT4S, there was also a four-headlight nose while the re-profiled bonnet could also accommodate the new six-cylinder Vitesse engine once available. However, this engine would remain exclusive to another Bond, the Equipe 2-litre GT.

Meanwhile, the 875 wasn’t faring so well and the first deadline of November 1964 disappeared, with the first prototype not running until February 1965. It wasn’t until June 1966 that the 875 finally went into production, by which point many of the original buyers had bought different cars. Also the production car was nowhere near the quality of the prototype and at £505 it was considered poor value.

Whilst the 875 was beset with problems, the Equipe was going from strength to strength. The GT4S was updated in February 1967 when it gained the MkIII Triumph Spitfire engine and the new GT4S 1300 ran until 1970. The Vitesse engine originally earmarked for this model made its appearance in the 2-litre Equipe GT introduced in August 1967; this showcased an all-new interior with yet more headroom. Motor said back (in ‘67), “As a dressed up Vitesse, the Equipe’s disguise is a particularly good one… changing not only it’s appearance but its role and character as well”. Again however, the initial enthusiasm soon waned, this time due to the handling capabilities at high speeds. As this was also a problem for Triumph, its engineers were busy working on a solution – as soon as the redeveloped chassis was available, the Equipe GT MkII arrived in September 1968, complete with rotoflex rear suspension. The icing on the cake was the Coachwork Gold Medal which the convertible edition scooped at that year’s Earl’s Court Motorshow.

Whilst on the surface all seemed well, there were problems in the background that proved insurmountable. Various deals were going on which meant that Bond Cars had to be sold and it ended up in Reliant’s hands. The 875 was an immediate casualty but Reliant was happy to keep the Equipe and therefore the close association with Triumph, even going as far as starting a redesign of the Equipe. However the newly formed BLMC put a stop to all of this as Triumph, Jaguar and Rover had to share dealerships and there was just no room for a Bond as well. Without the dealership access the Equipe development stopped and August 1970 saw the last cars off the production line.

Reliant didn’t give up straight away though, as it had a new Bond model up its sleeve – the Bug. Available only in bright orange it was aimed at the younger driver with its futuristic looks and fun demeanour. However poor build quality of the glassfibre bodyshells and the assembly problems this caused meant that in 1970 the Bond factory was shut down. The Bond name limped on with the Bug until as late as 1974, but with the introduction of the Reliant Robin this model ceased production and time was finally called on the enigmatic marque.

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