Bond Minicar Mark E
|Production||1956–1958 1,189 made|
|Successor||Bond Minicar Mark F|
|Body style||Convertible and Saloon Coupe|
|Engine||Villiers 9E 197 cc (12 cu in) Single cylinder 2 stroke|
|Wheelbase||5 ft 6 in (1,680 mm)|
|Length||11 ft 0 in (3,350 mm)|
|Width||5 ft 0 in (1,520 mm)|
|Height||4 ft 0 in (1,220 mm)|
|Kerb weight||672 lb (305 kg) Tourer & Saloon Coupe|
Announced on 31 October 1956 as a late addition to the 1957 range, the Mark E was radically different in design from any previous Minicar.
A deliberate attempt to introduce "modern car lines", the Mark E introduced semi-monocoque construction, both to improve the resilience of the car and to allow full height doors to be fitted on both sides. As announced, the prototype car was completely flat-sided and as with previous models used light alloy for all exterior panels. Beneath the skin, there were two main steel frames, one which made up the principle support for the floor, rear suspension and doors and a second which carried the steering assembly and engine. This second frame was described as "semi-floating" to allow the damping out of engine vibrations and to prevent fractures. Further strength was obtained by separating the bonnet from the front grill, allowing the grill frame to add rigidity to the front of the car. Track and overall width of the car were the same as the Mark D, but the wheelbase was extended by 12 in (300 mm). Though not appreciated at the time, this fundamentally affected the car's stability and made it liable to overturn. Weather protection was more sophisticated, the hood now including a front section that could be rolled back as a sunroof while the detachable side screens incorporate sliding windows. The seat was still a single bench, but the backrest was now split, one third allowing for adjustment to suit driver comfort, whilst the remainder hinged forward to allow access to the boot. Lighting was improved with larger headlamps, flashing indicators and rear number plate light. The fuel tank was increased in size to 3.5 imp gal (16 l), but the car retained the Villiers 9E/3 engine with three speed gearbox. Deliveries of the new car were expected to begin in May 1957.
As things turned out, demand for the Mark D Minicar was such that a decision was made to delay the introduction of the Mark E until later. Despite one of the prototypes being used for an extensive European tour in the summer of 1957 by one magazine, it was not until other pre-production cars were tested by the factory immediately prior to full production that issues with the car's handling were revealed.
The Mark E Tourer was eventually put on the market in December 1957 alongside the Mark D. In production, the Mark E was notably different from its prototype with a shorter wheelbase and wider track to correct the stability issues. Rather than widen the entire car to retain the flat sides of the prototype, the extra track width was accommodated by making the bottom part of the rear wings protrude outwards. The rear wheels were also moved forward by about 12 in (305 mm). Inside the car, there were changes to the shape of the fibreglass dashboard and the engine was upgraded to the Villiers 9E/4S with four-speed gearbox. Externally, the overriders seen on the pre-production vehicles were removed from both front and rear bumpers and the car now included two windscreen wipers. The maximum speed was now around 50 mph (80 km/h).
In May 1958, a second version of the Mark E became available, the Mark E Saloon Coupe. Externally, because the roof was longer than that on the tourer, this gave the impression that the car was a 2+2, but internally it was the same size, and simply replaced the convertibles soft top with a full length fibreglass roof. Though not described as a detachable hardtop, the roof could be removed quite easily in one piece.
In a publicity stunt for Sharp's, three Bond Minicar Mark E's, two Saloons and a Tourer were the first cars to drive along Britain's first Motorway, the Preston By-pass when it opened in December 1958. The plan was for the second and third cars (driven by Alan Pounder and Doug Ferriera) to 'deliberately' slow down the traffic whilst the lead car, driven by John Woods the Production Manager and fitted with one of the new Villiers 247 cc engines, would shoot off into the lead and be photographed by the BBC. Unfortunately, the plan back-fired because the Bond beat the camera crew to the bridge where the shot was to take place! Consequently, the evening news only showed the second and third Bonds amongst the traffic on the opening day. Now part of the M6, this event was recreated for the motorways 50th anniversary by the BBC's Inside Out programme in 2008.
Mark E production ended in November 1958.