company was born in 1981 by Alan Arnold who had built cars and
motorcycles as a hobby from 16 years of age.
In 1980 Alan was 34 years old and frustrated by the continual
prevalence of business politics in the automotive company where he
was employed. He held a
diploma in marketing but was not a trained engineer, learning
on-the-job by experience.
More an intuitive one, so he decided in 1981 to start his own
specialist car and parts business. He spent 18 months researching
USA companies who produced products that interested him and who
might like, his newly formed company, to promote their wares in
Europe. He realised the
best way to quickly get a new commercial business off the ground was
to buy and sell someone else products rather than design and make
modern parlance goes ‘it does
what it says on the tin’ and UVA, The Unique Vehicle & Accessory
Company was launched from his double garage attached to his house in
a village called Curridge near Newbury in Berkshire.
Barring frustrating some near neighbours from the noise and
freight trucks, this proved the best way of keeping the burgeoning
companies overheads to a minimum.
initial product range was the Beetle based Manta Cars Montage kit
car which eventually morphed into the M6GTR. He added a range of VW
performance parts from Bugpack and Sway-Away.
This developed with the addition of importing engine to VW
transmission adaptor kits from Kennedy Engineering.
Comprehensively producing a range of products that both sold
individually to go-faster VW owners and adding to his Beetle based
Montage customer’s choice, of building something very special.
swing axle Beetle chassis was the only easy option for any self
builder to put under his kit-car because the preferable IRS VW
chassis was primarily restricted to the 1302 & 1303 Beetle range.
This had the cumbersome McPherson strut front end.
The UVA Company’s first foray into an own engineered product
was the design of a McPherson strut conversion, turning the basic
Beetle front suspension design into an inboard race-car inspired
rocker-arm layout which kept the suspension height down to a
minimum, gave a comfortable ride as well as offering outstanding
business developed with UK construction of own-brand Beetle GRP body
panel conversions such as the Baja and Road-Racer sets.
Within 18 months Arnold and his now junior partner moved the
small business to a new factory unit in Newbury where initial
workshop and storage space was aplenty.
Here the business really blossomed with
improvements to many of their imported products, for example the
engine to transmission adaptor kits.
The Kennedy product used original VW flywheels with machined
out centres and welded in bosses to suit the water-cooled engine
choice for the VW transmission.
Whilst no failures occurred, Arnold preferred a purist
engineering approach and sought to have cast his own range of
purpose cast-iron flywheels and allied components.
And this is how the company, in part, developed taking some
products from the USA and improving the design by re-engineering
them and making them in the UK.
In turn UVA introduced to the marketplace their own
specifically designed products to either enhance the existing
product range or move the company into a larger market sector.
Manta Montage was a classic example, both very expensive to import
from the US and in need of major re-engineering to meet European
construction and use regulations.
Arnold employed a talented car designer to subtly but
extensively change the body which included pop-up headlights with
corresponding lower Plexiglas-covered driving lights, a new stylish
and upmarket interior which also made the swop from left to right
hand drive a simpler manufacturing choice.
The interior rear clear glass window was moved to stop
night-time headlight reflections and the doors plus side windows
were re-engineered to vastly improve sealing, reduce wind noise and
general door closure.
Plus other mild cosmetic changes to improve ownership.
an engineering perspective, the tub part of the construction was
re-designed into a two product range, one for the Beetle based
market sector and the other a composite monocoque tub with its own
inter-connected front and rear sub-frames with roll-over protection,
correct seatbelt positioning and wishbone suspension for the
mid-engined V8 market.
The net result was a very fast, sure-footed and comfortable
sports-car which was easy to drive for its size and shape.
As attested to by leading motoring magazine road testers with
a front cover picture of an M6GTR dwarfed by Concord for Autocar
magazine, organised by M6GTR customer John, who was an engineer on
UVA philosophy of product improvement was used with the Fugitive II,
originally a Baja leisure fun chassis regularly imported from the
USA; UVA re-engineered it to improve its torsional stiffness, helped
by Cardiff University with a staggering result of 14,000 Nm per
based Kingfisher Kustoms, who were a UVA distributor, showed Arnold
there was a market for road legal Fugitives and so UVA developed
this market as well, producing not only Baja style Fugitives but
also turning it into a lowered sports-car where its design prowess
was admirably displayed in the 750 Motor Club kit-car race series.
A further option for Fugitive sports-car customers was the
grafting-on of the M6GTR front wishbone suspension, replacing the VW
twin transverse beams.
The Fugitive II range also spawned a 2+2 model called, not
unsurprisingly, the Fugitive IV.
This Fugitive integral roll-cage and Cooper Cars style of larger
tube diameter chassis engineering moved UVA onto designing a
mid-engined V8 range of cars, the open front cycle winged ‘Clubman’
of 1985 and the full bodied Can-Am a year later.
Both had formula race car
side rads styled similarly to the Ferrari Testarossa which launched
at a similar time and no, UVA did not copy Ferrari’s side radiator
strakes, they were a result of a simpler way of moulding and an
engineering expedient for engine cooling.
It is worth adding here, it took UVA several attempts to get
this side-rad idea to actually cool the V8 engine correctly.
Again these mid-engined cars proved their worth in the 750 MC
evolving range of specialist parts included their own bias
adjustable brake pedal assemblies and a developing range of engine
to transmission adaptor kits including Chevrolet V8 to Porsche 911
general performance car engineering skills were also used by other
kit manufacturers to develop the clients saleable products.
the mid ‘80’s UVA launched the Shogan, a VW Beetle based conversion
turning the saloon car into a stylish estate car with a full width
one-piece rear door/glass window rather than the limited 2 van door
Vandetta kit from the USA, which the Shogan was based on.
The Shogan was a bit ‘wacky’ and expensive to make with its
own 3 piece curved glass, in consequence, a slow seller.
being Arnold, a perfectionist, lobbied the kit-car industry for 12
months from 1987 to bring in some form of voluntary legislation to
improve the quality and safety of cars being offered to the market.
He, like others could see some of the shoddy and
down-right-dangerous products being sold.
He ran a series of seminars at various kit-car shows, lobbied
other kit manufacturers and used his contacts at the SMMT (Society
of Motor Manufacturers & Traders) to form the SCMG (Specialist Car
The SCMG became a sub-section of the SMMT’s car manufacturers’ &
importers council and they viewed it as a self-serving system to
have in place for themselves because it reduced their costs of
building and highway testing prototypes.
The well recognised German TUV testing body were employed to both
test member’s products and make sure they meet customer service
criteria. As the prime
creator of the SCMG, Arnold chaired this group for 18 months, which
in all, consumed too much of his time to the detriment of his own
business. It is worth
observing how SCMG has evolved into the single model type approval
system of today and made the industry a better product.
a similar time, the M6GTR chassis went under further engineering
scrutiny, looking to improve her weight balance by moving the fuel
tank forward with flip-cap filler in the left hand wing top.
This was achieved by way of re-engineering the front chassis
to give alloy tank space and improve air feeds to both the behind
dash A/C unit and the centre tunnel where the water pipes ran.
introduced a further product range in the late 1980’s called the
984, a V8 conversion kit for the Porsche 924/944 range of cars.
To go with the comprehensive engine conversion kit was a
tuned ‘banana’ exhaust kit, improved brakes, suspension and body
kit. It turned a good,
practical car into a great sports-car more cheaply and less
expensive to run than a 944 turbo and with a preferable exhaust
At the same time UVA also launched a
range of Rover SD1 performance parts with Arnold's own Van-den-Plas
version sweeping well beyond 150mph, which was fast for a mid 1980's
large 4 door saloon.
was always open to fresh ideas and was approached in 1986 by a TV
producer to start a new UK off-road race series called BORRA
(British Off Road Racing Association).
Single-seater Fugitives were designed and built with many
famous motor racing names associated with the series but as is often
the case, promised investment money was not forthcoming but the
single seater Fugitive was a great net result.
model of Fugitive was recognised in 1989 by a midlands property
developer who wanted to build 6 off-road racing/ leisure/ fun
circuits around the UK, populated by a minimum of 10 Fugitives per
course. At the time,
UVA were having trouble with their Newbury landlord who had greater
ideas for his property than smelly GRP manufacturing and the
littering of mechanical parts so UVA bought and moved into their own
premises, 10 miles south in Whitchurch Hampshire.
A great place and opportunity to start this particular
expanding off-road venture that needed a regular supply of fully
it was the start of the decline of UVA.
With the world moving into a financial melt-down the off-road
property developer went ‘tits-up’ and people didn’t want to risk
ever harder-earned cash on performance cars and parts.
10 years after it started, in 1991, UVA went into liquidation
and as for Arnold; his wife gave up on him some 18 months earlier,
his house which underwrote UVA was mortgage repossessed and the
metamorphosis’ of UVA into a new range of financiers and called TAG
Automotive eventually dispensed with Arnold’s Autocratic management
several years, including treatment for depression, Arnold moved back
into his core line of business, marketing and joined 3 others to
launch The UK Shopping City in 1994.
This became the largest online marketing website in Europe.
In 1995 they launched TED (The European Directory) again, for
the time, the most successful European focused search engine.
Not making the dreamt
of fortune, they sold the business in 1998, 18 months before the
internet bubble boom where mega-overnight-fortunes were made... hey
ho! All was not bad
though, this early internet schooling gave Arnold the knowledge
which allowed him to train companies throughout the world, on how to
successfully market online.
this JENAL website illustrates, retirement loomed for Alan
Arnold and he designed this replica of a circa late 1800’s
Dutch Klipper so that he and his wife Jennie could live-aboard and
cruise the inland waterways of mainland Europe.