Having completed his NZCE with Winstones in Auckland, Neil Fraser’s first business venture was the acquisition of Reid Trailers, but while he busied himself designing and building trailers he also took to the racetrack in a Lotus Cortina, and it was here that he first came across the car that would shift his focus away from trailers – the Lotus Seven.
Drawing obvious inspiration from the iconic Lotus, in 1986 Neil decided to build an inexpensive Clubman-style race car for his own use as a side project and then decided to test public interest in the car. This would eventually result in the newly minted Fraser Clubman officially breaking cover in 1988 at the Auckland Motor Expo.
The first 10 cars would feature Triumph Herald front uprights and Ford Escort rear-ends, along with a fully triangulated, powder-coated space–frame chassis, chromed wishbones and custom cockpit. Overall attention to detail lavished on the car was self-evident and by specifying Toyota’s 18R-G twin-cam engine, the lightweight sports car had plenty of performance on tap. So, it was hardly surprising that demand for this beautifully crafted, Kiwi-made sports car quickly led to a full order book. In 1990, Neil decided to take a gamble on the car, and trailer production gave way to full-on production of the Fraser Clubman – available either as a kit form or as a factory-built turnkey car.
As quickly as the first Frasers began to appear on the road and track, a club sprang into being, with formation of the Fraser Car Club taking place early on. And Kiwi enthusiasts weren’t the only ones to appreciate the quality of the Fraser Clubman; the company was soon gaining interest from overseas buyers, especially those in Japan. Via introductions from Ferris de Joux – whom many claim to be the father of the component car in New Zealand – by the early 1990s, Fraser Cars were employing an agent to handle burgeoning sales to Japan. At the height of the company’s export cycle, two fully built turnkey Fraser Clubmans were being sent to Japan every month between 1991 and 1996. Although production slowly tapered off from 1996 onwards, with the last cars being exported to Japan during 2007, around 200 Frasers were built and sold into the Japanese market – an amazing achievement. After a few hiccups, the Fraser Clubman also passed Australian ADR rules, with around 30 cars being subsequently sold across the Tasman.
During those years, the Clubman was progressively improved with the introduction of various upgrades, including the use of Japanese mechanical parts, a de Dion rear-end, a long-cockpit model for taller drivers and inboard front brakes, As well, with the help of de Joux, Fraser Cars also produced a more aerodynamic version of their Clubman with the addition of a Le Mans-type body. However, this car would remain a one-off.
In 2002, Scott Tristram joined the team at Fraser Cars as a chassis builder, and when the company’s founder, Neil Fraser, decided to move on, Scott purchased Fraser Cars. With his wife Ida taking up a role she descibes as the co-driver, Scott has taken on board Neil’s ambition to produce top-quality, well-engineered sports cars. Today, while Fraser Cars may have scaled back production from the heady days of the 1990s, they keep themselves busy with various projects, including the occasional full-restoration, and of course, ongoing maintenance and upgrade work on existing Fraser Clubmans. And as you read this, Scott and his dedicated team of craftsmen will be putting the finishing touches to the 345th Fraser Clubman as they celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary.
In order to mark the occasion, Ida and Scott suggested we put together a pair of Frasers – one of the earliest examples, and one of the latest.
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