one of the DOC articles / What have I got?

one of the DOC articles / What have I got?

Postby snowy2 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:05 pm

What have I got?

A question often asked on the Dutton forums, so I will try to describe the differences between the various shapes of the Dutton Phaetons and similar. Also because of the cloning of old Dutton log books it would help to have a more detailed description of what the chassis types are, and to detail the differences for each generation. This may help to prove the bona fide's of your car if you are in dispute with some of the authority's.

With the exception of the early Duttons the chassis design is not much like anything likely to be produced or used on the popular seven like kit cars on the market in the 21st century. And even those early ones, whilst of a space frame design are not as well braced or as strong as the modern equivalent. Another identifying feature of the early Dutton space frame is that the chassis members were brazed together, not welded. Not a technique you are likely see these days, even if you were able to specify it.

Above B type live axle chassis, below triumph B type chassis

Another problem, is that we are talking about kit cars not production cars and as such they each tend to be built uniquely, and modification from “standard” is normal, whatever “standard” means. The very early Duttons are rare, not just because not many were made, but because they are over 40 years old now. The P1's were space framed with “midget” or “sprite” mechanical running gear, and have fairly distinctive nose cones, along with the Dutton boot section, and “clamshell” mud guards at the front.

The “B type's” were next, and to start with came with Triumph front and rear axles. This was not as promising as it first seems in using just the one donor vehicle type, as the rear axle was independent via the Triumph transverse leaf spring arrangement, ("swing axle") and had some truly dire handling issues. The later “B types” were Triumph front and Ford rear axles, using the Ford Anglia van back axle with a 4 link suspension and Lotus 7 rear shockers. Even this revised configuration has it's problems as the major suspension components were bolted to brackets mounted through the chassis members, or welded ( more likely, brazed) at places half way along the chassis rails with no bracing, thus allowing the suspension components to flex the chassis under load....not good. It is just as well that the donor cars engines were relatively low powered, especially by modern standards, as these chassis's could be prone to falling apart. Buying a “B type” and fitting a modern engine with more than 50-60 horses with out substantial strengthening of the chassis is likely to be very dangerous, and trying to do anything with an early “swing axle” left in place, almost suicidal. If you find you have bought a “B type” (or P1) look fairly quickly into strengthening the chassis, especially if you have an engine bigger than say 1300cc in any thing other than a modest state of tune. And even if you do have a low powered engine, it would be wise to look at strengthening the chassis.

The P1's and B types were as I say, of a space frame construction, made from 1” box and round section tube (thin wall) and brazed not welded together. The chassis's are basic with no centre transmission tunnel strengthening. (a major part of a modern space frame chassis) That said there are still several on the road in unmodified condition, after 35+ years.

Dutton P1

Dutton P1

B type, showing rear with out the wheel arch extensions on the later cars

After the B types came the Malaga and B+ (B plus) these had a different chassis, which the later Phaeton's also used in slightly modified form. (up to series 2.) The main difference in appearance is the inclusion of two chassis rails made from 2-1/2 ”x 1-1/2” steel box section running the length of the chassis. The chassis could be fairly described as semi space frame, being like a “ladder” chassis at he rear, and space frame at the front. Also these chassis's were all welded rather than brazed. Although the quality of the welding can be very variable....(read quite poor here.) It is not unusual to find joints not welded at all, either missed by the factory or just so badly executed the “weld” has just has not penetrated the base metal and subsequently sits on the surface of the steel. Any restoration of these cars should not just consist of a wire brush and repaint, but a thorough check of the welding is well advised.

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Two CAD drawings of the B+ chassis

Bodywork wise for the P1, Dutton supplied the nose cone, the front clamshell wings and the rear wings of the boot section in GRP with their chassis as part of the kit, onto which your donor parts were added. The rest of the body panels were made from aluminium sheet. For the B type the bonnet was moulded with the nose cone in GRP, which also had a larger opening for the radiator than the P1 did. There was also some internal glass fibre cockpit mouldings and the start of the “Dutton” dash seen on later cars. The rear of the B type came as a complete moulding, the boot lid being about as wide as the cockpit. For the B+ the boot sections were made wider by the addition of wing extensions to accommodate the wider axles specified from the donors but the boot lid and the boot capacity stayed the same size. The boot section also had a moulded recess to the off side for the fuel filler. Also about this time there was a GRP dash/scuttle provided with the kit, and the cockpit interior was supplied in two GRP mouldings. The boot section was i feel, better looking on the early cars being more “sporty” and cleaner in appearance by not having the wheel arch extensions.

B+ rear showing boot lid and wheel arch extensions, note also the two mouldings
to the lower part of the valance, which is missing from the later cars.

B+ showing the fuel filler cap recess. (on those cars that were supplied with
Duttons custom fuel tank)

B+ rear end showing the “hatch” type of boot lid made from thin aluminium

The development of the B+ was alongside the Malaga, they were originally intended to have the Ford 3.0L V6 engine. The first Malagas were clothed in the B+ body mouldings front and rear. and for 1973/4 the name of Malaga seems to be a model type referring to engine choice. (the 3.0L V6) Then to have been applied to the new bonnet section with the moulded in wings, the B+ having cycle guards. (still with the B+ back end) Later (1974/5) the Malaga became a distinct model with the whole new rear end. Note: That the B+ also has the bonnet ridges due to the requirement to fit the same engine. It is common now within the Dutton world to refer to Malagas as having the distinct rear ends, the Malaga B+ as those cars having the Malaga front end and the B+ rear and the B+ as having the cycle guard type of front end, weather the Dutton factory would have recognised those descriptions at the time is moot.

Malaga rear end. You can see the chassis is the same as the B+ shown above.

As I say these bonnet ridges were to accommodate the 3.0L V6 Essex radiator underneath. (which sat directly in front of the engine) The rear of the Malaga was in some peoples opinion not a very pretty one, it being a fairly boxy affair. (personally I think it's fine) As a consequence of this folks continued to ask the factory to supply cars with a Malaga front end and a B+ boot section. Somewhere about this time there seems to be two types of (B+) boot sections leaving the factory, one as per the B type with an opening boot lid. And the other having a oblong hole in the boot usually covered with a piece of aluminium sheet. This may have been done as a cost cutting (or time saving) exercise by the factory, or just that the oblong hole type was intended for the hard top versions, and the boot lid for the soft top versions. Or simply that this was the factory default for the Malaga B+ variants. Since record keeping wasn't the Dutton factory's strong point we cannot be sure, but the hard top / soft top option seems most likely. The recessed fuel filler location on the O/S/R wing also disappears, as Dutton now uses amongst others the fuel tank from a mk2 Cortina, which had it's filler cap exit to the rear of the car.

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The Malaga B+ to the left is showing the bonnet ridges quite nicely, this has been much modified as the bonnets look a lot like the Phaetons from new, with moulded in wings. But it is quite hard to find an unmodified Malaga bonnet picture.
That said, the Malaga B+ to the right shows the unmodified bonnet as well as the "hatch type" boot lid, you can also see the rear mounted fuel cap for the Cortina fuel tank.

Dutton must have quickly caught on to the fact that this combination (the Malaga B+) was a winner and fairly soon brought out the Phaeton Series 1 (S1). Which incorporated these body styles as a package with some minor changes from the Malaga B+, such as the loss of the bonnet ridges and the boot lid is now the full width of the car. But due to the slight chassis modifications at the rear, it's a much shallower boot. (The chassis was basically the same, with only minor changes at the front and rear.) The hardtop options available from the factory changed as well being either “short” in place of a soft top, or the longer option which incorporated mouldings to extend out to where the boot lid would have covered in the form of little “wings”. The boot is some 3 inches taller and longer than the B+ as a consequence of a decision to leave the main chassis rails straight, this pitches the rear of the car upwards.

S2 chassis stripped for restoration, S1 and B+ very similar.

These later chassis's were not with out their problems, they are prone to flexing at the rear between the rear shocker mounts. The front being Triumph sourced should have been sound and reliable, except the bottom wishbones mounts on to a small tube through the chassis, which will crack eventually at the welded joint. This and the fact that the suspension geometry appears arbitrary due to apparently the factory not using a jig to build the chassis. Rather they seemed to just cut the steel to length and weld it in place. This can lead to some fairly disastrous suspension set ups, with different camber and castor on both sides of the car, with none or even positive castor! The rear of the car at least seems to be reasonable alignment wise. However on the 4 link set up, (2 on the O/S 1 on the N/S and a panhard rod) the axle can rotate on acceleration and braking, and a fifth link can help to stop that. Also the panhard rod is too short for good axle location and suspension geometry, and fitting a new longer one mounted lower on the axle helps. (The panhard rod locates the roll centre much higher when compared with the front, which is undesirable.)

The S1 rear suspension, Note the 3 links on the axle and the short panhard rod to the differential, making the 4th link.

Above on the S2 the chassis has a short extension for the rear most spring hanger, this extends beyond the rear bodywork, hence the "over riders" shown on the S2 in the picture below.

The Phaeton S2 was a continuation of the S1 with the major change of using the rear leaf springs from the Cortina mk1/2 donors. As such the S2 can have over riders on the rear of the car to cover the rear spring hangers. The rear of the chassis has a short extension made from 2-1/2x1-1/2 box section, to mount the spring hangers on. It still uses the triumph front end as for all the earlier versions. Asides from the rear leaf springs the most obvious difference between the S1 and S2 is the boot area, the S1 boot lid having two dimples in the rear for lock location, the S2 has a “V” shaped notch in the centre for the boot lock. And as I have mentioned on the S2 there are GRP over riders for the exposed ends of the leaf springs. The use of the leaf spring axle location lowers the roll centre of the car and if lowering blocks are also fitted, (they typically are) then the roll centre is lowered further – The S2 was actually a better balanced car than the S1 because the potentially superior 4/5 link system was so poorly executed

The downside is that the spring hangers encroach on the seating area of car and created a very unwanted and uncomfortable protrusion just where is it not wanted, This leads to seating being placed above this mounting and drivers having a perched on and looking over the windscreen seating position rather than sitting in and looking through the screen.

Image Image
S1 boot with dimples over rear lights for the boot locks. Note: the boot lid is now full width of the car
To the right, the S2 rear end with the over riders for the cart springs. Note the centre notch for the boot lock.

The front suspension for the earlier cars upto the series 2 Phaetons was from the Triumph donors (Hearald, Spitfire, Vitesse, etc.) And a typical set up looks like this,

Typical Triumph front suspension as fitted to the early Dutton sports cars. (up to the series 2 Phaetons)

The S3 and S4 used the same but an all new chassis, designed to take the Ford Escort mk1/2 running gear. They used a cut down front strut with a Austin Maxi ball joint to make the front suspension. The rear suspension stayed with the leaf springs. This new chassis could be best described as a modified ladder chassis or a perimeter space frame. The bodywork is completely revised, and whilst the car looks similar, the later cars are very different from the S2 and earlier. They have a much bigger cockpit and they are able to have proper seats fitted as opposed to the seats moulded into the bodywork of the earlier versions. The S4 was further revised by having the base of the windscreen widened to give a little more internal space, the bumpers were moulded into the body and the front spoiler has the spot lights moulded in as well. The the bonnet has two vents each side and there is a vent for a heater intake. Part way through the production run of the S3, the rear lights were changed from the Bedford CF rear lights used by Dutton up to then for the cars, to an oblong light cluster. These difference's aside the series 3 has separate bumpers, whereas the S4 has them moulded integral to the bodywork. Also the S3 has a boot lid like the S2 with a centre notch, but the S4 does not, having a boot lid without any notches. Another difference with the S3 over the S4 was that the body on the S3 has a mould line down the side (often covered on the lower section with a piece of aluminium) and the dash was a separate moulding, as with the earlier phaetons. However on the S4 the body came as a complete tub.

S3/4 chassis, you can see how different it is from the earlier types.

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The S3 is above, on the S3 the boot lid has a notch in the centre whereas the S4 does not, on the S4 below you can also see the vents in the bonnet.
Image Image

The front suspension of the S3/4 was made from a cut down and modified Ford Escort front strut, the top ball joint was from an Austin Maxi, a typical example can be seen here.

Duttons S3/4 (and derivatives) front suspension.

The B+ series 2 (B plus S2) also used the S3/4 chassis but had clamshell wings like the earlier B+. To some the proportions of these B+ S2's are not nearly so well thought out as the earlier versions, spoiling what could have been a good idea. They are however much roomier in the cockpit, and can accommodate larger/taller drivers. The original being somewhat "snug".

The B+ series 2

The Melos looks completely different from the phaetons and was designated a 2+2, but it also used the S3/4 chassis so I have included them here as they are fairly common. Although a 2+2 the people in the back would have to be very small to fit in.

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As you can see the Melos is quite distinctive, but it used the S3/4 chassis.

The Legerra also used a development of the S3/4 phaeton chassis, except Dutton cut out most of the top half of the chassis. Making it very prone to flexing and ultimately cracking. Some of the long term owners are now strengthening the chassis under the doors (what would be the sill area) as the chassis will eventually sag here making closing / opening the doors tricky.

You can see how the chassis has been cut away from the S3/4 chassis on which it was based, hardly surprising that they sag in the middle.

Image Image
The Legerra

The left out car from the above collection is the Cantera, which used a modified B+ chassis, however only 6 of these are known to have existed. So your unlikely to come across one.

The Cantera

Dutton produced a series of utility type vehicles the Sierra, Beneto, and the Rico. These deserve an article by them selves for the various model changes / body changes.

A review of the Phaeton models, each section below shares a chassis type.

1.Early cars
P1 These were a 1" square tube space frame using Midget or Sprite mechanicals, similar to but not the same as;
B Type Triumph independent transverse leaf rear - Triumph front
B Type Ford live Axle and five link rear- Triumph front

2. Second series

Malaga - Ford based Live axle rear 4 link - Triumph front
B + Ford based live axle rear coil over rear 4 link - Triumph front
S1- Ford based live axle rear coil over rear 4 link - Triumph front
S2- Ford based live axle rear on leaf springs - Triumph front

3. Later cars

S3/S4 - All Ford escort based front and rear on leaf springs mainly but some with a 4 link coil over set up -fronts also changed regularly with triumph coil overs - after markets together with different chassis changes around this.


Rear coil overs on early cars with live axle were Lotus Seven - Caterham had not taken over the Seven at this time.

4 link of second series is 3 trailing arms and a shortish Panhard over the top of the axle generally Imp front suspension used as the rear coil over package

Some later S1 cars fitted with 5 link

On the front of the second series cars the steering rack mounts were repositioned after comments made by Car and Car Conversions when they built an S1.

Credits; thank you to all of you who have provided me with material, of which there were numerous photos, the others were gleaned from the various Dutton forums, for which I particularly wish to thank Mr G's forum in allowing me access to his forums various posts for material, if anyone objects to my use of any of the photos I have used for which they can claim copyright let me know. I will remove it and source an alternative. If you feel there are any factual errors let me know and I will likewise correct it. Cheers Dave.
Legerra 2.0L pinto (currentcar)
Phaeton S1 project car (1 sold!)
Special loosely based on "locost"
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