The William Towns Hustler car was designed in 1978 by William Towns, an Aston Martin Lagonda designer. The car was based on the British Leyland Mini, Metro, or BMC1100/1300 and was later developed into a kit car by his Interstyle design studio.
The original version of the car used upper and lower square-section steel frames, clad with glass fiber panels and large flat glass windows. The Hustler came in four- and six-wheel versions and had various models, including the Hustler 4BL, Huntsman, Hellcat, Sport, Sprint, Highlander, Harrier, and Rag Top.
About 500 kits were sold directly from Towns' home at Stretton-on-Fosse, near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. William Towns was an unusual genius who designed the Aston Martin Lagonda and then went on to build his own kit cars.
The Towns Hustler started out as a simple yet striking modular concept devised by William Townsin July 1978 to demonstrate that such a car could be viable for low-volume production. When the first prototype emerged in the autumn of that year, it was like no car that had gone before: built around a pair ofMinisubframes connected by a low-slung, monocoque steel floor-plan, its lower body panels and clamshell bonnet were formed from fiberglass, while its upper-body styling mated a rakish front end to a boxy, hatchback-style rear framework filled with large panes of glass.
It was topped off with a vinyl-covered roof fashioned from marine-grade plywood. The finishing touch was provided by a pair of MatraRancho-style spotlights mounted at the upper edges of the windscreen. Inside, the car was just as unusual: seating came in the most basic form imaginable – a set of stacked, injection-molded canteen chairs, while the floor was covered in practical yet stylish black rubber matting. Hanging from the simply styled dashboard was a satchel, serving as Towns’ quirky interpretation of the glovebox. Access was gained via sliding glass panels – ‘windoors’ in Towns-speak – on either side, with a top-hinged tailgate at the back.
The car received an enthusiastic reception from the press and, when Towns started to get numerous requests to build replicas, he was convinced that the car should enter production in kit form.
After initial talks with Jensen fell through, Towns took the bold step of financing the venture himself and so, in 1979, he began turning out Hustler kits at his InterstyleStudios near Moreton-in-the-Marsh in Gloucestershire. Over the next ten years, more than 200 kits would be sold, in a vast array of different body style and mechanical configurations.
First to emerge was the Hustler 4, a simple four-wheeled model which remained true to the original concept car but could be built in a variety of different forms if the standard hatch-back style didn’t fit the bill; options included a pick-up (called the Hobo), beach car, flat-bed truck and even a camper. Demand for increased capacity meant that a longer version – the Hustler 6 – was soon added to the range, but as the name implies, the extra length was gained not by stretching the wheelbase, but by adding a further Mini subframe at the rear, making this version a very distinctive 6-wheeler.
Needless to say, most (if not all) owners chose to forgo the original austere interior treatment in favour of something more comfortable, and some Hustlers were very lavishly trimmed indeed. Towns quickly responded to this demand by introducing a leather-grained facia panel and headliner package, complete with aircraft-style overhead console, along with a variety of improvements to the structure and finish of the internal bodywork panels.
Next came the Hustler Sprint – a lower, sleeker sporting version with flared wheel arches, front spoiler and a comfortably-trimmed, 2+2 interior. During the 1980s, many more Hustler varieties would emerge. The extraordinary ‘Hustler in Wood’ was presented at the 1980 British Motor Show, demonstrating that anyone with average joinery skills and a set of plans could produce the car’s bodywork in marine plywood as an alternative to the standard fiberglass.
The eye-catching show car featured highly varnished, mahogany-veneered ply edged in contrasting ash, and Towns could now justifiably claim that his increasingly prolific creation ‘grows on trees!’ The wooden version also brought several practical advantages: Interstyl could sell and ship the kits more cheaply without having to include bodywork panels, while the buyer was able to specify his own grade and finish of wood at his local hardware store. There was also the prospect of cheaper repairs for minor knocks and scrapes.
1982 saw the introduction of the Hellcat, a very basic open-top, Jeep-like version which dispensed with virtually all the exterior body panels apart from the bonnet; again, this was offered in either four- or six-wheeled variants. The following year, Towns added the Huntsman to the range, featuring revised styling, larger-diameter wheels and Hydrolastic or Hydragas suspension, reflecting the fact that this new model was based not on the Mini, but on ADO16or Metroparts.
In 1985, the range was expanded still further, with the addition of the Force 4 and Force 6 models, which were the first Hustlers to feature conventionally hinged doors. Later that year, Towns unleashed the last word in Hustlers: the awesome Highlander 6, powered by the 5.3-litre, V12 Jaguar engine, which apparently only found eight eager customers.
It didn’t stop there, though. According to Chris Rees’ book, British Specialist Cars, later versions included the slant-fronted Holiday; a CrayfordArgocat-based eight-wheeled amphibious version; and even a Hustler sailing boat, taking the marine plywood theme to the extreme! Rees goes on to explain that, by the late 1980s, plans were also afoot for a new, more rounded version of the car, this time being based around the Ford Cortina.
However, Hustler production ended before this version saw the light of day and, in any case, by this time Towns’ attention had presumably turned to the Railton project.
Under the skin, all of the running gear is brand new, with the chassis and sub-frames powder-coated for longevity. The tracking and suspension was set up by Paul Wigington of Classic Vehicles (Ex Aston Martin) the Hustler running hi-loss along with Cooper S front disc and Mini fins on the rear brakes and the Sport name lives up to the hype when we look at the power to weight ratio: tucked under the stylish bonnet as a 1100 A-series packed with Oselli internals (highlighted by the stylish can covers) plus a 1.75” SU carburettor on a Mini Sport inlet manifold correctly tuned.
There are other benefitting touches to improve the output including the hand built stainless steel exhaust system and the custom filled foam filled fuel tank.
And all of this weighing 625kg so you get a true sporting feel with the power.
With a full alloy body painted in BMW Taiga Green and stylishly trimmed the car just has appeal and drive. This is a credit to the really highly skilled owner with a very keen eye for detail, which I am sure Mr Towns would happily approved of.