The Berlinetta Story

Following on from the Roadster story I previously produced, it is logical to try and do the same for the Berlinetta – and anyway, what else does one do when on lockdown ?

As before this has been pieced together from many sources and I take no responsibility for its total accuracy, so any and all corrections would be welcomed.

You may well know more than me on this subject, so I urge you to get in touch and together we can produce a definitive document.

Thank you in anticipation – Dave Cunnington, MOC Archivist, June 2020

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Within the archive is a copy of a letter to a prospective customer from Paul Moorhouse, dated 1st October 1982, referring to two 2+2 developments – the LWB Roadster, which will be available from December 1982, and :

“The other 2+2 is all new and will be based on Cortina mk lll running gear. The wheel base will be 105 inches, making it a larger car all round. The interior will be 5 inches wider and laid out to accommodate four adults, or two adults and two fair sized teenagers in comfort. It is intended that this car shall be highly civilized with a hard top option and permanent glass side windows as standard. Visually the new car willhave a powerful family likeness but the extra size will enable it to capture the grace of compact sports saloons of the 1930s.”

This scanned picture is from a magazine article covering a visit to the Marlin factory and shows the prototype Berlinetta under construction

Fast forward to the MOC magazine “Pitstop” for March 1984 and we find :

…and here is the new full page advert in Kit Car Magazine July 1984 :

Pitstop again, this time in August 1984 :

……….and from the production list, it appears that by end October 1984, some 9 or 10 kits have so far been collected/delivered to customers.

March 1985 sees a new full page advert in the kit magazines :

…and around the same time the magazines are starting to carry their own reviews of the new kit :

By the end of June 1985 some 60 kits had left the factory.

It must be remembered that these were being produced as well as, and alongside, the Roadster kits, so no mean achievement.

The Berlinetta kit could be built around any Cortina donor car, and from early production days it was possible to specify mountings for the Ford V6 engine range. A plus point also is the fact that to convert to LHD would not be a problem as most Fords in Europe were LHD.

….and with some minor changes it wasn’t long before the Rover V8 engine option was available.

Here are two pages from the initial six page ”how to do it” instruction sheets

Pitstop in July 1985 notes that there are already two Berlinettas on the road.

This is one of the early cars, fitted with a 2L Pinto engine and initially unpainted. In later life, having passed through the hands of several owners, it was rebuilt, given a Rover V8 engine transplant, and painted red.

These two pictures are in the archive. I do not know whence it came, but the one on the left was during an MOC visit (1987?) to Marlin Engineering, and the second one was taken 11 November 1989 by Dave Hitchings when he collected the front one, his Sierra Berlinetta kit 3-1463.

The vast majority of Berlinettas were built with small individual variations from the kit, but one that I would like to see is the kit which was ordered March 1986 from Marlin as a two seater powered by a 2.4L Jaguar engine, with no screen (planned to use aeroscreens), no hood, and flat topped doors. The car is registered and currently on a SORN – we have no further information or any pictures.

More normal differences were to round the wings, or put the spare on the running board, or even do both – and at least one car had a one off screen and the doors cut down to more closely resemble an old Alfa Romeo.

The fourth picture above is a Rover V8 powered Berli with a much restyled body – did it ever get on to the road ?

Reviewing all the old Marlin customer files has brought some (previously unknown to me) things to light regarding Marlin and Australia/New Zealand, which I feel are worthy of note here.

1) A David Wright contacted Marlin in March 1982 as he was considering purchasing two Roadster kits. He noted that the “Australian” Marina, built there by BL 1971 – 1976 had a six cylinder engine and wondered if this would fit into the Marlin. Nothing else in the files, so this does not seem to have progressed any further. There’s nothing in Roadster files about this, nor any mention of a D Wright, other than a much later 1994 YKC Roadster owner.

David wrote again in May 1986 and ordered a Rover V8 Berlinetta kit, and 3-1068 was despatched to him from the factory on 15 October 1986,unfortunately we have no further information or pictures of this car

2)Back in May 1982 a Bruce Wheeler contacted Marlin over the possibility selling Roadsters in Australia, saying that with the very high importation and other tax levels perhaps the importation of “part kits” might be a solution. He visited the UK later that year, and met with Paul at the Marlin factory. In October he ordered a Roadster kit, but cancelled it in December due to the expected local registration difficulties – however was interested in the “2+2” Cortina based project.

In October 1985 he ordered a Berlinetta kit, and again expressed interest in manufacturing them in Australia, with the rights for New Zealand as well. The cars would be fitted with a Mitsubishi 2.6L four cylinder engine.

The kit was 3-929, ex factory Jan 86, and had a black hood and black seats, and I believe these trial installation pictures are of it – however we have no pictures of the completed car, nor any idea of it’s registration details :

In April 1986 he ordered a second kit, due for completion 12 July 1986, intending that this would enable him to have it as a rolling chassis to display alongside the fully built car at the Sydney Motor Show in October 1986.

In June Alistair Browne visited Marlin on behalf of Bruce Wheeler, and details were agreed with regard to “who would build what” of the part kits. I understand that the picture below is of Alistair Browne’s car – but is it 3-929, or the second kit 3-1030 ?

Other than the cars mentioned above, it would appear that nothing further came of these Australia/N Z plans – – – unless of course you know any different?

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There is a letter in the correspondence files, in response to an overseas enquiry, noting that packing and shipping is an everyday thing for Marlin, and they had shipped kits to 13 different countries around the world. Here is a selection of some of them :

In June 1988 this kit 3-1292 was shipped to Portugal

This Berlinetta (below left, kit/chassis number not known) was pictured in Brunei in 2019

……….and above on the right is a Berlinetta to be found in Israel

Tony Zemaitis, the well known English guitar maker was an enthusiastic Berlinetta owner in the UK in 1993, and later shipped a different one to Tokyo to go in his museum there. This car has since been sold and is now in California

James Dresch in Sweden has three :

Roman Schmidt in Warsaw has a much travelled Berli, and has a soft toy Mammoth as a mascot, very fitting as his Berli has done several mammoth trips within/across Europe in recent years – some of his trip logs can be seen in Pitstop

In July 1987 Marlin shipped kit 3-1189 to Athens to a Mr V Anastassiadis. We have no information on any other Berlis in Greece, and these pics were taken on Zakynthos in October 2005 – I wonder, is this that same car?

Two more, a pick up conversion (in Spain?), and the other a heavily accessorised car in Germany

Here’s what is to my knowledge the most recent overseas Berlinetta, in June 2020 the new and very happy owner in Austria sent this pic, chassis 3-916, ex Q794 JDV

Finally, here is one person’s attempt to improve his creature comforts and widen his Berli – does anyone have any more information as to which car it is/was and did it progress much further ?

I really should stop there ! Around the world many many more Berlis are alive and thriving but I think so far I’ve put more than enough pictures into this document.

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So, back to the production story. Demand was beginning to slacken across the kit car industry, but with the advent of the Sierra replacing the Cortina as a “repmobile”, and it’s availability in large numbers, time was spent by Ian (Carswell ?) redesigning the Berlinetta to be built using a Sierra donor. Apart from the obvious front suspension differences, the car looked the same as the Cortina based one.

3-1143 was the first kit in this development exercise, it had a Sierra rear axle etc but retained the Cortina front axle, and was converted to take a Rover V8.

This picture from J Eades shows a Sierra Berlinetta chassis displayed by Marlin Engineering at a 1989 kit car show

After 3-1143, a further 16 fully Sierra based kits were produced between 1989 and 1991.

So what about total production numbers ?

We do not know the kit number for the prototype Q195 JDV, but believe it could be 3-379.

Subject to this being confirmed, the final total of Berlinetta production, including the four kits produced by YKC (see later) is either 420, or 421 !

The last Berlinetta kits completed by Marlin were 3-1661(7 Dec 91) 3-1664(7 Dec 91) 3-1665(2 Jan 92) and 3-1671(7 Mar 92)

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Yorkshire Kit Cars (YKC) Berlinettas

Marlin’s Roadster production continued through several factory moves until 1992, when the rights to the Roadster and the Berlinetta were sold to Yorkshire Kit Cars (YKC) so that Paul Moorhouse could concentrate on his future plans.

Danny Nelson advises that when YKC built Berlinettas (and Roadsters) they often incorporated several of the modifications that had been done by owners and promulgated in the Pitstop magazine. A prime example of this is the removable cross member in the Belinetta, which enabled the gearbox to be taken out whilst the engine stayed in the car, and with Roadsters they built the “lowered floor” modification, which gave more leg room and a better driving position.

MOC Archive information says that prior to taking on the Roadster and Berlis YKC built the following five “Marlin” manufactured Berlinetta kits :

Berlinetta chassis 3-1072 (an Oct 1986 kit) reg. not known, which was bought by S Himsworth and built for a Mr Coombs – we have no more information, and no pictures of the car.

Berlinetta chassis 3-1291 (a Jun 1988 kit) PWR 448P which was completed by YKC for A D Hill, the car was Maroon, it’s last MoT expired Sept 2010,and again we have no pictures !

Berlinetta chassis 3-1405 (a May 1989 kit) Q454 GJT which was built by YKC with a Fiat 2 litre engine, and on their stand at Stoneleigh (in 1987?) This car has just been resold in May 2020

Berlinetta chassis 3-1407 (a Jun 1989 kit) RAP 388X which was built by YKC for a Mr Condliffe. This car has been sold on a few times, and has been in Italy since about 2015

Berlinetta chassis 3-1661 (a Dec 1991 kit) was built by YKC for a J G Wilson and this pic shows the car in work at YKC – but what was/is it’s registration number ?

Marlin built kit 3-913 was delivered to Peter Filby in December 1985, and did not appear again until it was built in 1994 by John Watson of “Which Kit” magazine for Peter Filby.

The car was registered Q241 VAF and by 1994 Berlis were with YKC, so this was given chassis number 002-N1 which does not fit into any known sequence – I’ll stick with the original 3-913!

This car was last for sale in 2018.

Finally, YKC actually manufactured another four kits. Were they all Sierra based?

Chassis 3-393(9 May 92) for Mrs D P Mackarel

(her husband had 3-1413 and we have nothing on his car either)

Chassis 3-394(9 May 92) for S J Brown

Chassis 3-395(29 May 92) for G Taylor

Chassis 3-396(27 July 92) for D Greey

We have no further info on the above, not even their colour – let me know if you can help !

We know that at least one of the above YKC Berlis was Sierra based and painted red. These pics from J Mulvaney show his Roadster A774 at YKC (note part built Sierra Berli in background) and at the show in 1994 with both cars now completed

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