Ayrspeed’s History

The original Ayrspeed logo was a bit of fun: a Jaguar wearing Ray-ban shades with a dog-latin inscription IN VERITAS TESTICULAE CANIS – “truly the dog’s bollocks.” A brewing new logo, somewhat more appropriate for coachbuilt Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, will be based on the Ayre family crest and will bear the relevant motto. 

Inventing cars has always been the most fascinating process, particularly in its most hands-on form, where you start with an idea and some pieces of car arranged on a garage floor. CAD/CAM is all very well, but restaurant napkin discussions and doing-it-by-doing it in 3D solves problems as they arise and so far has achieved the perfect driving position every time.  

There was a styling longeur for a decade or two after the Ayrspeed Six, with a lot of magazine writing and a good few books published, but the recent challenges of creating Rolls-Royce and Bentley specials has given Ayrspeed projects a new lease of life. 

The Open Cloud cars are essentially a continuation of Mulliner’s conversion work of the 1960s, but with subtle improvements. The use of boot lid gas rams not available to Mulliner allows a potential redesign of the boot hinge mechanism so that convertible soft top roof frame can sit in the car properly, rather than looking as though it has been dumped on the back with a duvet thrown over it. The Chicago sales branch of Ayrspeed asks that the cars should be close to the Mulliner cars, which is probably wise, so visible non-standard improvements are optional.

The Bentley specials allow a lot more creativity, and the decades of examining and writing about specialist cars pays off: although good, the 1950s Bentley independent suspension feels wrong in a period-design special, so we’ll just backdate the whole front of the car to 1930 and start again.    

The first Ayre-built car was a Midge, an interesting rebodying of the Triumph Herald in aluminium over plywood. Obviously the Herald engine was too wee, so it was replaced with a 2-litre Vitesse straight six, and the design was adapted to make room for it.
It required some imagination to replace a four-cylinder Herald engine with a straight six in a small car.
Eventually the 1930s-inspired Midge was replaced by the real thing, a 1938 MG TA Midget: sadly it was a superficially shiny show car suffering from 80 years of neglect and butchery. It disappointed too often to be much fun, and was swapped for a 1947 Bentley.
The TA’s original steering wheel was nasty but was also one of the few remaining original parts of the car, so it was retained but retrimmed in thick leather.


Rambo the rude rescue Chihuahua didn’t like the TA much either.


The Brookland Swallow was a three-wheeler that took its styling influences from the British/Italian sports cars of the 1960s. Parasitic lawyer types forced the change of name from the Brookland Motor Company to Ayrspeed Automotive Adventures Ltd.


The chassis was perimeter style, made from folded sheet steel, and the running gear was Mini. Its long wheelbase made it very well-behaved and stable.


Driving position was perfect, which is not actually that easy to achieve. It’s been a feature of Ayrspeed designs.


Market research involved launching the car at a show, which is when it was discovered that nearly all British trike drivers only have motorcycle licenses and can’t drive heavier three-wheelers like this one. End of the Swallow and the BMC story.
Iain’s own Ayrspeed Six, which made the whole exercise worthwhile: he badly wanted an XK120, but after driving the real thing, he did not want the Jaguar version. To be fair, Jaguar’s XK was originally a show car designed to demonstrate the new 1948 XK twin-cam engine, and was not intended for production.

The production prototype made a fine daily driver and was even reasonably waterproof.
Ayrspeed Six primary prototype and production prototype. The nephew in the picture is now a father of twins, and is much more mature than his uncle.

After writing a couple of books about Cobra replicas, building one was inevitable. The chosen brand was Cobretti, with Jag axles and a cheeky Chevy 350 V8.


The Ayrspeed Eight Cobra lookalike has been pottering along through several prototyping stages. It was going to use budget American V8 cop cars as a kit donor, but prototyping proved that a bad idea. Next up was a light Mazda Miata base and carbon bodywork with vicious propane turbo power and Spec-Miata race-quality handling to create the fastest ever Cobra… but that would have been pure nasty and too unpleasant to enjoy. Cobras have been evicted by Bentley specials anyway.

An entertaining partnership between Ayrspeed and Manx Cars looked promising but ended amiably, as it sank in that with the best will in the world, the personalities involved were unlikely to achieve a commercially productive result .

Ayrspeed Design leapt back into life in 2019 with a commission and four-year build of a Silver Wraith boat-tailed special for collector Al Levit in Chicago.