Stevens Sienna-Prototype Restoration – Part 5

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The second Sienna courtesy of Peter Bird taken in 1982, a Herald based kit projectIt has come to light my Sienna was not an ‘only classic child’ there was more than one produced contrary to original thoughts, long gone now but the photographic evidence survives and so does the man who built it. I received a detailed account of the why and wherefores around the Stevens produced cars from Peter Bird who worked on the project back in the late 70s early 80s. He sent an account of how the 2nd version came to be; The second Sienna came about because of a freeze in funds when we were mid the Stevens-Cipher launch. We had presented the Cipher at the 1980 National Motor-Show (the first at the NEC) and to 'the Press', the response was more than encouraging.  When DeLorean defrauded the British government out of New Enterprise Funds and then Lord Hesketh's motorcycles also collapsed - the financial market tarred all new vehicle manufacturers with the same brush. The risk suddenly became too great and funds were frozen.  I was the only employee (although we had subcontractors) but still Tony had a family to support and he'd used all his own finances in rebuilding his home and to finance the Cipher.  Without external funding we were on borrowed time and yet the finance was only frozen while the situation was being considered.  As the Mazda MX5 subsequently proved the Cipher had a huge potential. Taking care the ring will snap-over the rack at either end reducing turning circleTony had to sell the second Motor Show car, so we started building another Cipher demonstrator. I don't know where the idea came from but I thought of marketing the Sienna as a kit car. Tony was generous in his encouragement (I was after all little more than his protégé) and so we gave it a try.  Although the Cipher and Sienna were both Reliant based - the availability of affordable used four-wheel Kitten or Fox mechanicals was very limited.  However, Triumph's aging Herald fitted the bill nicely.  It was plentiful and cheap as a donor car.  It had a ladder chassis which supported all the suspension parts, and it had an appropriate interior (wooden dashboard & seats) which were re-usable.  In an age when alloys were coming into their own the Triumph's wheels, albeit too small for the style, were usable as they had hub-caps appropriate to the 1950's style. Peter built the second Sienna for the Kit Car market with Triumph’s Herald as a base but the model went no further, the idea though continued and after being a partner at Lomax Cars, Peter Bird went onto create Falcon Automotive, utilising 2CV power and often three wheels in his designs. Returning to my garage over three decades after Peter completed his we have almost reached a rolling chassis and via a new master cylinder (single outlet MGB type) we were able to bleed the brakes through, after fitting new rear shoes and wheel cylinders. The original exhaust now resembles that cheese they produce in Switzerland, plenty of holes but light in substance and had to go. We found the down pipe solid so removed the rest and worked the system around that, with one major variation. The original route was to the rear of the car running close to the fuel tank which we had now repositioned more centrally using a rubber mount for further support. It had always been the plan to exit the exhaust out of the side just behind the passenger seat, this required one flexi joint plus a Mini silencer and a 90-degree bend to run the system just behind the chassis. The options were limited as the clearance is minimal but at least we can prevent the first ‘Sleeping Policeman’ ripping all our endeavours from the car. Chrome and black work well and the larger tire should fill the wheel wellSeveral hours of preparation took place on the GKN Silverstone wheels, the outer rim was taken back to a shining alloy finish with the rest receiving several coats of black and then lacquered. Alan managed to manufacture centre wheel discs featuring the Stevens logo from the 70s, attaching them to the chrome centre caps offered a nice contrast with chrome plated wheel nuts. Tyres and obtaining the correct size with a period look required some thought, low profile modern ‘boots’ would not work, so I contacted the man who knows about all things rubber. Peter at Bedford Tyres immediately realised what I needed and ordered in a new set of Excelon Touring (offering a more period pattern) but in a tall 165-80-13. Although getting them to seat correctly was a battle, they look correct and will hopefully offer good road holding with such a light car. Another major obstacle we have overcome was the steering and its extreme angles of turn; on full lock the old tyres ripped at the fibreglass so with the new larger ones something drastic was required. Rust free and ready now all we need is a good road test before a major refitDave Corby is a Cipher owner who faced the same problem with his 13in rims running close to the bodywork, as Reliant’s excellent turning circle became a hindrance on the Stevens machines. Dave came up with a fantastic solution and posted a pair of small tubes, cut to length with instructions on where they would clip into place once a small section was removed. It worked perfectly and we dropped the car from its stands and rolled it out into the daylight for the first time in months. Next time: Road test, beer and backslapping all round or oils leaks and horrible noises Urgent mods required as the pedals too close together for my big plates Floor panels and seat bases as we start on the body Special thanks to... Grant Ford for Classiccarmag.net – www.grantford.co.uk Thanks to Simon Fitch- www.stevens-cipher.com Brian Marshall Reliant Kitten Register- www.kitreg.org.uk Peter Bird & Dave CorbyTags: