Apologies for the radio silence concerning the relaunch of Z Cars, I realise it has been a while since the last update from Chris Allanson. There have been some updates in the two designated Classic Mini magazines which you may have seen subtly breaking the news I intended to relocate ZC to Kent. Given the passion for Z Cars as has been evident on the forum and for the most part, messages of support, I thought I would share more of the background, which I hope gives some insight into why events are unfolding so much more slowly than we would like. Writing all of this probably hasn't helped...
Whilst Chris provided an update in February, I was still mid-way through acquiring two small local automotive companies with a view to merging and relocating them, a process that I'd initiated around the same time that the Z Cars offshoot, ZCPE, ceased trading. The timing of the ruthless liquidation was the worst news at the wrong time and being a very disaffected customer only to discover I'd just lost £000s too, (I realise I was not the only one) it was and remains a raw experience, as it does for Chris Allanson. That being said, it is the catalyst to drive us forward to resurrect and reinvent Z Cars, refreshing the range. As I alluded to in my brief post of last Thursday, the brutal efficiency of the liquidation has made the relaunch that more challenging.
I needed to prioritise the completion of those other acquisitions first before attending to Z Cars. In the meantime whilst it has admittedly been both frustrating, in hindsight it has been beneficial to take our time to consider the best way to relaunch the company, and everything that goes with it. I switched tack on premises which set us back a few months and as I write this update, I am still in the process of sourcing equipment and building what I hope will be a robust infrastructure to relocate the merged operations. Having these facilities in place - I thought would make the Z Cars purchase a more viable proposition integrating where it is practical to do so, such as back-office support for example.
With the acquisitions completed last week, this will operate under the new group name, Area 28. We continue to fit-out our showroom, shop, reception and workshops, whilst Chris cracks on with the R&D. As none of the ZCPE team are involved with the resurrected Z Cars, Chris will be overseeing the cross-training of the local team who have a vast array of skills and decades of experience between them. To give further peace of mind, the team are very familiar with Z Cars Minis as they have worked on my B18 and Hayabusa Turbo Minis for many years and have added numerous upgrades and enhancements as it was not practical to keep going to Hull. The team will cut their teeth rebuilding with Chris, my Busa with a QBA drivebox which was on the receiving end of the ZCPE demise. Furthermore, they will build a small fleet of demo cars which will feature some of the engine derivatives to demonstrate to prospective customers. We'll just have to find a similar test route away from prying eyes...! It is still our intention to launch the TFSI kit this year but the FWD kit is likely to slip into 2017.
Z Cars should reap the benefit of having these shared facilities in place as we will avoid replicating one of the critical challenges for ZCPE - the burden of excessive overheads with a large workshop team and the need to chase project work to cover those commitments. The synergies of this structure allow for the sharing of overheads and the latest technology which the companies as independents would have found difficult to finance. A larger back-office team should improve the customer service too. We will also have access to a project manager, as Area 28 has customer projects too.
Z Cars' close alliance with Area 28 will afford Z Cars owners access to other services such as:
- Traditional garage services including 3D laser wheel alignment, to ensure we have the camber, caster angles as they should be.
- On-site specialist auto-electrics and diagnostic investigation. We have hired an experienced auto-electrician to redevelop new looms for kits.
- Various regional exclusivity reseller agreements such as; Performance remaps from established tuning specialists Revo and Evolution Chips. Essentially we'd be able to offer 3 stages of tuning map for both the TFSI and Ecoboost engines once these kits are launched.
- Infotainment installations.
- Security and tracking systems.
- Safety Cameras / dash cams with DVR.
- Key-cutting and programming.
- Conversions and re-trimming.
Following the liquidation, rebuilding the knowledge base of components and suppliers has been an unenviable challenge as everything was literally sold at auction. This has also hampered the launch of the interim website. There is no client data, but I would like to, with your help establish a Z Car register for the following reasons:
- Address the concerns of residuals where I/we can act as custodian and ensure we can support the pre-owned cars giving confidence to potential buyers. We can't do this without your help, and I believe this would help current owners.
- Given the performance capabilities of virtually any Z Car conversion, I feel it is a responsible undertaking as we can ensure new owners/completed builds can receive help and advice to enjoy their purchases safely.
- A register will help us establish the quantities of the various kits and engine derivatives to ensure we rebuild the product knowledge to source spares, as some of the components are unique to the kits. We cannot support these cars, if we do not know anything about them from not having access to historic data.
We have also hired an experienced auto-electrician to develop new looms for the kits to facilitate an easier installation. We will also put together over time some video content to assist the home-builds but this will not be a DVD, but short content aimed at specific aspects of a build namely where the kits vary or have moved on from the kit covered in the MiniFilms DVD featuring a Hayabusa kit installation and latterly a section on the VTEC kit.
I'm now pushing to have the interim website online shortly. By way of an explanation and not an excuse, content was scarce, so this site relies heavily on a collection of archive material which we will gradually add to, as we develop our own and should evolve over time. I hope to be able to launch a new site later in the year, believe or not I actually want to try to develop a configurator.
We hope to be able to launch during Q3, but this will dependent on having the team trained to deal with enquiries as we should at the very least be in a position to recommence fabricating the kits. We will have an open day, and as much as I'd like this closer to the relaunch, it is inevitable it will clash with the succession of Mini shows in the summer months. I suspect as many who baulked at a trip to Hull will do similarly with a trip to Ashford, Kent. That being said, our broader offering and the facilities and service of the affiliated businesses which I hope would soften the impact of a trip to the south-east. In any event I hope to be enable to entice a few customer cars particularly kits we are light on information for, so Chris can help cross-train the team to support all the variants out there. Please contact me at the following email address if you are willing to allow us to use your car:
As much as we may not continue pushing engine variants such as the R1 and Volvo-based kits (subject to demand of course), we would like to be able to support the owners if they would wish us to. However we would need to have time to study the cars and put together the information necessary to provide the spares and support necessary.
We are open-minded on the core portfolio, but unless there is a shift in demand we are expecting the first phase to be as follows:
- Hayabusa chain drive.
- Hayabusa with Quaife drivebox.
- Honda VTEC K20.
- 2.0 TFSI manual (under development. With Revo Technik Stages 1, 2 and 3)
- 2.0 TFSI DSG (under development/review. With Revo Stages 1, 2 and 3)
- Updated front subframe (under development)
The FWD will be phase 2, we have high hopes this will be the Ford Ecoboost unit with Revo Technik Stages 1 & 2. We have a few ideas for other kits and taking Z Cars forward in other ways, but I think you would agree, we need to get back to basics supplying kits, offering factory-builds and supporting existing customers for parts and spares before we get too ahead of ourselves.
I hope to be able to get to a few shows this year and promote the company a bit more as Chris used to do but keep this going. I think it is very important to more visible.
Lastly I would welcome some constructive suggestions and comments, and as many of you have built your own cars, areas you feel could be improved.
Thank you again for your continued support.
Edited by beanc*unter, 22 June 2016 - 06:54 PM.