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The company was founded by Tim Dutton Woolley and run from a small workshop where a series of cars based on the P1 prototype were built, no two being the same. Things stabilised in October 1971 when a production model, the B-Type appeared with a more or less standard specification and based on Triumph Herald components. A move was also made to a larger factory in Tangmere, Chichester.
The B-Type eventually evolved into the Dutton Phaeton. Later versions of the Phaeton were based on Ford Escort components and were produced until 1989. These were also available as fully built-up cars, in which case they received a 1.6 liter Ford Crossflow engine with 84 hp (63 kW).
In 1979 Dutton announced the Dutton Sierra, an Escort-based estate car with off-road looks. In 1982, the Ford Motor Company decided to use the Sierra name for a new model, and claimed sole rights. A court case resulted and Dutton won the right to continue with the name on kit cars as the judge ruled that these were a separate category from assembled cars. Dutton was awarded costs against Ford and gained immense publicity. The Sierra is claimed to be the biggest selling kit car ever. A further move to larger premises back in Worthing was made in the same year with glass fibre body making at a separate works in Lancing.
On the usual rear-wheel drive Ford Escort underpinnings Dutton placed the body of the new Rico. It made its debut in October 1984, at the Birmingham Motor Show. It used the bottom plate, mechanicals, and doors from a two-door Escort but had a Dutton-developed fibreglass body over a steel tubular frame. The Rico was a compact and aerodynamic two-door saloon, 3,911 mm (154.0 in) long and much lighter than the donor car.
By 1984, 70 people were employed and production topped 1,000. Still, by 1989 the company was closed down and the designs sold. A new model had been developed called the Maroc, a heavily modified Ford Fiesta with convertible body, and this was made by Hacker Engineering in Littlehampton. Initially it was available as a factory finished car but prices became too high and from 1993 kit versions were made available. The design has been sold on to Novus of Bolney, Sussex; availability continued until at least 2006 but has now ceased.
After leaving the kit car business and closing down the company Tim Dutton Woolley operated as a consultant but returned to the automobile making business in 1995 with the Dutton Amphibian and Dutton Commando, amphibious cars based on the Ford Fiesta and Suzuki Samurai. One has been driven across the English Channel.
Dutton kits are now hard to come by. Most Duttons have already been assembled and are only available to purchase as second hand cars, usually in need of some restoration. When a Dutton is purchased in 'kit form' the person building it will require a donor car. The donor car is used to provide the engine, gearbox and many other essential components for the car. Fords usually make perfect donor cars. Most people use donor cars that would no longer be road worthy and use the spares to create a new kit–car.
In 1969 Tim Dutton-Woolley completed a 5 year indentured tool making apprenticeship with Pressed Steel Ltd. in Swindon UK. At that time they were making body shells for the Mk X Jaguar and BMC 1100. As soon as the 5 years training was over he built his first car (1969). Deciding that naming a car a 'Woolley' was not a particularly clever idea, he settled on Dutton instead.
Dutton has been involved with over 14 companies including:-
DUTTON SPORTS LTD 1969 - 1973 manufacturer of experimental cars and boats, sold on to Dutton cars
DUTTON CARS LTD 1973 - 1989 During this time Dutton Cars rose to become the largest kit car company in the world producing over 8000 vehicles. At its height over 80 staff were employed and production hit 22 cars/week spread over 4 factory sites in Worthing, West Sussex. For most kit car companies building 22 cars in their entire existence would be considered an achievement.
In 1979 Dutton launched a new "off road" look-alike, the Sierra. In 1982 Ford Motor Co wrote to him advising that they wanted to use the name on their Cortina/Taunus replacement and gave him 3 months to stop using the name. Being one to fully appreciate the benefits of free publicity, Dutton was in no mood to relinquish the name and made his thoughts patently clear to FMC. There then followed a year of discussions which came to nothing and FMC took Dutton to the High Court in London, the case took 5 days and Ford lost, Dutton continued to use the name Sierra until its production ceased in 1989.
By 1989 Dutton had lost faith in the kit car industry with many companies ripping off other companies designs. In 1989 Dutton had 11 different vehicles in production and it soon became apparent that no one company wanted to purchase the whole of Dutton Cars so it was split into 3 and sold off.
DUTTON/POLSKI FIAT (FSO) 1979 Dutton was approached by an intermediary to design an open 2 seater sports car for the FSO factory in Poland based on the Polski Fiat P125. Prototypes were made and delivered to Warsaw by Dutton. 1979 was at the start of the "troubles" at Gdansk and various directors "disappeared" so the project was dropped.
The following companies were formed in the 1970s and 80s with Dutton being either a director or shareholder or both:
STARBRIGHT LTD formed to sell 4X4 K5 Blazers imported from the US. At 10 miles to the gallon these ceased to be sellable in the UK when petrol reached £1/gallon.
EAGLE CARS LTD formed to sell the US version of the defunct Nova, within a couple of years this became the 2nd largest kit car company in the UK and was taking up too much of Dutton's time so he resigned his directorship and disposed of his shares - the company traded for many years after that with his cousin at the helm.
CARMONA ENGINEERING (Italy) formed to manufacture aluminium road wheels near Turin. This unfortunately coincided with most vehicle manufacturers offering aluminium wheels as standard equipment so sales were very slow.
DUTTON/MOKE Dutton was approached by Austin Rover in the late 1980s to become the sole UK importer of the Portuguese built Mini Moke. Dozens were sold through the Dutton showroom in Worthing then Austin Rover decided that their manufacturing plant in Lisbon was not producing cars to a "high enough standard", so they shut the factory.
GOODWOOD REPAIR PANELS formed to repair space frame chassis and composite body parts.
TIMEKITE LTD a motor magazine publishing company.
PARTEX DISCOUNT LTD formed to sell new parts to kit car builders. Ceased trading when the kit car market crashed in the early 1990s.
LANGLEY SPORTS LTD formed to manufacture electric golf buggies and personnel carriers. Successful for a couple of years until the Japanese repeated what they did to the UK motorbike market - they imported products into the UK for less money than we could even buy the parts for.
HACKER ENGINEERING LTD originally formed to sell a fully built Type Approved sports car - the Hacker Maroc - based on the Ford Fiesta floor pan. Owing to the pressures of work the project was sold off. The company turned to consultancy and designed and built many vehicles for companies in the UK, India, Iran, Guadeloupe, Russia and Nigeria.
AMPHIBIOUS CARS 1994 A factory at Littlehampton Marina was found and the first production Dutton amphibious car started. Now T/A Tim Dutton Amphibious Cars, same factory, same staff, same equipment, same tooling and even the same phone number 
After the court hearing, an immediate appeal was lodged and was heard 6 months later in the High Court in London, by 3 judges including Lord Moses. The Carlisle Crown Court in Cumbria was presided over by Judge Paul Batty, QC, who was criticised by the appeal judges, for the way he ran his court in Carlisle, stating that Tim Dutton was “unfairly” treated by the judge (as opposed to the prosecution). But, more importantly, the 6 month suspended prison sentence was thrown out. Lord Moses stated - and these are his exact words - “this offence came nowhere near the threshold of a custodial sentence”.
|Dutton P1||1970–1971||Lotus 7 like car based on MG Midget mechanical parts. Aluminium body panels, glass fibre wings.|
|Dutton B Type||1971–1974||Triumph Herald based. Body mainly made from glass fibre. Ford engine optional.|
|Dutton B Plus||1974–1977||Rear axle now Ford Cortina but with coil springs.|
|Dutton Malaga||1974–1977.||Front wings moulded in with body.|
|Dutton Malaga B+||1975–1977||Malaga front and B+ rear.|
|Dutton Cantera||1976–1977||Coupé version of Malaga B+.|
|Dutton Phaeton Series 1||1977–1981||Updated Malaga B+.|
|Dutton Phaeton Series 2||1980–1982||Rear suspension modified to use Cortina springs.|
|Dutton Phaeton Series 3||1981–1986||Modified chassis to use Ford Escort components.|
|Dutton Phaeton Series 4||1986–1989||Modified body with integral bumpers.|
|Dutton B Plus Series 2||1989||B+ with Phaeton body style.|
|Dutton Melos||1981–1989||Phaeton chassis with new body with more rounded styling. 2+2 seat configuration|
|Dutton Legerra||1988–1989||The first Dutton sports car with opening doors.|
|Dutton Sierra Series 1||1980–1984||Ford Escort-based four seater. Estate car/off road styling. An early, two-wheel drive SUV.|
|Dutton Sierra Series 2||1984–1986||Improved body with some double skinned panels.|
|Dutton Sierra Series 3||1986–1989||New body but very similar in styling to Series 2.|
|Dutton Sierra Drop Head||1983–1989||No roof. Pick up version also made.|
|Dutton Rico||1984–1989||Ford Escort-based four seat, two-door saloon.|
|Dutton Rico Shuttle||1986–1989||Estate car version of the Rico.|
|Dutton Beneto||1989||"SUV" styled version of the Rico.|
- Mastrostefano, Raffaele, ed. (1985). Quattroruote: Tutte le Auto del Mondo 1985 (in Italian). Milano: Editoriale Domus S.p.A. p. 263. ISBN 88-7212-012-8.
- Tutte le Auto del Mondo 1985, p. 264
- (Information provided directly from http://www.timdutton.com)
- BBC NEWS | UK | England | Amphibious car maker escapes jail
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