Click on image to enlarge  

 
  The Car     The Sports Car  
  Engine 2 cyl   Engine 2 cyl
  Capacity 324 cc   Capacity 494 cc
  Power 16 bhp   Power 20.5 bhp
  Transmission 4 spd man   Transmission 4 spd man
  Top Speed 105 kph   Top Speed 125 kph
  Number Built 363   Number Built 28
  Collectability   Collectability

During the 1980’s you could be forgiven for thinking many car manufacturers were turning their products into mere appliances – but if you were to wind the clock back even further (to the 1960’s), you would find the Lightburn whitegoods manufacturer turning the appliance into a car!

Lightburn industries had, until 1963, manufactured tools, cement mixers, washing machines and fiberglass boats - the latter would be significant in providing the fibreglass body for the Zeta.

And so it was that Harold Lightburn, the companies owner and founder, was convinced that many Australian’s would like the convenience of a 2nd car, but found the cost prohibitive. To get things started, he purchased the rights to the British Anzani mini car; and then created a new fibreglass 'Station Sedan' body shell.

The Zeta was far from attractive, and the fibreglass shell prohibited the use of a tailgate despite the car looking very much as though it in fact had one! The familiar Villiers 324cc twin powered the front wheels.

The advertising campaign ensured Harold’s message was conveyed, when the Zeta was marketed as “Australia’s own second car”. The Zeta was to employ a lightweight, simple and cost effective design – something so simple
that a whitegoods manufacturer operating out of Camden Park in suburban Adelaide would be able to manufacture.

The problem for Harold was that other manufacturers had also seen the need to bring smaller, cost efficient
models to market – and they already had design engineers at the ready, and ample parts bins from which to
source material.

One such manufacturer was BMC, who released Alexander Issigonis masterpiece Mini around the same time
as the humble Zeta. It comes as little surprise that the Australian public did not take to the Zeta, and a mere
363 were able to find a place in the Aussie garage.

Technically, the Zeta was an oddity. The gearbox setup meant that the car could go as fast in reverse as it could forward, at a death-defying 60 mph! But to prove to the public that the Zeta was indeed a reliable and well manufactured car, it was entered into the 1964 Ampol 7000 mile cross-country trial. Many assumed the little
car would fall apart after a few hundred miles, however it would win over many critics by putting in a stellar performance.

Nevertheless, the public simply did not warm to the idea of a tiny, 2 cylinder car with virtually no boot space
and an interior featuring a dashboard made out of a cardboard like material.

Despite failing to capture the imagination of the Australian public with the Zeta Station Sedan, Harold Lightburn
pushed ahead with plans to release the Zeta sports car. This car is owned by Allen Kuchel.

It was back in 1959 that Lightburn had obtained the rights to the Frisky Sprint- a low, sleek ‘Michelotti’ designed
sports car similar to the Goggomobil Dart. The Frisky Sprint’s designer, Gordon Bedson, was persuaded
to leave Frisky and join Lightburn with a brief to develop the Zeta Sports.

He bought with him the prototype Frisky Sprint as well as a supply of fifty motors by Fichtel&Sachs, the
493cc engine from the legendary FMR "Tiger". The Frisky Sprint did have doors- shallow bottom-hinged ones,
but they were deleted in the interests of strength.

The windshield was changed, the tail restyled, and the final drive altered. The car failed to meet New South
Wales lighting regulations, so some were fitted with additional free-standing headlamps on the hood.

It seems most Zeta Sports were built in 1961, but the car was not introduced until the summer of 1964 for
some reason. While Lightburn had a network of Alfa Romeo dealerships at the ready, they were under
whelmed by orders, and only some 28 were sold.

Website article stimulates UK comment on Allen Kuchel’s Zeta...Read article here

Lotus MK VI l Lotus Eleven l Lotus Elite l Amilcar l Coventry Climax l Zeta l Scootamota l Ransomes MG6

 

       

       
  © Ruston's Roses
 
   
Site design - That's Graphic