Snapshot From 1960: Quick; What Car Is It?

(first posted 8/7/2011)   What’s Niedermeyer been smoking? We all instantly recognize this for what it has to be. What else could it be? It’s one of the most distinctive shapes ever, an icon. Moving right along…

I’ve been wanting to do this post for over forty years, ever since I first came across this shot of the elusive Frazer Nash Continental coupe. Holy Erwin Kommenda! Your distinctive design for the Porsche 356 has been pirated. And guess what’s under the long hood of this handsome coupe? A BMW 3.2 L V8.

Just to confirm what we’re seeing truly is believing, here’s the real thing (top) with the FN. It obviously wasn’t cribbing in the usual sense; FN needed some parts to make their hand-built Continental a reality, given that most of their tiny output was roadsters.

Well, the source was as they say “readily at hand”; AFN, the company behind the FN, was the official Porsche importer in Great Britain from 1954 through 1965. That was the year the company was sold to Porsche, which then set up its own distributorship. Explains it all. And the number of Continentals built can probably be counted on one hand.

Here’s the Continental in a different pose. Makes the Porsche in it harder to see.

The Frazer Nash story is one of those classic English cottage industry tales, started in 1922 by Archibald Frazer-Nash. Re-organized (via bankruptcy) as AFN, the company become importers and assemblers of BMWs, particularly the very legendary 328.

After the war, AFN and Bristol Cars actually imported Fritz Fiedler, the designer of the the BMW 328, and cooperated in reviving the design jointly. Bristol ended up actually building the engine for what began its almost immortal line of coupes. AFN used the engine in a series of sports-racers, that enjoyed some success. But in the whole post-war period, only 85 Frazer Nashes were built, and the number of Continentals likely just a couple or so. But it kept showing up in all those Auto Parade Annuals, where I found it, and wondered, until today, just how it ended up with a Porsche roof section. Mystery solved.

Here’s a page on post-war Frazer Nashes, but barely a word on the Continental