The Anziel Nova was planned to be New Zealand’s first home grown car. Like many stories in the industry, it has connections to a number of other manufacturers – and a fair bit of Government obfuscation and obstruction.
A New Zealand born economist in Britain during the 1960s dreams about creating a car back home and sets his mind on making it happen. Alan Gibbs was born on the South Island of the country and relocated to the North Island as a child, having the majority of his schooling there including several years studying engineering before switching to economic studies.
He spent a couple of years in the mid 1960s as a civil servant in the High Commission office in London before returning home with his grand plan. However, he still needed some knowledge about working in what was then a highly regulated economy, so he started to work in the Prime Minister’s Office. He used this time to learn as much as possible about creating a start-up and the rules around importing components.
Anziel Ltd was owned by Gibbs’ brother Ian, and this entity was used for the request for importing the goods. As there were no local manufacturers, just European and Japanese companies assembling cars, it was necessary to bring in factory tooling and materials which meant an import licence was required.
The Gibbs brothers had also figured out it would be cheaper to buy an existing car design and then assemble and configure it to local conditions. They had met with Reliant in the UK, who had experience with Autocars in Israel doing the same thing. Reliant had also been working with a Turkish company to design a car and suggested that Anziel use that design as it was suited to low volume production, off the shelf components and local manufacture. That car was the Reliant FW5 or the Anadol 1 in Turkey.
The car was powered by a 1500cc Ford Kent 4 cylinder overhead valve motor – the same motor that went into the Marcos 1500GT. Some reports say the motor was the 1200cc Kent motor, not the 1500, however the original documentation from Anziel clearly states it was a 1500cc motor. The styling was reminiscent of a mix of the Hillman Hunter and Morris Marina, both of which were in development at the same time and not available for sale. Interestingly, all three were very close in size and weight, so the Nova could have been a market contender had it gone into production.
This is another example of how a Government can destroy a project. In 1966, Anziel applied for an import licence to start importing factory equipment and to figure out where the local content was to come from. The plan was simple: build 3,000 cars a year, create new jobs at the factory and in the surrounding supplier network. The Government refused on the grounds that the balance of trade payments was looking bad with more imports than exports thus causing a problem with the economy. The other manufacturers had also had their licences reduced to stop kits from coming in.
Anziel countered stating that they could increase local content to 90% if they could start production with imported goods. The plan was to use components from the locally built Ford Cortina Mk2, which presumably were imported as Complete Knock Down Kits, so the idea of 90% local content in the Nova might have been stretching it a little if most of the mechanical components were imported either by Anziel or Ford.
After some lobbying, the Government allowed Anziel to bring in a prototype which was believed to be a Reliant FW5. The reason for that belief was that it would have been easier to import from the UK due to lower duties. However there was no such model as the FW5 – that number was the internal Reliant code for the Anadol 1. The prototype was probably shipped from the factory in Turkey to the UK, badged as a Reliant and then imported in to New Zealand. The badges were then replaced again with the Anziel logo.
With the prototype doing the publicity rounds, the Government still refused to allow a licence to import the parts and materials necessary to assemble the vehicle. By 1968, the Government had relented and offered a licence for enough parts to make 600 vehicles, a far cry from the 3,000 per year that was in the initial business plan. This was rejected by Anziel as it wouldn’t be worthwhile.
Two years later, the Government changed its import duties on fully built cars which effectively killed off any chance of the Nova being made. One wonders what would have happened if the car had been built – it would have been an uphill battle against the existing manufacturers who were being protected by the Government and could easily have applied pricing pressure to kill off the young upstart.
Market forces through a patriotic desire to buy a “local” car may have helped it sell in reasonable numbers and even an export program to Australia and South Africa could have propelled it. It wasn’t really a local car though, the design and most of the components were sourced from Britain.
Gibbs ended up with a huge distaste for Government meddling and he did eventually make a vehicle: the Aquada amphibious car in New Zealand and in recent years the QuadSki in the US.