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Ones That Got Away Archive

ONES THAT GOT AWAY @ www.totalkitcar.com
May 27, 2003, 20:32

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I got an e-mail from a reader the other day who had been offered a Nelson S350 and wanted to know more about it. This got me to thinking about making it this monthís subject for ONES THAT GOT AWAY.



The S350 first appeared in late 1989 and was the brainchild of Bryce Nelson who traded as Nelson Motors based in Shepperton, Middlesex. It was initially built as a Ďspecialí but spurred on by people asking him to build them one, Nelson put the car into series kit production.


I think that undoubtedly the S350 latched onto the popularity of the Kougar Sports, by being similar in design and dimensions albeit with a slightly less characterful nosecone. Many people aspired to the Kougar but the price tag and the fact you had to break an S Type (classic Mk2 style) deterred many. Enter the Nelson S350 that was based on Jaguar XJ6 mechanicals, and powered by a Rover V8, that produced a modest yet useful 155bhp in standard trim.


The kit cost £4,288 inc VAT that brought unbelievably a painted to your colour choice GRP bodyshell and all the Jaguar parts pre-fitted to the fully triangulated backbone chassis made from a combination of 14 & 16swg round and square tube. It even featured double side-rails for side impact protection and additional floor support.


The Jaguar XJ6 rear sub-frame was rigidly mounted at six points to the chassis, while the fuel tank was hung from a separate tubular cradle mounted to the sub-frame. Nelson didnít use the Jag front sub-frame assembly but simply mounted the wishbones directly to the chassis, and he also reversed the anti-roll (sway) bar so that it mounted behind the S350 front wheels. XJ6 coil-over dampers were retained, with the lower end mounting to a pressed steel plate and the top to the chassis, while the complete Jaguar steering rack was also utilised although mounted lower.


When customers received their cars all they had to do was find an old Rover SD1 and butcher the following components from it; engine, gearbox, clutch assembly, exhaust, rear trailing arms, radiator, windscreen washer, instruments, handbrake assembly, fuel tank unit and speedo cable, with half of the parts being exchange items pre-modified by Nelson Motors.


All this meant that an S350 could quite feasibly be built for around £5,000, and you even got a fitted tonneau with the initial kit price.


On the road the car was a stunning performer, with the chunky Jaguar mechanicals hardly stressed even though the beefy S350 weighed in at around 800kgs, and its handling was superb and roadholding and cornering were roller skate like, and I remember being vividly impressed when I drove the car back in 1990. Performance from the lazy Buick derived eight cylinder was also brutal, and remember that at the time the majority of Cobra replicaís were Rover powered and the S350 weighed a good third less than a typical fake snake, so it could really hustle along.


Why didnít the S350 sell in the hundreds? Well it certainly wasnít the price tag, although because I think the company offered so much with the standard kit I think they didnít make enough on each car sold which is a problem. Also the looks were a bit gawky and not that appealing to a younger audience, but if you get the chance of one of the 30 out there somewhere, jump at it because the S350 was a more than capable performer. It deservedly takes its place in our ranks of great lost causes.


Words by Steve Hole.

Photo from the TKC library.

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