One man’s vision is another man’s eyesore – The remarkable Weitz X600
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Mallalieu was a name that, for a brief period in the 1970s, was rarely out of the specialist motoring press. Marque founder, Derry Mallalieu, built his Bentley MkVI-based creation in the mid-1960s while living in Connecticut. The ex-pat Englishman had previously enjoyed success racing Bugattis and dealing in vintage cars. On his return to the UK in 1971, he set up shop in Haddendam (later Abingdon) restoring cars while also fashioning further Bentley ‘specials’, each differing in detail to the last, making 43 all told.
Improbably, Derry Mallalieu Engineering was also tasked with putting William Towns’s Microdot concept car through Type Approval but this scheme ultimately came to naught. Perhaps the firm’s oddest project, however, was the X600 sports car built for American overachiever, John Weitz. Possibly best remembered as a fashion designer, he was also a novelist, military historian and a yachtsman.
While very much the embodiment of the self-made American millionaire, this remarkable man was born Hans Werner Weitz in Berlin and educated in London. The sometime Allard racer had long nurtured the dream of creating a sports car of his own and in the late 1970s he set about designing what, in time, became known as the X600. By 1979, he had settled on the definitive specification and then created a quarter-scale model.
Basis for the X600 (X for eXperimental, 600 after the address of his New York office) was a highly-modified Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 platform, with the 5.7-litre V8 sited further back in the frame relative to the donor car. Then there was the small matter of finding a metal-basher who could shape the body in aluminium. Several American coachbuilders were canvassed but ultimately the gig went to Mallalieu. The link was made by the firm’s US agent, Jim Rickman of Pasadena, California, the rolling chassis and model being shipped to the UK where Mallalieu’s artisans set about turning Wietz’s dream into a reality. What’s more, they stuck remarkably close to his exacting brief.
Whether that was a good thing depends on your aesthetic sensibilities. Nevertheless, the prototype caused a furore when it landed in New York. The car was displayed in Bloomingdale’s before touring shows across North America, Mexico and even Japan as Weitz talked up a production run at $60,000 a pop. However, just as night follows day, the scheme soon unravelled. Where, precisely, the car was going to be made in volume was never discussed publicly. Weitz had made prior comments about wanting it to be an all-American product, but some sources claim that Mallalieu had agreed to make the car in the UK. Given that the coachbuilder lurched into receivership by 1980, you have to view this assertion with a degree of skepticism. Whatever the truth, the X600 remained unique.
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