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Kitcars International Magazine, August 1990By 1990, Latham production was in full swing, and the first customer cars were starting to reach completion stage. Once again, it was Ian Hyne, now penning articles for Kitcars Intrernational, who came to look at two newly completed examples . . .

Any car that has suffered the ups and downs of development life experienced by the Latham F2 deserves to succeed. Ian Hyne has driven the first customer built example to hit the road.

Jeff Sharpe is one of those blokes who just loves messing about with cars, Triumphs in particular. Indeed, the driveway of his house plays host to a very tidy 2500 PI and a 2000 estate that is currently in a very sorry state. In addition, his shed is chock full of sundry Triumph spares while the jewel in his crown is the Latham F2 he has recently completed.

Now, for a lad like Jeff, the desire to try and make a living at building kits on behalf of those unable to undertake the task for themselves is understandable and there are many blokes who would like nothing better. But, where Jeff scores over the competition is that he is not the sort of chap to give up and indulge in lengthy periods of head scratching when the going gets tough. The construction of his Latham has seen to that but the fact that, at the end of the day, he has produced a fine car to drive bears testament to his determination and ability.

Kitcars International Magazine, August 1990 In respect of achieving his car building goal, Jeff's strategy was not to build the same car that the world and his wife was building but to select something that was new and allow his business to take off on the back of the car's success. He never doubted the eventual success of the Latham and was highly appreciative of its novel design. That was the theory. Reality was rather different.

The basis of the car is a centre GRP monocoque with tubular steel subframes front and rear to accept the greatly underrated Triumph Dolomite running gear. The styling is rather sixties but, in a world awash with replicas and traditional roadsters, it shines as something different and new. It is also a very well integrated design.

The centre tub is very strong and the sills are foam filled to enhance that rigidity. The rear subframe is bonded to the tub while the front one, which extends right back under the tunnel to the gearbox mounts, bolts to several points on the front bulkhead. To improve the weight distribution, the engine is moved back in the frame which leaves a large gap between the radiator and the engine and this has been utilised for the modified suspension. The Dolomite donor used a coilspring damper unit mounted above the upper wishbone but since the Latham does not have room for this, it has been modified. The top wishbone is now a rocking arm and the coilspring damper units are mounted indboard. Simple, clever and very effective design.

Kitcars International Magazine, August 1990 The Dolomite has been a good choice of donor vehicle not only for its underrated mechanical base but also for the many other parts that have been used. The instruments, heater and controls, door releases, handles, lights, fuel tank, wheels and tyres have all been utilised saving quite a few quid on the build. About the only other parts required are a screen assembly and hood from an MGB.

I have been acquainted with the Latham for a long time now having first seen it in the early stages of development a few years back in Penzance (see previous article here). I later drove the prototype car and was impressed even though it suffered from a few shortcomings that needed attention prior to production. (See previous article here) Then at Stoneleigh this year, the Latham stand was graced by a beautiful metalflake blue car owned and built by club sec and magazine editor, Marcus Potts. I also learned that 15 cars had been delivered to customers and that Jeff Sharpe's was the first to hit the road. A recent visit to the infant factory revealed several cars under construction and yielded a pair of seat runners for delivery to Jeff Sharpe who lives very near me so we met to discuss his car.

It is unfortunate that Jeff's route from kit to completed car has been very far from the plain sailing we all hope for. The list of faults included the rear subframe bonded in the wrong position, rear suspension pick up points inaccurately drilled, front sub-frame badly twisted so the tub would not sit on its support members and, when the car was rolling, the wheels fouled the bodywork front and rear. Thus Jeff has had to indulge in a great deal of cutting, shutting, welding and redrilling as well as a good bit of panel dressing.

Kitcars International Magazine, August 1990Having seen the photographic evidence of his problems, I can only say that none of the cars under construction at the factory were similarly affected. In discussing Jeff's experience with Julia Latham she could only apologise and say that his was the first of a batch of five kits entrusted to sub contractors during the period in which the company moved from Penzance to Bicester. They very soon discovered the faults and intervened to rectify them but Jeff, with his ability and enthusiasm, elected to sort his car himself. Thereafter, production was suspended in August 89, the sub contractors were issued marching orders, new jigs were made and the GRP work, with which she was also not happy, was brought in house. These drastic measures and considerable financial expense have certainly done the trick but, in spite of the dramas of construction, Jeff is still a staunch fan of the car and is greatly impressed with driving it.

It is not a concours car, but that was never the intention. He wanted to build a car to drive and in that, he has succeeded. He has used the Dolomite Sprint engine giving well over 100 mph performance. Needless to say, we didn't come close to that on the less than perfect roads round Bradford but the car was quick. It is also torquey which allows you to drive in a relaxed manner which Jeff likes best.

Kitcars International Magazine, August 1990It's quite a drop to the low driving seat but, once there, the Latham seats are comfortable and there is room for taller drivers. If there isn't, the pedals can be moved and one car has just gone to a customer of 6' 4" ! Sitting there, the main gauges are neatly grouped in front of you while the rest are centrally mounted along with the heater, stereo, switches and ashtray. For me, the gear lever and handbrake were a little far back but I could live with it.

The view over the bulbous bonnet was rather stirring so I fired her up and off we went. Riding on Spax adjustables set to soft, it was very smooth and just glided down the road. Once free of traffic, the Dolomite Sprint unit easily demonstrated its ability and the good few bends we got a clear shot at similarly showed its cornering prowess and grip. Indeed, the only burp in its road manners was that the exhaust boxes kept grounding on the big bumps. There is no more room to raise them but the factory now fit stiffer rear springs and gas dampers while the fertile Sharpe brain is working on his own solution.

The only other thing I noticed was that the bonnet panel moved about at speed. Secured either side with a lock, it won't come undone but the factory now fit a central lock to overcome the problem. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the car and like Jeff, was impressed with its overall design even if a few areas of execution could be improved. But then, it's often the way with kit cars that the early customers discover the faults that have been missed. However, Jeff has built a good car that is a delight to drive while the factory have also benefitted from his experience and have drastically improved their product. I take my hat off to him for his car and for the contribution to the many Lathams that will follow.

Now, due to the time taken to build the car, Jeff's strategy has received a severe dent and, in order to get back on course, the Latham is for sale to fund the next project. Of course, it could be that you don't want want to buy it but you could use the services of a chap with the grit, determination, inventiveness and ability he possesses. Whatever the case, you can contact Jeff at . . . . and, if you have detailed plans to discuss, the New Inn round the corner is a good pub offering excellent grub!

Latham F2

Engine fitted:
Max power:
Max torque:
Engine Options:

GRP monocoque centre tub with 16 gauge tubular subframes front and rear.
Front: Bottom wishbone, upper rocking arm with inboard coilspring damper.
Rear: Four trailing arms, parallel lower, angled upper, with coil springs and telescopic dampers
Front: 8" discs. Rear: 8" drums (1850cc); 9" drums (Sprint).
2 litre Dolomite Sprint, 4 valves per cylinder.
127 bhp at 5700 rpm.
122 ft lbs at 4500rpm.
0- 60 mph 5.8 seconds. Max speed 140 mph.
Dolomite 1850, 2 valves per cylinder. 91 bhp at 5200 rpm and 105 ft lbs torque.
Overall length: 13 ft 7 ins.
Overall height: 3 ft 8 ins.
Wheelbase: 7 ft 9 ins.
Track: Front: 4 ft 5 ins.
Rear: 4 ft 2 ins.
Ground clearance: 4½ ins.
Kerb weight: 13½ cwt.

Kitcars International Magazine, August 1990With thanks to Ian Hyne
Kitcars International magazine,
August 1990, pages 78-80

Jeff's car, F2034, is now with a new owner, but still resides in Yorkshire. The red car (left), which was in the process of being built when Ian visited the LSC Bicester factory in 1990, was F2037. It was delivered to its expectant owner in London in early 1991 and never heard of again. It was a beautifully constructed car, so any news of its current whereabouts would be much appreciated!


Kitcars International is no longer published, but was absorbed into Kit Car: