The 1970s were a time of wedge-shaped automotive goodness. The era is responsible for some bangers like the Lamborghini Countach, weirdos like the electric CitiCar, and stunning concepts like the Ferrari 512 S Modulo. Then there was the striking Aston Martin Lagonda, one that our Beau Boeckmann loves enough to have multiple of. The designer of the Lagonda, William Towns, also drew up a line of kit cars. His Interstyl Hustler kits are patently absurd, and include a six-wheeler, an amphibious buggy, and even one made out of plywood.
British car designer William Towns was born in 1936. As Channel 4 News writes, his car design career began with the Rootes Group, where he worked on seat styling and door handles. The channel notes that Towns was also involved in the design for the Hillman Hunter. In 1963, Towns joined Rover, where he worked for David Bache, a designer who would later be involved in the Range Rover. With Rover, Towns designed the body of the Rover-BRM gas turbine-powered Le Mans racer. his work was good enough to land him at Aston Martin three years later, where he was back to designing seats. However, as Hemmings writes, Towns spent much of this time with the idea to design his own cars, though he reportedly feared that his ideas wouldn’t sell.
Channel 4 reports that Towns was thrust back into designing cars again with the 1967 Aston Martin DBS. Towns didn’t like the proposals from the Italian coach builder Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera of Milan, and offered up his own. The owner of Aston Martin at the time, David Brown, liked Towns’ designs and decided to go ahead with them (it’s worth noting that, around the same time, Carrozzeria Touring also went out of business).
However, Towns is perhaps best known for his design work on the 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda. In an era when so many cars were wedges, the Lagonda certainly stood out.
As Hemmings notes, Towns perhaps found inspiration for his own cars from his other work during the era. The 1972 Minissima concept city car was Towns’ idea for a futuristic replacement for the Mini. This little car took the era’s hot wedge design and scaled it down to a size comparable to today’s Smart Fortwo. Later, the 1974 Guyson E12 gave Towns experience working with fiberglass bodywork. And then there was the awesome Microdot, which used large windows as doors. You’ll see this all come together in a moment.
In 1977, Towns left Aston Martin to start his own firm. There, Towns got to work on a new car that looks like an amalgamation of his previous works. First shown to the public in 1978, the Hustler 4 utilized windows that worked as doors like the Microdot.
It had a fiberglass body like the Guyson E12. And it was a small car with Mini mechanicals like the Minissima. Specifically, an A-Series Mini drivetrain provided power up front and there was a Mini subframe in back.
Reportedly, Towns’ idea was to collaborate with Jensen Special Products. The Hustler was designed to be simple to build, utilizing folded steel that didn’t require a press for manufacturing. Apparently, the idea was to sell some in less-developed countries, as the Hustler didn’t require complex machinery or a high level of skill to build.
As obscure car history site Below The Radar notes, the prototype had a box-section steel chassis with an integrated roll cage. Fiberglass panels were affixed to the chassis and interior featured those sort of hard plastic chairs that you sat in during elementary school lunch. Ultimately, the Jensen deal fell through, but an undeterred Towns decided to sell his Hustler 4 as a kit under his Interstyl brand.
Here’s where things get really fun. Towns soon started expanding the Hustler into a lineup larger than what some automakers have today. Hemmings describes the long and winding number of models:
Due to the extensibility of fiberglass, he whipped up no less than 15 different models, not counting the nautical Hustler In Wood. The original, dubbed the 4, soon found a litter-mate in the 6, so called for the second Mini axle in the rear. The more powerful Huntsman, based on the Austin Metro, also came in four- or six-wheeled versions, as did the stripped-down Hellcat, the MPV Holiday, and the Force with its more conventional fiberglass doors. The Sport and Sprint were two-seaters, a convertible and a couple, respectively, while the Harrier – like a later evolution of the Minissima – was designed to accommodate a wheelchair via a drop-down door in the rear. Then there were the one-offs, including the Rag Top and the Highlander, a six-wheeler that Towns himself stuffed full of Jaguar V-12.
Pictures of most of these models exist thanks to All Car Index.
The Hellcat models were meant to be the entry-level Hustlers. A Hellcat 4 kit was £999 while the Hellcat 6 was £1,150. Pricing for all of the models doesn’t appear to be readily available, but the Hustler 4 was initially supposed to be £2,242.
And that Jaguar V12 Highlander? It was priced at £3,444. Of course, none of those kit prices included donor cars, which Towns figured builders would pick up used.
The version that blows my mind the most is the Hustler In Wood. As the name suggests, these were regular four- and six-wheel Hustlers, but instead of fiberglass body panels, they would sport marine plywood.
As Bonhams writes, this was meant to be the ultimate kit. Instead of shipping the fiberglass panels–which would add cost–Interstyl could just ship the rest of the kit and the builder could go to a lumber yard to source the wood for their car’s body. The builders would then cut and fit the wooden body over their new car. Here’s what that looks like in video.
Of course, since these were kits built by regular people and since some of these people had to literally saw and cut their own wood bodywork, each Interstyl vehicle is different in their own way.
It’s noted that Towns continued to improve his Hustler designs over the years, finding ways to reduce weight while making the build process easier. By the mid-1980s, Interstyl managed to sell some 170 kits. And yet, the madness of Towns’ work doesn’t end there.
At some point, Towns made an amphibious version of the Hustler, which was reportedly a Crayford Argocat eight-wheeled amphibious vehicle with that wedge-shaped Hustler bodywork on top. According to Autocar UK, Towns even brewed up a version that had a boat for a roof, too.
Towns apparently had other vehicles in the works, too, from a Hustler sailboat to another, more rounded car that would have been based on a Ford Cortina. For whatever reason, these didn’t materialize, and Towns worked on other projects. Towns died in 1993, leaving behind a legacy of interesting automotive design.
Depending on who you ask, Interstyl sold anywhere between a few hundred to about 500 examples of the Hustler. It’s estimated that about eight people bought the Highlander V12 kit. There is likewise a similar discrepancy in reports in the number of Hustler variations. Hemmings says that there were no less than 15 versions while Below The Radar notes 72 versions.
Either way, 15 versions or 72, the Hustler looks like it was a properly silly experience. I’d love a small car that’s mostly all glass, including the doors. And there’s something charming about brutal simplicity like this. I hope to see one of these imported to the United States one day.