What is it about small English sports cars from the first half of the last century? Triumphs, Austins, MGs, Jaguars, Frazer-Nashs and (on a larger scale) even Bentleys all shared similar design aspects, so cross-pollination must have been rampant at the time in England. (Just try and look at a '46 HRG and not see the early makings of the '49 Jag XK120). Nearly everything looked like an offshoot of a '46 MG-TD, but as carmakers moved forward into the '60s, their cars became larger and rounder-not so with the Frazer-Nash.
A company slow to progress (it still offered chain-drive vehicles up until the second World War!), Frazer-Nash kept the coffin-shaped, tall-tire, cycle-fender look years after other companies abandoned the style. Frazer-Nash went on to build some lovely looking coupes and roadsters (think an Allard crossed with a Fiat 8V) in the mid '50s, but it was too late, as the company closed in 1957.
The classic craze in kit cars during the '70s revived the look of that bygone era, and a few American companies tooled up to reproduce their version of those classic cars. One company, Antique & Classic out of Buffalo, New York, offered the obscure '34 Frazer-Nash (F-N only built 39 cars in all of 1934) built on a stretched VW pan. A&C went out of business in 1990 (some of their molds, though not the Frazer-Nash, were sold to Antiques & Collectibles, also in New York), but the desire by some to own one of these cars did not die out.
Don Geisen, a 58-year-old automotive upholsterer living in Lake Forest, California, fell in love with early British cars long ago when he restored a '52 MG-TD and a '62 Triumph TR3. Don took the "normal" American kid route back in the '50s, buying a '54 Mercury Sun Valley hardtop when he was just 15, but his future was in small British sports cars. Though he owned a Model A sedan, he couldn't bring the car with him when he moved to California. An MG-TD looked to him like a three-quarter-scale version of the Model A, so he bought it and restored it, thus becoming immersed in the English sports car scene and all of those fantastic marques of the '40s.
In 1984, Don was thrilled when he came across an Antiques & Classic Frazer-Nash for sale, so he bought it and, after determining it might be unsafe, decided to take it apart and build a new chassis for it. He blew the body off the pan, set everything aside, and then worked on some other projects. About 20 years went by before Don decided to put the car back together, and then he gave himself a six-month timeframe to complete the job. The VW pan, with its 14-inch extension plate attached to the bulkhead, gives the car its 109-inch wheelbase. A standard VW gearbox is in place out back, aided by air shocks, but a Select-A-Drop was added to the front twin torsion beams to give Don his choice in ride height.
Power is derived from a 1776cc flat-four motor backed to a prepped '65 VW transaxle. Big-valve heads, 90.5mm pistons, and an Engle 100 cam help get the 'Nash down the road like a real sports car. The brakes were upgraded to discs up front while wider shoes and drums were added out back. Don originally had a set of EMPI-style eight-spoke wheels on the car, which really gave it a kit look. Wanting to have a more authentic look to his ride, Don opted for a set of true knock-off wires from Dayton Wire Wheels. Don used the 15 x 6 size on each corner, wrapping them in P205/75R15 Dayton rubber for a smooth ride.
Not wanting it to appear as a kit was the central theme on Don's redo of his Frazer-Nash. One of the most obvious giveaways to VW underpinnings is the front twin-tube torsion suspension. It's ugly and it's wide and there's no getting around it, unless you cleverly hide the tubes behind some creative bodywork that looks like it belongs there. That's what Don did, giving the car the illusion of a splash apron (complete with louvers!) and removing any hint of VW.