Copy of an article which appeared in 1972 Custom Car
Mike John’s Fieldmouse light field car is something completely new for owners of ageing Populars who are bright enough not to want to turn their machines into super slow sports cars.
Popular owners seem to have been quite well catered for in the choice of special bodies for their cars ever since the first specials came on the market. Of these there were plenty, most of them looking a bit on the puny side with their super-skinny wheels and miniscule muscle from the of old E93A block.
Mike is and always has been particularly interested in military vehicles of all types, and it was probably this interest that, prompted him into designing a special body for the Popular that would effectively turn it into a light two wheel drive machine with reasonable cross country capabilities. Obviously it would never be up to Land- Rover standards in this respect, but it’s pretty remarkable what has been accomplished with the prototype machine, as we recently found out, when we tried it on our rough road test track. More of that after I’ve laid a detail or two on you.
Fieldmouse is basically a steel body of definitely military style mounted on a chopped and modified Pop chassis. Axles and propshaft are also modified, although not greatly.
Engine bearing cross member slays in exactly the same place, as does the standard Pop radiator. Wheels can be from a Popular, although it’s not hard to gain a bit of extra width by using Pop centres welded to VW rims. Windscreen is specially made, as is the canvas hood, but the gearbox, suspension, and all other mechanical stuff is stock Pop, along with all electrical equipment.
It’s really only much use as a two seater, although there’s plenty of room behind the seats for all the usual nice Army type gear like spades, picks, and jerrycans.
There’s a definite military air about the car, and this effect is heightened on the prototype by the olive green paint scheme. One middle-aged gentleman who saw it at the All Wheel Drive Club’s stand at the Army’s Aldershot Show this year was apparently prompted to remark to his young son ‘Gad, I remember these things from the war. Been dashed well restored!’ or words to that effect.
How does it perform? Pretty well, inside the obvious limits imposed by its suspension and lack of power. Across rough country it’s very good indeed, taking potholes, water splashes, and ruts all in its stride, and not having its steering noticeably deflected by any of them. Steep hills leave it a bit uninterested, not surprisingly, and it’s scarcely fair to expect it to perform miracles in thick mud. On the rough road course where we tried it, the road holding over loose stones, gravel, and mud was really excellent. Very predictable too, with the back end easily catchable with a quick dab of opposite lock when it got a bit naughty.
All the Popular instruments and auxiliary bits and pieces like the steering column and handbrake fit straight in, so there’s no question of having to rush about all over the place trying to find the right gear—it’s all right there. Pop headlights could be used if desired; otherwise it’s simply a question of slotting a couple of sealed beam or prefocus units in the places provided.
On the road it seems remarkably like a Ford Popular, strangely enough, although considerably tauter and more responsive. I remember that driving an old Pop was just like I imagine flying an old string bag airplane must have been, with all manoeuvres planned about half an hour in advance.
Kits, including exchange chassis, front and rear axle mods, assembled body in primer, all brackets, fitted windscreen, exchange floor panel and throttle linkage, and mods to rear brake rod and shock absorber links £99.50
Rear panel and roll bar approx £9.00
Hoods approx £12.00
Fuel tanks by arrangement.
We liked the Fieldmouse very much, because it puts cross country travel well within the financial capabilities of the impecunious. It should be perfectly possible to build a really good Fieldmouse for considerably less than £150, and that’s including the cost of an old Pop if you don’t already have one.
Only four Fieldmice may exist.