Not Sold Here: 1961 Mistral Roadster

One of my favorite local car events to attend is the Concours in the Hills car show, held each year in February in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Concours in the Hills is not a formal concours with judges in straw hats and white gloves awarding points. It is a more casual, informal event. The 2020 event was the largest ever, with more than 1,000 vehicles wrapping all the way around the perimeter of the lake and its namesake fountain. It was a stroke of good fortune that this event was able to be held in 2020 and not cancelled like so many others due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the first cars I saw at this year’s show was a unique little two-seater that caught my eye. Looking a bit like a Shelby Cobra or a Scarab, the car had the name “MISTRAL” in gold lettering on each side. Also, it was a right hand drive car – which are not commonly seen in the U.S.

A cheery couple was camped out next to the car in folding chairs. They had a large sign next to the car that told the history of the vehicle, which I will provide below:

“The Mistral body was designed by Bill Ashton in England during the early 1950s. Constructed out of a new material called fibre glass, it was developed to be used on Buckler and Lotus chassis in the 750 Motor Club’s 1174 Formula class. A few years after introduction it was sold to Weltex in Christchurch, New Zealand and a year later to coach builders Elmslie and Flockton in Dunedin.

Production records are gone, but there were approximately 200 total. Mistrals were sold as “rollers” ready to install the engine and transmission, which the customer specified. Because you could specify a Corvette engine and transmission (and consequently a finished weight of 1900 lbs), several were road racing in the USA during the 1958-62 era.

Although various cars like Austin and Toyotas were assembled in New Zealand, Mistral was probably the only New Zealand car company. The map of New Zealand can be seen on the insignia.”

“This 1961 Mistral has evolved since it’s birth as most did. For about the last 35 years it has had a Rover V8, Toyota 5 spd., Mazda LSD, and Vauxhall front end. It raced in street legal class in New Zealand and more recently, to remain legal, had to have a taller roll bar and 3 piece wheels to accept modern tires.”

It is a very cool little car, and one that I was delighted to have seen at the car show. Thanks to the owners for bringing it out!