ASP History

A short history of
Alpha Sports Productions

Throughout history, the driving forces behind nearly all motor racing and sports car marques has been a combination of dynamic personality and technical skill. In the case of Alpha Sports Productions (ASP), the personality was Ray Lewis and the technical skill came from Rory Thompson. Nearly fifty years ago, a young aspiring mechanical engineer, Thompson met Lewis, the charismatic and gregarious young part owner of Lewis Brothers Buses through their common interest, sports cars. Ray was an avid driver and member of the MG Car Club of South Australia. Another club member and mutual friend, Peter Ivy, who lived 3 doors from Rory, introduced the two. Rory was an enthusiastic motor racing fan and volunteered his time as a race mechanic for the Ray’s MG-TC cars and later for the MG Car Club.

Rex Treloar(centre) and Rory(right) working on an MG-TC

The Alpha Street Workshop in the early days

Ray ran a number of small sideline businesses in conjunction with the bus business. He operated out of the family home, Alpha House in Kensington, an eastern suburb of Adelaide in South Australia, working alongside the mechanics employed to repair the bus fleet. At the time the house was built, it was the only one in the street and lent its name to the street, and ultimately, the sports car business.

In 1963 Ray ran a wrecking business, wrecking FJ Holdens and also started to use the relatively new technology of fiberglass to produce hardtops for the MG-A and Austin Healey. Rory helped out part time but was busy at the South Australian Institute of Technology obtaining his qualifications as a mechanical engineer.

In their collective spare time, the boys repaired Lotus 7’s for Derek Jolly. Rory noticed that the 7’s chassis lacked any real torsional rigidity (stiffness) and, armed with his newly acquired skills, set about measuring up the 7 in order to design an improved chassis. The first real clubman chassis began in unusual circumstances though. Derek Jolly had imported a new Coventry Climax 1100cc racing engine and had fallen foul of the customs department. Derek needed a chassis FAST so the boys offered to design and build one. The solution worked but, before the chassis was complete, it was noticed by an acquaintance who offered to buy it. So the first ever chassis left their care incomplete.

Early Chassis at Alpha Street

Ray in his Elfin Catalina overtakes Dave Baillie in his Bacchus

The small group of friends had begun to acquire a reputation for quality engineering and construction. Gary Chapman of the MG Car Club approached them to design and build a sports car for himself. Peter Ivy had already constructed a sports car of his own and had named it a “Bacchus” (after the god of wine and revelry!) so the boys adopted the name and began the project. That first chassis was a Thompson design incorporating doors (an unusual feature on clubman vehicles) and a high set rear deck. In those days, a requirement for a vehicle competing in sports car events was that it must contain two seats and doors. Gary specified MG engine (of course) so the first chassis was designed to accommodate an MG-A 1500cc engine. Five further orders followed on the strength of their work, including Ronald Lewis’, Ray’s brother, which incorporated Peugeot 1700cc engine and MG-TC gearbox, Dave Baillie’s with an Austin A40 and Bob Dwyer’s with a BMC D series engine.

In order to produce large numbers of cars, it was decided to construct a fabrication jig to ensure identical chassis. Through shrewd negotiation a redundant FJ Holden chassis alignment jig was acquired from Freeman Motors and modified to suit the Bacchus frame.

An important contributor to the finish of the cars was Colin Reilly, a master coach builder, employed by the Bus Company. He was responsible for the aluminium work on the Bacchus nosecone and continued to contribute to most ASP models, even into the 1990’s.


During this period, Ray had also helped establish Klemzig Auto Wreckers. In 1968 a dispute erupted between Ray and his partners and Ray left for overseas, putting a temporary halt to the fledgling sports car business. After three months, Ray returned with renewed enthusiasm. Rory had developed a new vehicle which he originally called a “Bacchus Mk 3” but the boys wanted a new name for their cars. They then selected the “Shrike” after South Australia’s emblem, the Piping Shrike but were beaten to the post by a competitor. They finally settled on “ASP” after the company’s initials.

original bonnet logo

ASP 320 C Chassis at Alpha Street 1970

Their first customer was Paul Hannon, who had frequented the ASP premises as a young boy, who was now employed by the Savings Bank of South Australia (SBSA now Bank SA) and wanted a car for himself. All of the cars built by Ray and Rory up to that time (including most other manufacturers) were characterised by a square front end. This consisted of two trussed square sections to hold the front suspension wishbones. Rory decided to simplify this design by continuing the taper from the firewall to the very front of the chassis and with this arrangement, the first ASP was born. The car was designated as an ASP 320. Paul was extremely pleased with his car, which led to the first ASP being featured in SBSA advertising during the early seventies. For a long time the SBSA pay slip envelopes all contained an image of that first ASP.

The cars created quite a stir in Adelaide and orders began to flood in. The boys began to get requests for special vehicles, so their range expanded to incorporate specialist cars for various purposes. (see model page for details). One of the most distinctive features of the ASPs was developed during this period. Traditionally, Bacchus and ASP vehicles were fitted with motor cycle style front guards. A number a manufacturers, including Lotus, had fitted “clamshell” guards to prevent debris and water from being sprayed up from the front wheels into the cabin. Ray and Colin Reilly developed a “sweeping guard” which was, in effect, a clamshell guard that extended back to the rear guard, providing protection from the exhaust system. This feature can be seen on some new ASPs today. The number of employees grew to match demand and, for a while, the future looked promising for ASP.

What did an ASP cost in 1970? See for yourself

ASP 320 C in final construction inside Alpha Street Factory

By 1974 it became clear to Ray that the finances weren’t what they should be. A combination of a downturn in interest in clubman cars, too many models, modest pricing and the failure of some clients to pay convinced Ray to close down production. Alpha Sports Productions then went into hibernation as Ray opened a new wrecking yard at Parafield, in Adelaide’s north and the rest of the staff, including Rory turned to other work. Plans for a new car with a 1930’s style body, along with the beginnings of a chassis were shelved for the time being as Rory and Ray pursued their own goals.


And that’s where the story almost finished. The business stayed in this state for most of the next twenty years. Rory was working at car component manufacturers, Tubemakers. He obtained a Masters of Engineering Sciences, Materials, Welding and Joining. In his spare time he repaired damaged ASPs out of his home. He also built three further ASPs.

In 1993 Rory decided to open his own automotive engineering business, Rory Thompson Services. He used his now vast experience for defect removal, new parts certification and other general automotive engineering services. Ray and Rory, along with Andre Bosman and Colin Reilly, revived their interest in a new type of sports car. Even though production had shifted from Alpha Street, the company name continued.

Sole 320 E built by Rory for himself from home

The first 380 (350) undergoing final fitout at Alpha Street

The goal was to build a sports car almost completely based on a readily available donor car to provide most components, including drivetrain, suspension, steering and even seats and instrumentation. Rory utilized the then recently released Holden VN Commodore and initially designated the car an ASP 350. The car was larger than previous ASPs, having a 3800cc V6 engine. The car’s styling borrowed heavily from the Morgan Roadster series of vehicles and used moulds for the body panels, taken from Colin Reilly’s aluminium masters. The car was finally finished in 2003 and redesignated ASP 380 after the 3.8 Litre engine. The 2005 release of the Mitsubishi 380, also built in Adelaide, convinced Rory to return to the previous 350 designation to avoid confusion.

The current phase of ASP production was kick-started in 2002 when Bill Finch, a machinist and land yacht racer approached Rory to build a series of vehicles for him and a group of nine friends and colleagues. Bill proposed that his group not only build their own vehicles, but update many of the features of the cars and also develop a full set of jigs, a cut list and a full set of prototype chassis components. Instead of series production, as had occurred in the 70’s, the ASP’s of the new millennium were to be built to the then Transport SA’s Individually Constructed Vehicle (ICV) rules, allowing the cars to be built with exemptions from some design rules which, if implemented, would make singly constructed vehicles overly complex and prohibitively expensive.

Bill in the cockpit of Rory’s 320E



Bill’s group worked for 2 years before word of the cars spread. A second group of five cars began production in 2005, using the jigs created by Group One. One of the Builders, Richard Pagliaro, was an owner of one of the original ASPs and was back to build his second. As of September 2006, both groups were essentially at the same point with predicted completion dates of some vehicles early in 2007. Various interested builders are currently in the process of forming Group Three, with an anticipated commencement date early in 2007.


A tribute to
Raymond James Lewis

Ray racing his Elfin Catalina
In November 2005, the ASP community were saddened by the untimely death of Ray Lewis. In the last ten years of his life, Ray’s personality had been changed by an adverse reaction to an over prescribed mixture of medications. He was not the outgoing, dynamic man he once was and gradually took a lesser role in the construction process but was no less interested or passionate about his cars. When Group Two decided to revive and update the traditional “Targa” style of roll bar, used on early ASPs Ray, with his eye for style and artistic flair, played a crucial role. He had enormous influence over the final shape and was working on it even in the last 24 hours before he died.

Ray (right) and Rory (left) with Ray’s Elfin Catalina
Fittingly, the future of ASP cars looks bright. With Rory’s supervision, Ray’s beloved vehicles will continue to be built and, with a renewed interest in the clubman style vehicles and an explosion in track day participation, the ASPs will be an enduring legacy and fitting tribute to a man who dedicated 50 years of his life to the cars he loved so much.

Ray with his ex Jack Brabham owned MG TC