John Houghton came up with the concept of the Biota when he owned a Mini-powered midget racer that he affectionately called ‘The Black Lawnmower’. Houghton began toying with the idea of a Mini-based open roadster and sketched the Biota – “Bi” for two seats and “iota” for small.
The aluminum-bodied prototype was built with a steel spaceframe chassis and all Mini mechanicals. It was unveiled at the 1968 Racing Car Show and attracted a lot of attention. Houghton later teamed up with Bill Needham of Coldwell Engineering to form Houghton Coldwell Limited. Despite Houghton’s plan to sell 100 cars in 1969, Needham was never a fan of the car.
Specialised Mouldings Limited took a mould of the prototype body, but this proved to be a complex process due to its intricate shape. The body consisted of 22 fiberglass parts, the largest of which was the hood. In addition, the frame was costly to produce, taking a welder about five days to complete.
In late 1968, Houghton rented premises in Dinnington to begin manufacturing cars locally. Employees were hired to weld the frames and assemble the cars, and Stewart Smith was appointed as managing director.
However, production took some time to get up to speed and the company began to offer various fiberglass products, including fishing baskets and aerodynamic front and rear ends for the Mini. The first Biota was not delivered until the summer of 1970, with a basic kit costing £250 and an assembled car with a rebuilt 998cc Cooper engine costing £650.
Although some cars were sold overseas after being shown in Amsterdam, Houghton had difficulties working with others and eventually parted ways with Needham and Smith, leading to the company being split in two.
Houghton later formed Houghton Development Ltd for the production of cars and Biota Products for fiberglass products, with Houghton running the former and Smith the latter. John Houghton continued to race and achieve success with his blue 1275cc Cooper-powered Biota, with Chris Seaman winning the 1972 BARC Hillclimb Championship in this car. Houghton himself finished third in the competition when he entered the car again. By this time a total of 25 MK1s had been produced.