Welcome to the world of the one-off particularWe meet the obsessives who’ve put blood, sweat and tears – to not point out hundreds of kilos – into their mad, rad one-off track-day specials
In garages, workshops and sheds proper throughout the UK, tinkerers and would-be mechanics get their fingers soiled.
Most undertake easy automobile upkeep, whereas others restore bodywork or make running-gear modifications. A small quantity, nonetheless, squirrel themselves away for weeks at a time and solely emerge as soon as they’ve constructed one thing really staggering. It is likely to be a light-weight monitor automotive with two bike engines, or a diesel supermini that’s sooner than a contemporary super-saloon.
Welcome to the world of the one-off particular – a world the place folks have a tendency to not ask why however why not?
Seat Rosa drag automotive:
“You begin off in second gear, interact the launch management system to carry the engine revs, then attempt to get the clutch launch excellent,” says Paul Lynas. “As quickly as you let go of the clutch, it’s like being catapulted. That’s the one method I can describe it.”
Lynas is the motive force of this Seat Arosa drag automotive, a Darkside Developments mission. It was with him on the wheel that the Arosa recorded a quarter-mile time of 9.7sec at Santa Pod. It hit 60mph in 2.3sec and 100mph in a scarcely plausible four.8sec that day. For some time, it was the quickest front-wheel-drive diesel automotive on the planet.
Darkside Developments constructed this automotive to push the boundaries of what may very well be achieved with a four-cylinder diesel engine. The bottom unit is a 2.Zero-litre common-rail lump, uprated in nearly each method possible.
With a Borg Warner turbocharger from a John Deere mix harvester, which boosts at an astonishing 4 bar, the engine develops 550bhp and 650lb ft. The exhaust runs proper out by means of the bonnet and each time Lynas builds the engine revs, a thick, acrid plume of smoke bursts into the air like ash erupting from a volcano.
With all that energy and torque being despatched to the entrance axle alone, the Arosa calls for loads of ability on the a part of its driver. It’s all about managing the clutch launch, reckons Lynas, though he factors out that on a handled drag strip, the slick rubber does discover monumental traction. The Hoosier tyres are purpose-built for drag racing and so they’re run at simply 6psi. They’re so saggy, the truth is, that when the automotive is on top of things, they increase in diameter by an inch and a half. As they develop taller, in addition they turn out to be narrower, which helps to cut back the automotive’s frontal space.
So as to add but extra energy, the Arosa runs a nitrous system, which is programmed to launch its payload into the cylinders solely when the street pace, engine pace, gear and increase strain are all simply so. The sooner the automotive goes, the extra nitrous the system releases, which implies the automotive appears to tug tougher and tougher because it races down the strip, in keeping with Lynas. How briskly is it? Regardless of operating on a low-grip concrete runway quite than a sticky drag strip, it bested our long-term BMW M5 for a video lately.
Twin motorcycle-engined MK:
“For those who poured a bag of peanuts into the engine bay, I don’t suppose a single considered one of them would hit the ground,” feedback Mathew Bennett. “It’s very comfortable in there.” Lotus Seven-type automobiles with bike engines are scary machines. They weigh nothing in any respect and whip alongside at a frantic tempo in bursts of peaky, inertia-free acceleration. I as soon as frightened myself half to dying driving such a automotive on a greasy circuit, which implies I’m now hardwired to search out the prospect of that type of machine being armed with not one motorcycle engine however two of the issues utterly terrifying. To Bennett, although, it’s simply an engineering problem.
“I purchased the 2 bike engines, took a load of metal off a rack and fabricated the chassis,” he says, matter-of-factly. “The clearances are tiny.”
The automotive began life as an MK (Essex-based MK Sportscars has been constructing Lotus Seven-type chassis since 2000), however its engine bay needed to be reconfigured to simply accept the 2 998cc Kawasaki ZX-10R motors. The important thing part is the switch case, which sits within the transmission tunnel and synchronises drive from the 2 energy items earlier than sending it by way of a standard prop shaft to the rear axle. The switch case had been constructed years earlier than and had been gathering mud on a shelf at Tiger Racing till Bennett got here calling. “Tiger offered me the case and I used to be away,” he says. The 2 engines develop 181bhp apiece, giving Bennett’s automotive a complete of 362bhp. Weighing not far more than 500kg, it’s extra accelerative by means of the gears than most supercars. “It’s solely been on the street just a few months. I’m going and get eggs and milk in it now.”
Already, although, Bennett is seeking to promote up and transfer on to the following mission: he desires extra energy nonetheless. (As you’ll have labored out, Bennett isn’t simply fazed. He was as soon as a Wall of Dying bike rider, in any case.)
“I would like the following automotive to be primarily based on a Caterham SV chassis,” he says, “with a pair of turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa engines. One will drive the rear axle. One will drive the entrance. These engines can produce 400bhp reliably, or 500bhp not so reliably. I would go down the 500bhp route.
Then I’ll have 1000bhp in a automotive weighing 500kg. There’s obtained to be a power-to-weight world file in that, hasn’t there?”
VW Golf Mk2 ’Ring weapon:
“If I had identified the mission was going to come back this far,” says Nigel Pinder, “I by no means would have began with a Mk2 Golf CL.” He purchased his first monitor automotive in 2005 after visiting the Nürburgring for the primary time and instantly falling in love with the place. Pinder accomplished 35 laps of the Nordschleife one Easter in his track-prepared Volkswagen Mk2 Golf however crashed on the 36th tour and wrote it off.
His second Mk2 Golf was not far more than a rolling shell when he purchased it just a few weeks later. Over the next decade or so, that automotive has steadily advanced. Truly, it will be extra correct to say it has metamorphosed into a brand new creature altogether. It now has a 330bhp turbocharged engine, an aggressive plated differential, useful aero, racing slicks and monitor suspension (with spring charges that had been specified by Jaguar XE SV Venture eight lead engineer David Pook no much less). Having raced towards Pinder’s freakish Golf on the Nürburgring, I can verify that it is rather practically as quick across the circuit as a Porsche 911 GT3 RS… He remembers: “Once I first went there with the second Golf 11 years in the past, I did just a few laps, had some enjoyable and thought: ‘The brakes may very well be higher.’ And so all of it started.”
One of many first upgrades was a do-it-yourself entrance splitter. Pinder went to a monitor day at Silverstone to check his handiwork and virtually spun the automotive on the high-speed Copse nook. “That’s once I realised these items must be balanced entrance to rear,” he says.
Over time, Pinder educated himself at midnight artwork of car aerodynamics. After his horrifying second at Copse, he determined to suit a rear lip spoiler, then an even bigger entrance splitter, then facet skirts, then a flat ground, then an even bigger rear wing and ultimately a diffuser. He made all of it himself: “I examined all the things utilizing little tufts of wool to see which method the airflow was going. The rear diffuser that’s on there now was my second try at fibreglassing. They reckon seven levels of rake is as a lot as you need on a non-aero automotive like mine.”
Pinder’s Golf has visited nearly each circuit within the UK, however it’s spent most of its life on the ’Ring. He reckons it’s now performed 2300 laps. That’s 30,000 miles on the Nordschleife alone.
Skoda Citigo monitor automotive:
“The objective for our Skoda Citigo monitor automotive was fairly easy,” says Darkside Developments founder Ryan Parkin. “We needed to take it on monitor days with all of the Ferraris and Porsches and simply, you understand, annoy them.”
The tiny silver hatch has the pace to just do that. It weighs not more than 1160kg, it’s four-wheel drive and, with nitrous, it has 346bhp and 425lb ft of torque. In all probability finest simply to get out of its method, then.
Parkin based Darkside Developments in 2010 having discovered his method – by probability, as a lot as something – into tuning diesel-powered VW Group fashions, fabricating new parts for them and delivery elements to the US.
Immediately, the Barnsley-based firm has a workers of 20 and an annual turnover to make your eyes water. Parkin says the Citigo is a component promotional software and half rolling take a look at mattress, and there may even be some fact in that. You get the sense, nonetheless, that he and his colleagues constructed this pugnacious little thug only for the enjoyable of it. “We wanted a brand new mission automotive,” he says, “and we spoke about constructing a Seat Mii with two engines.
However then we discovered an unfinished four-wheel-drive Citigo, and it was simply the factor.” It makes use of a Mk1 Audi TT four-wheel drive system, hacked this manner and that to suit the Citigo’s minuscule wheelbase, and a sequential gearbox. The suspension parts are all borrowed from a variety of completely different Volkswagen Golfs, whereas each subframes are custom-built. Throughout the cabin, there’s an FIA-spec roll cage, and the dashboard has even been reshaped so you’ll be able to see over it whereas sat in these very low-set racing seats.
“The transient for the engine was as near 400bhp as potential however with as little smoke as potential,” says Parkin. “A giant cloud of diesel smoke can look good in images, however you actually don’t need it in your face.” The fundamental 2.Zero-litre 16-valve lump has been utterly reworked with new internals, uprated cooling , consumption and exhaust techniques and a Garrett turbocharger.
“We’re going to thrash the life out of it on monitor and discover out what breaks,” Parkin says. “We’re inspecting parts on a regular basis, so we’ll be taught what’s and what isn’t going to be dependable.” Whereas upsetting Ferrari and Porsche drivers, in fact.
Vauxhall VX220 child supercar:
“I did the deal on the VX220 from a hospital mattress whereas recovering from a damaged neck,” Graeme Lambert remembers. 5 years in the past, he was hit from behind whereas stationary in a Lotus Elise. Most individuals would swear off insubstantial British sports activities automobiles for all times in these circumstances, however Lambert is fabricated from sterner stuff.
Lambert had owned a Vauxhall VX220 Turbo earlier than the accident. He says: “I tuned it a bit and loved it, however I struggled on monitor days with the spiky energy supply. I made a decision a supercharger was the best way to go on the following automotive.” Inside weeks of leaving the hospital, work had begun. “What I got down to obtain actually wasn’t what you see earlier than you now,” provides Lambert. “I believed it will be a a lot shorter, inexpensive mission.” Nonetheless, he needed his automotive to be sooner than a typical VX220 Turbo, with upwards of 300bhp.
The donor automotive’s unique engine was effectively previous its finest and never match for large energy upgrades, so Lambert was looking out for a brand new motor. When Saab went bust in 2012 and the liquidators had been busy promoting belongings, Lambert – a lifelong Saab devotee – purchased a brand-new four-cylinder engine and had it shipped to his mechanic: “He did what all good mechanics do and dangled the carrot of a larger-capacity supercharger in entrance of me. The automotive now has cast pistons, stage-two camshafts, a lightened flywheel and so forth. It’s up at round 346bhp now. The ability supply is absolutely easy, precisely what I needed. It’s a street automotive as a lot as a monitor automotive and I commute to work in it pretty typically.”
Nearly all the things else has been uprated over customary specification: the entrance brakes are four-pot AP objects; the dampers, wheel geometry and entrance anti-roll bar are all adjustable; the spring charges are ; even the bodywork has been upgraded with a particular coupé conversion. Lambert’s automotive seems much less like a VX220 now and extra like a scaled-down supercar. What’s most outstanding about it, although, is its engine bay, which is lined in heat-ref lective gold foil. Yep, similar to a McLaren F1.
“I did my first monitor day for 5 years on this automotive a few weeks in the past,” Lambert provides. “It was nice to hang around with like-minded associates. The neighborhood is what it’s all about.”
What’s the attraction?
What’s it that compels an individual to spend bundles of cash and an unlimited period of time constructing a one- off mission automotive? They’re infrequently definitely worth the cash invested in them, in any case, and as Graeme Lambert, proprietor of the VX220, factors out, there’ll at all times be one thing that’s ready to be fastened.
For most individuals, it appears to come back right down to considered one of two issues. Initially, there’s a pure curiosity; a must know whether or not or not one thing is technically potential. Second, there’s the matter of individuality. For a lot of mission automotive builders, the very thought of driving one thing that anyone else can stroll right into a showroom and purchase is completely unthinkable.
“I take into consideration what else I may have purchased day by day,” feedback Lambert. “I’ve spent someplace between £30,000 and £40,000 on my VX220. I may have gone out and acquired some critical automobiles with that, however I’ve solely been in a position to spend that a lot as a result of the mission has occurred over time. Plus, my automotive is totally particular person.”
For the blokes from Darkside Developments, their mission automobiles are promotional instruments and rolling take a look at beds, however for Mathew Bennett, his motivation was quite much less precise. “I’ve confirmed you’ll be able to put two bike engines in a automotive,” he says. “I wish to do the following mission [a 1000bhp Caterham] as a result of just a few folks I’ve spoken to about it have mentioned it can’t be performed. I wish to discover that out for myself.”
There’s a third motive, in fact: love. “I don’t have any formal coaching on this so I’ve been studying as I’m going,” says Nigel Pinder. His Golf mission “has been a ache at instances, however I’ve liked each minute of it”.
5 mad one-off creations to purchase on the PistonHeads classifieds:
SUBARU IMPREZA TURBO 2000 – A road-legal Time Assault automotive, this Impreza produces as much as 700bhp. In accordance with the advert, it was constructed over a five-year interval with receipts totalling £60,000. It has anti-lag, similar to a World Rally Automobile, and a billet turbo. Worth: £25,000
VAUXHALL VXR8 – With 587bhp, probably the most highly effective factory-specification VXR8, the GTS-R of 2017, was absurdly quick. Fairly what a VXR8 with 705bhp should really feel like is anyone’s guess. The vendor reckons it’s good for 200mph and value £60,000 to construct. Worth: £28,950
FORD MUSTANG GT – How a lot energy are you able to get for lower than £50,000? As a lot as a McLaren Senna, apparently. Modified with a high-capacity Whipple supercharger, this Mustang V8 produces 800bhp. The chassis has been uprated with KW coil-overs too. Worth: £42,500
NISSAN 200SX – Described within the adas “a race automotive and never a present automotive”, this S15-generation 200SX has near 500bhp and an aero equipment to disgrace a Pikes Peak contender. Nonetheless street authorized, it was constructed by Kent- primarily based MnM Engineering. Worth: £15,500
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF VR6 4MOTION MK4 – Having began life as a VR6 4Motion with 204bhp, this Mk4 Golf now has greater than twice the output its maker supposed. A Rotrex supercharger and varied consumption and exhaust modifications increase energy to 412bhp. Worth: £13,350
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