Thursday, 17 December 2015

Cosworth Fiesta MkII

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

There are a number of ways to spice up a MkII Fiesta. Ford themselves had a few attempts at it, beginning with the retro-striped 1.3-litre Supersport, which paved the way for the lurid 1.6-toting XR2. These were rorty little pocket rockets, focusing on poise and light weight rather than outright grunt, and more than capable of raising a smile and keeping it there down a winding B-road. But if you really want to raise some eyebrows (along with the hairs on the back of your neck), why not try tearing the whole thing down to first principles, then building it back up with a Cosworth YB and a conversion to rear wheel drive? That's what this fella seems to have done, and it's got crazy oozing out of every shutline.

Even standing still it's an assault on the senses, with a number of key elements jostling for position and trying to jab you in the eye - the broad arches, the pumped-up motorsport stance, the sodding great intercooler... but what really shouts out at you is how clean the damn thing is. It's hard enough to re-engineer something as comprehensively as this to transmute it from shopper hatch to dragstrip weapon, but to pay so much attention to the aesthetics too? It really is a work of art, and clearly a matter of much pride for the builder. Just look at the triangulated strut tops, the fuel filler in the side window, the fitment of the carbon-fibre tailgate, the flawless paint... this is no thrown-together horsepower-chaser, this is the realisation of someone's lifelong dream. 

Spotted at the 2015 Retro Show - more pics here.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Nothelle-Kamei Audi Coupé

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

This retro Audi race car is a bona fide 1980s original, dating back to the '81 Group 2 season. It's been fully restored in Belgium by Johan Aerts, who's faithfully retained its period features; the 240bhp five-cylinder motor (originally built by Henri Lotterer), the chunky arches and split-rims, even that old-school steering wheel. One or two concessions have been made to modern safety - the Hans-compatible Recaro seat, for example - as this is no museum piece or show pony: Aerts revived it to race. It's competed in numerous classic events, including BRAVO (Belgian Racing Automotive Vintage Organisation) races - fittingly at the hands of André Lotterer, Henri's son - and you see it here lurking in the paddocks and pouncing up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It's even had the bonnet freshly autographed by Rolf Nothelle himself - clearly impressed with the restoration. As well he should be, it looks glorious.

Click here for more snaps from the 2014 FoS.

Thursday, 10 December 2015


Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

NASCAR has developed far beyond its 1940s origins of bootleggers and moonshiners running souped-up engines in their standard-looking road cars; the fundamental ethos remains, but the NASCAR racers of today are barely related to their showroom namesakes. Take the Toyota Camry, for example: like all of the current grid line-up, it features a silhouette bodyshell draped over a spaceframe, front-engined and rear-wheel drive with a proper manual gearbox. The engine is a pushrod 16v V8 which may sound archaic, but the amount of money poured into the series ensures that this old-school engine design is brought as up-to-date as physically possible. These monsters post average race speeds of over 180mph, with 210+ possible with slipstreaming. They're brutal, noisy and somewhat enigmatic in construction; in some areas very simple and basic, in others fiendishly complex.
The rules of the Sprint Cup in which these Camrys compete stipulate that the cars run an EFI V8 with a compacted graphite iron block and pushrod two-valves-per-cylinder valvetrain, with a displacement cap of 358ci (5.8-litres). But these bent-eights are fearsomely high-tech, with mean piston speeds comparable to Formula One engines - 900bhp at 9,800rpm is not unheard of. The cars are rugged and robust, but don't go thinking that NASCAR is a meathead pursuit in which the drivers just go round and round in a circle... it's an incredibly strategic automotive ballet in which positions are won and lost incrementally via slipstreaming and closing gaps. And remember that it's all happening in a tight pack at eye-watering speed. It's no wonder the accidents, when they happen, are massive.

We don't get a lot of exposure to NASCAR here in the UK, it's not a huge cultural thing like it is in the USA. So it's great to see them at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, surprising people up the hillclimb as they demonstrate that they can actually go around corners. (The odd fire burnout doesn't go amiss either.) And yes, it may seem jarring to some that Toyota should be such a big name in this apple pie institution, but you have to remember the parity aspect - all of these cars have to be broadly similar. So there's TRD tweaking afoot, but it's the same basic rumbling V8 that everyone else has. And it's scary.

More from the 2015 FoS here.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Polymath Escort

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

I've spotted this Escort here and there on the show scene throughout 2015 and only managed to grab a handful of rubbish pictures, but I thought it was time to share it because... well, just look at it. It's astounding.

When embarking upon a project, people generally have a single focus in mind: they're going to build a show car, or a race car, or a daily driver, or a restomod - you get the idea. But the guy behind this car, Nik Plant, wanted it to tick quite a few boxes at once. The over-arching vision was to create a flawless showstopper that'd also be a reliable and sensible daily driver, and able to run 12-second quarters up the strip as well. Impressively, he's managed to achieve this ambitious goal with gusto.
The car started life as a 1971 1100L, and still wears most of its original panels (all extensively smoothed) along with Mexico wings. Under the bonnet lies a home-built, race-spec 2.1 Pinto with Wössner pistons, Cosworth conrods, a big-valve Vulcan head, Kent cams, and Weber twin-50s, along with a saucy Harris exhaust manifold. It makes a verified 201bhp - pretty damn good for a nat-asp Pinto.
The chassis wears Group 4 coilovers along with plenty of old-school tricks - Princess brakes, decambered leaves, Panhard rod, lowering blocks - and the wheels are good ol' Lotus steels.

All in all, a beautifully cohesive build, resplendent in Electric Monza Blue and dripping in sublime detail. For many, the perfect MkI Escort.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Ken Block's Hoonicorn

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Ken Block's Mustang is a unique creation. The Hoonicorn is a 1965 notchback with 4WD, outrageous arches, 10.5x18" wheels with 295-section tyres, a full tubular chassis, and carbon-fibre bodywork. The Roush 410ci V8 kicks 845bhp through a six-speed Sadev sequential 'box, while a hydraulic handbrake encourages the thing to get all rally car-like. There's never been a '65 quite like it, and it was built purely for one thing - this:

...and now that its work in Los Angeles is done, Ken's prowling the globe with the Hoonicorn, hunting down tyres and slaying them systematically and indiscriminately. You see it here lurking at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a venue at which the sentient monster Mustang decided to engulf Lord March himself and spit him off the legendary hillclimb:

Ken merely laughed it off, buried the throttle and carried on. He's just as unhinged as the car is.

More photos from FoS 2015 here.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupé

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Jacques Saoutchik was a maverick among coachbuilders, always endeavouring to carve his own path rather then following the herd of popular contemporary design. His projects were characterised by their avant-garde bodywork, at once flowing and liquid and brutally imposing... and always dripping in chrome.
This car is arguably one of his carrosserie's finest works, the 1950 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupé being one of just 36 Grand Sports produced between 1947-53. Its 190bhp 4.5-litre straight-six was directly derived from the Grand Prix engine that won the firm so many podiums, along with a one-two finish at Le Mans in 1950. The performance credentials were all in place, and Saoutchik's work reimagined the racer as an elegant grand tourer. The tapered teardrop of the body is approximately 50% bonnet, the steering hub being pretty much at the mid-point of the car, and the broad, curvaceous panels are beautifully offset by the inevitable brightwork. It's a boulevardier with fiery potential; the French Ferrari 250 GT, a Jaguar XK120 photocopied at 150%. To wheel out a hideously hackneyed cliché, they really don't make them like this any more.

Spotted at Salon Privé 2015 - more pics here.