My first major project was a MkIV Escort RS turbo. The car was bought off a friend of the family who had had it sitting in their barn for years not running and partially stripped out. the bodywork was in dire need of some TLC!
After towing it home with my dad I set about work right away. We got a charged battery on it and tried to fire it up and sure enough it wouldn’t go.. Kept cough and banging.. Having heard a similar incident at a race meeting recently I said that sounds like the timing is out? My dad agreed.. So I went to pop off the distributor cap only to notice it didn’t look quite right and the clips were very tight? When I got it off to investigate it was clear to see the cap was on 180 degrees out! So I re-positioned it correctly, jumped in the car, flicked the key and it barked straight into life! That was a stroke of luck!
Once I knew the car was running okay I was spurred on to complete the rest of the job. The body work was straight but the paintwork was very tired so it was clearly going to need a respray. I set about stripping the entire car out. Once all the interior was out I could see I had an additional problem. The floor pan had pretty much rotted right out of the car! so the first job was welding. I formed new floor panels form sheet metal as required and seam welded it all in place. A good dose of primer and underseal and that job was done. Then I sent the car off to get the paintwork done.
when it returned about 6 months later! (very slow paint shop!) it looked pristine. I had the paint shop mix up some extra and load it in a spray can so I could do some of the internal areas they had missed that may or may not be visible on occasion.
Now it was a case of bolting it all back together cleaning as I went. The car looked like new when it was done and got finished off with a set of aftermarket alloy’s I had purchased to replace the tired looking standard RS wheels.
After an MOT I noticed that the car had started to run a bit rough. It had pulled like a train before! Upon investigation I found I was down compression on one cylinder! Great! Time for my first engine rebuild!
While I was stripping it down I noticed the turbo wastegate actuator seemed locked solid. When I got it off I found it had been adjusted out to prevent it from opening so I think the cause of the problem was some significant over boosting!
Well one piston later and some replacement gaskets and the car was back purring like a kitten!
I could not afford to run the car as I was only 17 or 18 so I was forced to sell it on not long after it was completed.
At this point I went off to University to study a degree in Mechanical Engineering. So there was no spare finances for playing with cars! After completing Uni I was stuck back with a trusty old Fiesta to run around in but quickly got bored with that!
With a hunger for a little more power that I could afford to run I quite fancied the old school E30 BMW’s. Which weren’t so old school back then. But due to being a bit older were relatively cheap to insure. As luck would have it an E30 325 sport came in at my local breakers and after a quick once over it was mine! The car only had light front end panel damage and was repaired in no time. Sadly I have no pictures of this but it was a mint condition metallic black version all factory except for a K&N induction kit which added to the fantastic snarl of the 2.5litre straight 6! I had the car chipped at a local tuners to squeeze a little more power out of it and had plenty of driving enjoyment from it. To this day it was one of the best cars I ever owned and regret selling it.. Especially knowing that they became very collectable and desirable not long after and went up considerably in value! I am still not entirely sure how I came to sell it! I remember an old school friend came to see it one day and I think he just hounded me with offers until I crumbled!
With the beemer on the way out of my life I needed to find a suitable replacement. I searched around a bit and came up with a Rover 220 coupe!
Possibly one of my more misguided choices but hey, all part of learning. I was aware that Rovers had a tendency to blow headgaskets and this one was no exception! After a getting the bodywork done and getting it back on the road I found the car was very underpowered and using water! After a compression test it was confirmed the headgasket was gone so off came the head for a rebuild and replacement gaskets. Ran like a dream after that!
The Rover was a bit of a mistake but I made the most of it! Wishing to quickly redeem myself and remembering the glorious sounds of my old straight 6 I searched high and low for a new project. all I could find was this Mazda I had never heard of! A mazda MX6?
It looked ‘okay’.. It was Japanese, so should be reliable.. And it was a 2.5 V6! Oh well, had to be worth a shot! The only problem I could find online about them was dodgy ignition modules but the one on the car looked new so I took the gamble.
After this I decided to move back into the more reliable and classy German market! I spotted a clean looking E36 323 at the breakers with minor front end damage so struck a deal on it.
The wheels on the car were a factory option which I had drawn my attention to the car along with some other factory fitted AC Schnizter options. They were a complete state ad looked very tired even after a clean so I decided to get them refurbed and called in a favour with a friend of my dads. The wheels were stripped down bare and the lips re-polished. I then got them back and painted the spokes in silver. The grotty engine bay was also given a face lift with my trade mark blue rocker cover. This was I think the first car I did all my own bodywork repairs and paintwork on have had some practice spraying the odd bit. And it turned out very nicely if I may say so myself!
What I found was the 323 ran a restricted version of the 2.5litre engine which I believe had been done to pass european emission regulations. I also found out that you could unrestrict it by fitting an earlier model 325 inlet manifold! And to add to this was informed the self learn ECU would adjust the fueling to suit after some miles of driving! So guess what I did! Pushing the power from a modest 170bhp to 192bhp! Not bad for a big bit of plastic!
I was so close to passing the 200bhp barrier now but not quite there!
I couldn’t think what to do next.. I could throw some money at the BMW and probably get it over 200bhp but it was getting high on miles and I didn’t think it would be worth it for the likely gains. I ran around in it for a while searching online for another affordable car that I could actually get insurance on as I was still only around 25 at this time. Then one day while strolling around the breakers yard looking for inspiration I spotted a black E36 M3 Evo. Surely that would be well out of my price bracket?! Couldn’t hurt to ask though! Much to my amazement it wasn’t as expensive as I thought. More than I would like to pay for a car but then it was an M3 Evo! Not only that but the later model 321bhp! In fact it was the last of the E36 model in metallic black with Alcantara Vader seats! Oh boy! Forget 200bhp! This as far beyond my current dreams! it had to be done! The car had bad rear suspension damage and a broken wheel on the driver’s side but the body work was perfect. I did some quick research, one of which being the insurance company who didn’t laugh at all! It was actually quite a sensible quote. Next I enquired on parts. I found out the suspension was specific to the M3 so was going to be a little tricky to get hold of, but I was prepared to wait! I did the deal and went home to trawl the net! Thank God for ebay! Literally the next day I found a guy breaking the same model car so arranged to get all the parts sent down. I also found a local chap on the E36 forum who had a few other little bits I needed and most importantly a wheel.
When the suspension finally arrived I was a little shocked to find the seller did not know left from right and I had received the complete wrong corner of the car! After eventually getting in touch with the chap I decided I was best to do the 320 mile round trip to Birmingham to swap the bits over myself!
This car was really a bit of me! as ever though I was always thinking of the next step up the ladder.. Where do you go from 321bhp though? Well that was when the Japanese import scene had started to make a mark and I saw the car I fell in love with. I would say most boys dream about them these days and certainly pretty much every japanese kid wants one when they grow up! The dream of a skyline!
Hell, they even put a smile on Jeremy Clarkson’s face and took the words from his mouth!
Only problem with this is it was a lot of money that I didn’t have and there was not much danger of one turning up in the breakers! Well, actually, no sooner had I thought it and one did! but in this instance every man and is dog pounced on the car and a bidding war pursued that I was not destined to win! But as I always say, ‘everything happens for a reason’!
I went through various routes trying to source one from auctions at Southampton Docks, then some UK importers and ever so nearly direct from Japanese auction but they were always just that bit too much for my pocket!
Then trawling a number of sites online I came up with something a little interesting on Pistonheads! There was a white R33 GTR with a nice body kit but looking like it was in need of some attention. It was still advertised over my budget so I left it for a few days thinking it was a non starter then thought I have my M3.. I wonder.. So I called the chap up and asked if he would be interested in taking an offer on the skyline and part exchange with my BMW. To my surprise he seemed interested.
I arranged to go and view the car one weekend. When I arrived I fell in love instantly.. Sure it needed a bit of cosmetic work but it was all there and definitely had potential. The front and rear bumpers were badly cracked. Most of the body kit needed refitting correctly. But even though it had been standing a while it ran clean and crisp. The sound of that 6 cylinder is one of the best! We came to a mutual agreement and I made arrangements to come and swap cars later that week!
To read more about this project see ‘R33 GTR – Arctic White’.
So this is where it really begins and where RS Power Projects was born.