The team and their cars

South West Stint

The South West Stint team consists of 4 main challenge cars and our support car, which will complete the entire challenge with us too. Each of the 4 challenge cars (Tom, Joe, Sam and George + Sophie) will be driven by 1 person only, and the support car will have the driving split by 2 people (Milly and Katie).

Each of the main challenge cars have had a before(ish) picture taken, along with a little write up from the driver. Stay tuned for the after pics!

Tom with Han, the Nissan Almera Esteem

Han, the Nissan Almera Esteem, before image

Here we have the beautiful, powerful, agile, sleek, almighty Nissan Almera. 

As we all know there is no car with four seats that is quicker than the Nissan GTR off the line. Although the Almera may not have four wheel drive it certainly shares a lot of other characteristics  with its bigger brother the GTR and its not just the badge. With its 1.4 litre twin cam engine producing a face tearing 85bhp, propelling it from 0-60 in an impressive 12.2 seconds. 14 inch steel wheels with colossal 175/60 tyres for unmatched grip to help keep this wild animal on the road. The Almera also benefits from having incredible aerodynamic properties producing an unknown amount of down force to keep it pinned down on those notorious south west coastal road hair pin corners. 

If there was ever any possible way I could improve this immense piece of Japanese engineering from factory standard I would, however here are my plans. I aim to add even wider wheels for even more tarmac shredding traction, removing the rear seats, and all unnecessary rear trims for weight reduction to improve the already unrivalled and unmatched handling and acceleration. The roof will have spot lights installed at the front for added visibility during those dark September days in the depths of Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, and a custom made roof cage for storing supplies on our perilous journey through the unknown. The rear wheel arches will benefit from large rally style mud flaps, I also plan on tinting the rear windows of the car to add even more to the sleek Japanese look. I bought the car with 3 months MOT for £130.00 however although the car had MOT it runs out the day before we leave. So some of the budget will be spent fixing a few issues to get another years test  on the Japanese tuning icon. I will also be giving the car a small service including new spark plugs, coolant flush and change, new air filter.

Joe with Rudy, the Hyundai Accent Coupe

Rudy, the Hyundai Accent Coupe, before image

The Hyundai Accent. Automotive innovation and beauty encapsulated by Korean masterminds. 

It seemed insulting to purchase Rudy (She’s called Rudy) for the lowly price of £70, but I could offer more than money. I could take her to a loving home where I would treat her right. 

The first journey was magical and scary at the same time. Much like a first date. Sure bits were falling off and she was unpredictable to the point of butt clenching, but there was a spark. Probably explains the dash board lights and drained battery…

However, Rudy came with baggage which I needed to address. Her MOT was nearly due.

  1. Like all women she needed new shoes. 4 good rubbers for both of our protection.
  2. New break lines because sometimes she didn’t know when to stop.
  3. Underneath the beauty were some holes. Dirty gurt rusty holes under her to be precise which needed some TLC.
  4. Front left CV Gaiter needed replacing
  5. Back box swapped for a 3” pipe because she didn’t winge loud enough already. #becauseracecar

Other than that, she was mint.

I did feel she could loose a few pounds however. With my help we stripped the back end and found half the cast of bugs life in her trunk.

Cosmetically she had a few imperfections but with a lick of paint and a heavy dose of artistic license I will be able to return her former glory and some.

Sam with Jeff, the Mk4 VW Golf

Jeff, the Mk4 VW Golf, before image

As you'd expect, I've done this right and got myself a Mk4 Volkswagen Golf.

Launched in '97, the Mk4 Golf was the best selling car in Europe by 2001, this model saw a deliberate attempt to take the VW Golf further upmarket, with higher quality interiors and better toys - on par with its older (attractive) sister, the Audi A3. The thumping 1.6 16v  4 cylinder naturally aspirated single overhead cam monster, mounted up front powers the front wheels. The exciting 103bhp is delivered at 5700 rpm and the tarmac shredding 148 nm of torque is unleashed at 4500 rpm through its 5 speed manual gearbox. Weighing in at 1142kg its fairly big boned, but that doesn't stop it reaching its incredible 119mph top speed. This sounds great - but my car has clocked up over a 160k miles... and I can feel every single one of them! Its lumpy, idles weird, stalls and splutters...

Bought as a high miler MOT failure, the first work going in to this car then will be getting it through. It failed catastrophically on its rear brakes, so discs and pads will be replaced as well as a bit of a tidy up all round. The second main failure, un-surprisingly, was its emissions - it's a shame it's not a newer car, the software would have kept the emissions suspiciously perfect under test conditions! Work to resolve this will see the cat being replaced, as well as a bit of a service; new plugs, an injector clean and a choice fuel additive being chucked in. That coupled with a gurt hooning before the check and we should fly through (ever the optimist) - with the added bonus of the car hopefully running a bit smoother too. Win win!

I also plan on adding an improved air intake system as the existing one is poor and when driving feels like its choking the car. It will be opened up with an induction style intake with plenty of cold air available to it, and shielding off the cone from the heat of the engine - a bit of doof doof induction noise will add to the fun of the car too - you cannot lose. I would like to do a bit of work to the exhaust , perhaps a back box delete or I may just come straight off the cat and run some straight pipe out of the side, y'know, because that's far more sensible.

Ideally the car needs suspension work , I want to drop the car on springs as much as possible, 30-40mm all round would be the aim - the boat like handling needs to go, and if the rear happens to get stripped too, we will be riding a tad high. We will have to see what budget allows for, but with the cars being so popular, and the suspension being closely similar to that of the Bora, Beetle and Passat, I'm hoping something will crop up on the second hand market that will sort us out a treat. 

As far as aesthetics go, I'll most likely be getting the rattle cans out and having a whirl at some orange accents - maybe some matt white chucked in for good measure too. I am inspired by the rally and off road look so expect some influences to surface during the build... think fog lights and a tonne of stickers! The hope is that by the end the car is hardly recognisable by the time I have finished getting my hands dirty with it!

George and Sophie with Paulo, the Mk3 VW Polo, before image

George & Sophie with Paulo, the Mk3 VW Polo

As late entrants to the event we knew that there would be little time to prepare our car for the epic journey ahead, so a car which wasn’t already road worthy was out of the question. Luckily Paulo came to us raring to go with more than enough MOT to last the journey. Sure, he was a little rough around the edges, missing half of the back seats and so thirsty he refused to even start; but on the bright side there was one piece of paintwork that had some lacquer on it.

So you’re probably thinking… “A small hatchback with 1.4 litre engine delivering 60 BHP? You’ll never be able to control that on those beautiful Cornish corners!” Well think again; the previous owners had the same thought and have helpfully fitted Paulo with coilovers with the pure intention of improving handling (I’m sure it had nothing to do with slamming Paulo as low as he can go!).

 As the only challenge car with two drivers, we plan to reflect this in Paulo’s paintwork by splitting him right down the middle, allowing one of us to customise each half. The driver’s side will be designed by Sophie, with neon pink and glitter just to make sure that people know it’s the girl’s half; whereas a darker and more “ratty” theme will cover the passenger side. But it’s not all about us; we also plan to turn the bonnet into one big blackboard so that anyone can write us a message of support on our journey. But Paulo also needs to be beautiful on the inside so we will be finishing the previous owner’s job and removing the other half of those back seats. Also a nice big sub-woofer will be fitted into the back (who needs spare wheels anyway?) alongside a few other luxury items if time allows.

Milly and Katie with Mica, the Vauxhall Corsa SXI support car

Milly and Katie with Mica, the Vauxhall Corsa SXI support car