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My Exclusive Coupe Rally Car


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Its been pointed out that i haven't actually got around to posting up the story/evolution of my rally car,

so as i've just updated my website with some pictures i thought i might as well do one now.

I bought a very standard and rusty E reg exclusive coupe back in 2003


It didn't look bad from the outside but with the interior stripped out things started looking worse.


Both front floors and A-pillars were bad,

the front inner wing tops were gone,

both sills were badly holed under the sideskirts,

both rear wheel arches were rusting away at the lip,

the spare wheel well didn't have a bottom,

the front panel no longer reached to the wings

and the washer bottle tray was bad

But apart from that it was ok :blink:

Anyway after some more stripping and a bit of work with the angle grinder we had a NS floor like this


Which after a bit more cleaning was welded up to look like this


I then moved onto the NS sill and it was all beyond saving, i managed to get new full sills, so out came the angle grinder again


Which showed the rear inner and middle sills were also history.


Don't have a pic of the new sill fitted for some reason :unsure:

Anyway i then welded up the other side floor and sill before turning to the rear arches

The OS had some filler in it showing a previous small repair


With the rusty metal removed we welded the inner and outer arches to each other


Then trimmed back the new arch panel and spot welded back and forth to attach fully


Folowed by a skim of filler or two


I didn't do the filler work myself i leave that in the capable hands of my friend Steve who is a time served panel beater and painter,

He also navigates for me on road rallies so has a vested interest in the car looking good

While we were doing the bodywork we also removed the door locks as i was fitting remote central locking and an alarm

Inside i also added a rear rollcage for safety

With the welding all done and the filler/rubbing down mostly done it was ready to go off for paint.

Now at the time i was driving a recovery truck for a local Crash Repair Bodyshop (where steve worked as an estimator)

so one friday afternoon i swung by my house in my company vehicle to collect the shell


then took it into work to finish the rubbing down and prep work


friday night we got the rubbing down finished and sheeted the car up ready for the paint booth


Followed by a couple of coats of filler/primer


On the saturday morning Steve managed to rub down the primer coat before putting the car back in the oven

where it got a couple of coats of black as a base for the topcoats of Anthracite


Sunday morning saw the top coats going on, and the finished car rolling out late that afternoon


Look at the shine in that straight out the booth paintwork B)


I'll continue the story later.

Edited by mantasrme
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The paintjob looks the business B)

Yeah for an out the gun finish without any polish/flatting down i was very impressed

definatley argree with the above comments,

you will have to do my a series soon then dave! :unsure:

didnt think it was that bad when you where telling ne the tale about it!


Yeah mate i think your A will require many many pictures to show all the welding its going to get

Shouldn't be long till i have some space and we can get cracking on it :thumbup

What sort of rallying are you going to do? Hope you know what you are letting yourself in for! ;)

Up until now i've only been doing road rallies. But last year i rebuilt the car to basic club stage rally spec

I just beat the new rules by getting it logbooked just before christmas 08, which saved me buying new seats to comply with the rules

Since then i have done a few more jobs on it with the intention of my first event being up at croft in december

But currently funds are not helping with my plans, and it looks like it will be well into next year before i get onto stage :(

I've been out regularly servicing for friends on stage rallies and wanted to be out there competing against them

Will just be doing local single venue tarmac events, so nothing like your level of rallying

Anyway back to the story:

Monday morning saw the shell back home in my garage ready for the rebuild to begin


While the shell was getting all this work i didn't neglect the engine, the standard 2.0cih gave way for a bit more power

I'd had this engine in a previous manta and then stored it in my garage so it only needed a quick check and freshen up

the bottom end had 1mm oversize pistons already so i just cleaned and checked everything, then fitted a new water pump for peace of mind


The head was already modified to Stage3 spec 45mm inlet/40mm exhaust valves and well ported so again a clean and valves re-lapped

on top of that was a Kent OP234 cam and vernier pulley. Which made for a nice drivable 145Bhp at the flywheel :D


With the engine rebuilt and plumbed in we were almost done


the rear seats needed a bit of trimming around the rear roll cage


Car all finished and MOT’d ready for its first event


At this point the basic spec was the above engine, 16v calipers and astra disc, Bilstein dampers and 400lb front springs

sump guard, oil cooler, quickrack, quickshift, 2 1/4" exhaust, twin headlamps with 100w bulbs and cibie super oscars with 130w bulbs

The coupe was a vast improvement over my previous road rally manta (a 1.8 hatch with standard engine)

We managed to win several trophies over the next couple of seasons of road rallies and even had a couple of top 10 finishes

But in 2005 on the way home from a road rally near Morpeth the oil pump failed/ weakened on the A1 and the oil warning light didn’t light up!

The first thing i knew of a problem was when I heard a rattle, by then it was pretty loud, i turned the engine off and managed to coast up a slip road

With a quick look at the engine to check it wasn't a loose/broken rocker or anything obvious i had to ring the RAC

When I started pulling the engine apart the next weekend, i soon knew that the whole bottom end was dead when i had the head off the bores were damaged

Once everything was stripped down the damage was clearly visible in no4 bore and all over the piston



The crank was also scrap so I had the choice of getting/building a new bottom end or going for a different engine

So I bought one of these


then came the trial fitting and modifications to the shell for clearance


I made a little more room across the bulkhead to give clearance for the water pipe


with the engine sat happily in place I started on the wiring loom.

I didn’t want the ecu in the engine bay so unwrapped the whole injection loom and re-routed it into the car


as my engine had a dizzy I had removed the complete manta heater assembly so fitted a polo one on the NS


with heat being a possible problem I painted and wrapped the tubular manifold


before finishing off the install with a nice OPEL plug cover


With the new improved motor we battled on for a couple more seasons until in early 2008 I decided to turn the coupe into a full stage rally car.

Which is now complete and i'll put that up later on.

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Early in 2008 I decided it was time to step up to stage rallies. I’ve been wanting to do this for years but needed that extra push.

Which came in the form of new rules from the MSA (governing body of UK motorsport)

To become a stage rally car the vehicle must meet certain rules and be checked by an MSA scrutineer

The MSA will then issue a ‘Competition Log Book’ which shows your car meets the required specifications

As of 1st Jan 2009 new rules were coming in that had several changes that would make it more expensive to build a car

the seats needing to be no more than 5 years old and FIA approved was the most costly but several others added to it

However if Logbooked before that date cars complying with the old rules would be allowed to continue till 2013

So to save myself an extra £650 in build costs the choice was to get on with it now,

As is always the case with building a rally car the nice long time I had to do the job was nearly not enough

But in late December 08 just before xmas I managed to get the car Logbooked

It wasn’t to the full spec I wanted (lsd and bike carbs would have to wait) but was done enough to pass the logbooking

So here’s the next part of the story:

Car back in the garage and starting to strip the interior. The engine and running gear would stay in place

As the main jobs were remove sunroof and fit full roll cage, redo floors to aid mounting of bucket seats

Then add a tunnel to the floor for the exhaust system, oh and build the exhaust system.


Inside wasn’t too bad, which was nice to find after a couple of years of abuse on road rallies


With the cage just sat in place I started looking at head clearance when sat in the car.

The rules state you must have 50mm of clearance above your helmet when strapped into your seat.

At just over 6foot this meant I would have to have my bucket seat very low

Infact whilst mocking up I realized even having it sat directly on the floor wasn’t low enough!

So the normal floor hump under the drivers seat was having to get flattened, and more room was needed towards the tunnel for the seat mounts.

I decided the easiest way to achieve this and also ensure the chassis rails were solid was to remove the floor


Then I could modify the crossmember (which is higher at the front and starts the hump) and also strengthen the rails


With that done and much test fitting of the seat I finally had enough head room , so the new floor went in


After that I turned to the passenger side. Here I didn’t need the seat as low but wanted to raise the exhaust for clearance


the crossmember had a decent notch cut from it and a tunnel behind it where the rear passengers feet would normally be


floor back in and some zinc primer, mid cage mount in place


The front floor with the rollcage mount and extra tunnel for exhaust manifold


I then moved to the rear of the exhaust. The mid box is normally the lowest part of the exhaust and from my road rally experience it’s the most hit/damaged part under the car.

So I decided it needed to be higher, which would also give a better run over the axle

I couldn’t find a box exactly the size I wanted so I bought one that was too long then opened it and shortened it

Heres me trial fitting the box and describing where I wanted to put the new floor


New floor panels made up and welded in, I already had the boot floor cut out and tunneled from its road rally days


With the exhaust and floors done I turned my attention to the roof. the roof lining and sunroof tray had already gone to fit the cage


But I was left with a small hole to fill! so I got a large sheet of steel and laid it on the roof before drawing around it from underneath


Then I cut the panel out with 10mm extra around my line, a quick joggle all around the edge and its almost there

I held the sheet up from bellow with some wooden braces and a scissor jack to hold a slight curve in the middle

Before going around and tacking every few inches, I then went around again tacking between my original tacks

After doing this 7 or 8 times (letting it cool between) I had a continuously welded in panel


After my rather poor filler job on the roof (I’ll let my painter sort that better) I moved to fitting the roll cage

rather than have the cage bolted in I decided to weld the feet to the mounts and the shell

the cage was such a good fit I didn’t need bracing panels I could weld directly to the windscreen pillars and B pillar


With all the welding and fabrication done the interior got a lick of paint, nothing fancy just brushed on Smoothrite

then the pipework and plumbing could be run through the car, including the fire extinguisher


By now we were in mid December and rapidly running out of time to get the car Logbooked

So the seats and harnesses were bolted in along with a quick layer of rattle tin black over the roof before loading it on the trailer

and off to my local MSA scrutineer, After a look around the car he was happy and issued my rally logbook :)


More to follow later.

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[qoute] Yeah mate i think your A will require many many pictures to show all the welding its going to get

Shouldn't be long till i have some space and we can get cracking on it :thumbup [qoute]

hope you've good a big enough memory card in that camera of yours then dave,

good, thats music to my ears, :thumbup


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great info on the seat hight problems. like i said at billing sitting in this car was perfect for me being tall ;) , as head room is non existant in standard form. :blink:

Yeah you were one of the few who fitted it, my mate couldn't reach the pedals or see over the bonnet :lol:

Have to say I enjoyed reading through that, great stuff, look forawrd to updates.... and pictures of it actualy rallying! :thumbup

Pictures of it rallying will be a while as funds are seriously lacking at the moment :(

But i have used it on a couple of motorclub autotests, just to make sure everything is ok.

We don't run very complicated tests, they're just simple ones that are meant to be fun.

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Time for the next part of the story:

I'd known i wanted an LSD since starting rallying manta's back in 2001 but the options weren't very good at that point.

The quaife one isn't up to stage rallying, and 2nd hand ZF diffs are expensive and often need a rebuild (with parts that are no longer available from ZF)

But my friend Kerrie (aka: Yeha) had been talking to Dave Mac Props about their Gripper diffs for most of 2008.

Gripper had originally been developed by an old school engineer and hand built in small production quantities.

DaveMacProps bought out the gripper design and business and have expanded the range and also the production facilities

The design is a simple plate diff, but the clever bit is the internals are common across their whole range of diffs

They make 3 sizes of internals small,medium, and large so only the outer casing and side gears are unique to each car

That way if you need replacement plates, thrust washers etc, they have plenty in stock

But they didn't do a diff for the manta, yet!

Kerrie helped persuade them there would be a market for them and also provided measurments for the 3.44 and 3.67 diffs

So in mid Jan i made a trip down to Coventry to purchase the first of their Manta LSD's off the production line B)


I did investigate getting replacement bearings for the diff, but the prices i was quoted were shocking :o

So i carefully removed the bearings and cases from my 2 axles to check their condition

Luckily one pair showed virtually no wear and we decided to use these on the diff

A friend has been building gearboxes and axles for longer than he cares to remember so i camped out in the corner of his workshop for a day

With much measuring and double checking, oh and bugging him for technical assistance every few minutes :D

I managed to have a fully built lsd axle by the end of the day.


Once fitted i did about 50 miles just to check everything was ok, then drained the oil for a visual check.

I'd done the initial mileage on worn knobbly tyres so there wasn't too much grip, but now switched back to road tyres

Which is when it developed a clunk :unsure:

To cut a long story short one of the bushes at the front of the steel torque tube (which i'd fitted as an upgrade) was torn

The tube was mounted by 2 rubber bobbins, when the one split the tube had enough play to rotate slightly and hit against the top of the housing.

I replaced the bushes with new heavy duty bobbins and added half a bobbin from above to help stabilise the tube and prevent it happening again.

This seems to have done the trick, 3 autotests and many miles of abuse on the roads later and its all still working as it should be :)

I then turned my attention to the heater. I'd fitted a polo heater when the 16v went in, but it was where the battery usually sits.

This was allowing some air from the engine bay into the car, which isn't good for a rally car, what with water splashing around and smelly fumes.

So i decided the easiest solution would be to move the heater into the car, i decided to chop out a section of battery tray and weld in a box


I then welded 2 pieces of small box section to the underside of the battery tray

This gave me somewhere to bolt a piece of alloy angle section across, with the heater assembly bolted to it

A couple of hydraulic bulkhead fittings and short lengths of braided steel hose finish the plumbing inside


In the engine bay 2 90deg hydraulic fittings screw on and connect to the heater hoses from the head, and the alloy T piece


I then made a metal panel to cover the heater matrix with a round outlet each side

This chanels the air into pipes that connect to the side and top demister vents

While the polo heater fan has 3 speeds the original manta switch only has 2 positions, so i have wired in medium and high

The demisting power is now sooo much better than any standard manta setup


That'll have to do for this update i need some sleep.

I'll try to finish off the catch up and get up to date over the weekend.

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