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Competing Classics

Competing Classics Published: 7th Mar 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Competing Classics
Competing Classics
Competing Classics
Competing Classics
Competing Classics
Competing Classics
Competing Classics
Competing Classics
Competing Classics
Competing Classics
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Brute force can win the day

Still a car to be reckoned with on both the roads and tracks but worthwhile performance gains don’t come cheap

According to Denis Welch ( Motorsport, it can cost 100 grand to turn a Healey into a winner. Legendary Big Healey campaigner John Chatham says £30,000 would get you a full race engine pushing out over 250bhp but just better cam, alloy head and sports exhaust works costing one third of race specification that’s pretty road usable, too. Rawles Motorsport would be also looking at 180-200bhp, fitting twin SU HD8s, not the triples – and for the ultimate in performance and handling Rawles would build up an engine around an alloy block. “The key thing is to set the cars up on a rolling road” it adds. Chatham is more simplistic in terms of the drivetrain. “Too many people believe you need to uprate the driveshafts – it’s not necessary. Straight cut gears tend to have improved ratios (Denis Welch, in ‘Tulip’ or ‘Sebring’ spec), and an overdrive would be useful. Fit an uprated diff too, such as the Quaife limited slip type.

Handling the power

Chatham recommends simple upgrades here; going back to a bare chassis frame then strengthening suspension mountings, as with the Works cars, before fitting an uprated front anti roll bar (Denis Welch cites the latter as the best mod of them all), with altered spring rates. The standard dampers are good for no more than lively road use; telescopic conversions are best if originality isn’t important. If you don’t (or can’t) go rack and pinion, Denis Welch suggests its modded steering box that’s more precise without any tight spots. Kits can be bought to convert 100/6s to discs; use EBC GreenStuff pads on all as a starting point. If there’s any weakness in the chassis and you intend to compete with it then, replace. Costing around £4000 (from Welch), it’s the most worthwhile thing you can do plus improves the handling.

(RWD) Fords

Make it a blue oval ovation

Anglia, Escort, Cortina or Capri, the tuning principles remain the same and their potential is still enormous!

The ‘Kent’ four-cylinder is so tunable and bits remain readily available new or used. Burton Power’s excellent catalogue is a must for guidance, as is www. who essentially deals in Anglias. A Cortina GT exhaust, hot cam and a GT distributor will see 75bhp from the 1200 but the 1340cc off shoot wasn’t liked due to crankshaft weakness; best swap is 1500 pre-crossflow block which goes straight in, bolting on to the existing gearbox. Crossflow units can be taken out to over 1.8-litres for 160bhp or you can even fit a Lotus Cortina engine – the ultimate period mod but costly. Pinto engines aren’t so easy but cheaper – but for the best budget mod is a Zetec engine from a Mondeo; kits are available.

Handling the power

Bolt spacings on Ford bellhousings were identical for over fifty years, meaning that not only will the Type Nine fit all but you can run a Zetec through the original four-speed unit!

The 2000E unit was popular at the time and is still fine choice for period upgrades (but, you’ll face hydraulic or cable clutch issues). BGH Geartech (www. can supply 2000E gearsets should you want to take this route – and they fit into a standard Anglia casing plus Lotus specialists Kelvedon has developed a five-speed cluster for the 2000E. Mk2 Cortina (or Capri 2.8i) struts are now improvised and Milton Racing can adapt them to modern coilover springs. Fiesta discs for the back are possible too but rarely needed. Anglias and Cortinas can be converted to rack and pinion steering (speak to 105Speed for advice on this) and there’s numerous tips on better geometry settings by adding more negative camber. Anglias can be converted to telescopic damping; back in the 1960s Broadspeed devised a Watts linkage, similar to an Aston DB5, to keep the rear axle in check or fit simpler anti-tramp bars instead.

Jaguar MK1/MK2

Scalded cat with many lives

MK2 won the inaugural european touring car championship in 1963 and is still popular on the tracks

Not surprisingly, a good many of these icons are now modified. The easy way is to spend £6000 on a professional 300bhp road/race tune unit which complies with necessary competition regs. On a budget however, the E-type/420 head, carbs and cams makes a fine upgrade (as does S3 (4.2) XJ6 ‘top end’) but, on 3.4s, it’s not worth fitting E-type carbs unless engine has been modified to suit – ditto Weber DCOEs on the 3.8. On all, have a rolling road tune up to find the ignition’s sweet spot. Best cams remain D-Type profiles. Improve the throttle response on any XK by lightening the flywheel or use an alloy alternative. Fitting a 4.2 engine isn’t as easy as it sounds but up to 4.5-litres is attainable – speak to a known XK expert for further advice, particularly if you intend to enter FIA-controlled racing or rallying as only period mods may apply. On all, pay attention to the marginal cooling; uprate radiator at least.

Handling the power

Like the XK sportsters, these saloons benefit from a touch of tail happiness to neutralise their inherent understeer tendencies and geometry setting and ride height play an important role (speak to Jag experts). Harder damping and springs are a given as is poly bushing. Latest mod (from SNG Barratt) is rear coil spring conversion costing £1674. A higher ratio steering was optional when new and extremely beneficial for quick responses but it will prove overly heavy on the road unless you consider power assistance. Otherwise, you can fit the front axle, taken from the 420 saloon, and gain an excellent PAS system as well as some really super brakes. Limited slip diff (from a 3.8) is a worthwhile fit but can snap half shafts when driven really hard on a track or rally stage. XJ6 Series 3s used a derivative of the BL LT77 five-speed gearbox found in SD1s and Range Rovers.


Still an a-mazing performer

Still going it at nearly 65 something is easy to update to make a hit in every competition but costly to do right

First you have to decide if you have to keep the car to a set spec to comply with historic competition rules or anything goes. Unless you have strict capacity limits, an MGB engine is a wise fit allowing more options for less money. You’d need to do a lot of work on the cylinder head and to attain 95-100bhp out of a 1500 would cost far more and take far longer than swapping to an MGB engine. The 1622 is a better engine, but the 1798cc MGB spec unit is still the best option for performance mods plus gives option of over 2-litres for up to 140bhp. Pre 1965 three-bearing is easy fit but more common five-bearing is harder; chrome bumper MGB units are better, as the engine mountings are identical. An alternative, which was a popular period mod, is a supercharger. MGOC sells a Moss-developed kit, while Peter Edney has made his own set up based on an Eaton unit. Both claim something like a 30 per cent power increase on a standard tune engine but the three grand cost makes it an expensive way to gain normal 95bhp 1.8 MGB power.

It’s far easier to fit a Ford (and now Mazda five-speed gearbox conversion) than an overdrive unit from an MGB.

Handling the power

Bigger MGB brakes and a thin front anti-roll bar along with quality dampers are all the tweaks that a road and light track user should need to make an MGA pretty spot on. But, of course, you can go much further for track work including telescopic and coil damper conversions. Really, it depends how fast you want to make your MGA go – and stop although the stock drum brakes are fine with good linings fitted. Ditto the lever arm suspension set up using quality units and 400lb springs, plus a thorough overhaul of the king pins. And don’t go over 165 tyres for road use, advises MGA expert Bob West, adding: “A well sorted [stock] MGA is a lovely car”.


T time always serves up fun

there’s quite a bit you can do to this legendary mg to make it just your cup of T both for the road and track

XPAG tuning can be costly but conventional and carb tweaks are available (you can up to 1/8in shaved from its face and reform the combustion chambers and ports at home for example), culminating in a supercharger for a real boost which was popular in its day. Today, it’s £3000-£4500 depending on design, but said to up power by as much as 45 per cent alone, as in the case of Steve Baker MG’s kit. Peter Edney has his own s/c kit plus a special camshaft not unlike the ‘731’ A-Series type while, dad George of XPAG Engineering, can take the engine out to 1350cc or, with a special crank, 1500cc; later XPEG engines are cheaper to tune and can be fitted to the later TD-TF as can B-Series units although such Heath- Robinson swaps can devalue car and hard to classify for racing. Earlier pre-T-Type Midgets (Morris 993cc 1292cc or Wolseley six-cylinder 1271cc are specialist and you really need to speak to an expert, particularly if you want to adhere to any regs governing the racing series.

Handling the power

The vast majority can be fitted with a Ford five-speed gearbox, which transforms the car at around £1300-£1500. It’s a well accepted mod in MG circles that doesn’t detract too much from the characteristics or value of the car; Hi Gear has two types to cater pre TDs. Early T can be retro-fitted with the better TD/ TF anchors or, with a bit of ingenuity, later MGA/MGB discs – but it’s not an easy job or reallly necessary says leading T specialists. THere’s a fair bit of scope to improve the steering. Consider a modern upgrade such as a VW Beetle steering box or a conversion from Tomkins to sharpen the reflexes. Uprated dampers naturally and telescopics, while not marketed, are doable using MGA ones ( helps with a guide), Midgets use cable brakes and three-speed transmissions but the principles are similar.


A Sure fire X factor winner

Tried and trusted tweaks are the order of the day with this Jaguar, but you can overdo the mods warn top XK experts

It depends on how much speed you want and bear in mind that Jaguar successfully did it for you during the XK’s production run, so just a simple ‘step up’ in size and output may well suffice. An engine can be fully re-built by a specialist for £3000-£5000, and for £6000 plus you can have a 300bhp road/race tune unit which complies with any necessary competition regs. An A1 ignition is worth more than a set of fancy camshafts – consider electronic; if you can spare it have system mapped (if regs allow); it costs big time (around £1500) but works beautifully we’re informed. E-type/420 straight port head with carbs and cams makes a great cost-effective upgrade but on 3.4s it’s not worth fitting E-type carbs unless the engine has been significantly modified to suit them – ditto equipping Weber DCOEs on 3.8s. Best cams remain D-Type profiles and available from Guy Broad. Up to 4.5-litres is attainable but speak to a known XK expert for further advice, particularly if you intend to enter FIA controlled racing or rallying. As with all Jags, attend to the marginal cooling system.

Handling the power

Guy Broad’s company markets Broadsport tuning parts range encompassing engines, gearboxes, suspension, brakes. According to the outfit, the secret of a good handling XK is “a loose rear end” enabling the car to handle in a neutral fashion or oversteer at will. Handling is improved by fitting AVO dampers (optional rear telescopic conversion for XK120s available) along with beefier 7/8in front anti roll bar to sharpen the front end, all costing around £715. Broad’s own special polybush kit tightens the chassis to optimum setting but it warns against specifically stiffening the sturdy chassis further as it will upset the handling. Brakes are very easy to enhance if the regulations apply.


Still buzzing after 56 years

This MG, still makes great budget competition classic but it does need a lot more speed if you want success

Larger valves and gas-flowed ports work wonders on the B-Series engine but think twice before installing a too racier camshaft (there’s plenty to choose from) as it spoils flexibility, if you still use it on the road. There’s rarely need to exceed 1.75in SU carbs, unless for serious race tuning, ditto DCOE Webers. Supercharging has always been popular and this simple bolt on tweak can yield just as much bhp for around £3000 – try Moss or your MG specialist. Best and easiest route which, according to the MGOC, owners now opt for, is a ready to drop in tuned engine. Two litres is the optimum size of a B-Series for road and track you can buy a Stage Two unit at £3000. A 2.1-litre tune is also on the cards but this is said to provide a less robust 140bhp and not recommended for reliable daily use. Going further there’s several fuel injection and electronic mapping set ups for the MGB and cross-flow (alloy) heads.

Handling the power

Rubber bumpers add over 40kg in weight. They also need lowering, of course – but leave the standard B alone, unless it’s for track only. Start with uprated dampers and telescopics, particularly at the stern. Specialists such as Hoyle and Frontline market modern complete independent set ups with coil springs and telescopics close to £2000. A simple Panhard rod kit to contain rear movement works well, and cheaply, at £300; anti-tramp bars add to this but to sharpen handling, thicker anti-roll bars are essential, which, in conjunction with telescopic dampers, transform the car; go for 3/4inch one for road and light track use. Rear discs conversions are available but aren’t really needed for most track work although braided brake hoses give a better pedal feel. Overdrive, as most have, means six-ratios, almost as good as a five-speeder. Competition bodyshells are available from British Motor Heritage.

Minis (all types)

A legend that’s a big winner

You’d think that there was nothing new and little more to add on how to mod a mini. Well, you’re completely wrong…

Mini experts look for around 85bhp for road use – which is a lot to wring out of a 1-litre. Unless you have to abide with regulations, 1275cc is the starting point and can be stretched to 1380cc or more. Typically, a 1293/1380cc from Minispeed starts from under £800 for a budget build-it-yourself kit to almost £3000 for a full on Stage 4. The ultimate in A-Series heads has to be modern eight port designs at £2000! Racing engines now yield 150bhp+ which is massive for a Mini, but to achieve this you’re looking at tougher crankshafts (£1639 from Minispares. com) and so on. Specific regulation racing engines are available from the major Mini tuners. Ever heard of a 16-valve A-Series? Well, it’s possible, care of a BMW motorcycle cylinder head that can be made to fit after fairly minor re-engineering; kits are available.

Handling the power

Now BMH makes early Mini shells you can build a rust free racer up from scratch. Uprated dampers is still the first step. Mini Sport’s Sports Suspension Kit (with Spax adjustable dampers) at under £250. Next – on ‘dry’ models – comes lowering cones. Fitting a rear anti-roll bar in isolation to cure the famous understeer makes the car very twitchy. Further detailed mods include adjustable suspension tie-bars and negative camber kits (front and rear) as Mini geometry settings are important. Some experts say Rover Cooper Minis can run with incorrect chassis geometry due to wonky subframes. If the standard steering is not nimble enough you can fit a ‘quick rack’. Since the adoption of generous disc brakes, Minis pull up well. Some fit Metro Turbo brakes but ultimate are alloy callipers costing some £350; at the rear use alloy finned brake drums. Mini Sport and Minispares sells a complete new closer ratio ’box and LSDs for the dedicated dicer.


Golden Oldie, today’s tweaks

Morgans are ideal classics to use and enjoy to the full both on the road and track – That same weekend!

With so many engines fitted over the decades, we can only generalise with this iconic classic but there’s no shortage of tuning parts (apart from Fiat engines, perhaps) although if you’re competing in oficial Morgan championships, strict regs may apply. Plus 8 is the meatiest and over 300bhp is attainable from that trusty V8, less than half this for the Ford crossflow four-cylinder with the Triumph TR4 (Plus4) say around 140bhp, although both four pot engines may prove too difficult for road use if tuned that highly. Ford unit can be taken out 1.8-litres but a fat 2.7-litres is attainable with the Triumph unit although not worth the effort above 2.3-litres say respected TR tuners.

Handling the power

Concentrate on refining the vintage chassis which can be replaced and made tauter but speak to a Morgan guru fi rst. Eight grand buys Librand’s high tech suspension kit which is the ideal solution but financially out of reach for many plus may fall foul of any regs. If the non rack and pinion steering is too arduous (and will be for some disciplines), Peter Mulberry’s £160 steering bearing conversion is a cost effective answer; Melvyn Rutter markets new columns at some £400 – or go electric power steering where you can easily regulate the assistance? Morgans inherently ride high so lower for serious track work. Mulberry Fabrications sells AVO dampers but with its own tailored damping for all models. Telescopic kits cost some £200, again, it’s a conversion more for track than road use. Brakes on all need beefing up; EBC or Mintex pads as the first mod and you’ll probably want better discs and callipers but really, the key to any competitive car lies more with careful setting up and correct tyre choice (and pressures) and only an experienced Morgan expert can do this effectively; it’s probably the best mod of them all as a starting point…

Mazda MX-5

Five stars for all round fun

A fine modern retro classic, there’s a lot of fun to be had with an MX-5 and there’s something for everybody

Mazda’s MX-5 even has its own racing series so you need to decide where you wish to compete in first as only set changes are allowed. First step is a Starchip from BBR Tuning, which adds 10bhp, while £360 buys a Jetex exhaust. Heads and cams are next, but it starts to get expensive then. MX-5 Heaven has developed a range of cylinder head and camshaft upgrades with three stages of head tune, ranging from a tidy up of the already efficient design (Stage 1), fully flowed (Stage 2) and then the more extreme mods, still keeping the same valve sizes with racier camshafts s (Stage 3). Power outputs claimed, in conjunction with a modified induction system, are 10-15bhp for Stage 1 and up to 35bhp for the Stage 3, which puts the pace on par with the oficial Mazda turbocharger conversion. MX-5 Heaven adds that around 200bhp is possible from the 1.8, although may prove too racy for general 9-5 road use.

Handling the power

Standard brakes are quite adequate, a set of OE or EBC pads suffices for road and track work. We’ve heard of owners putting budget tyres on the front and upmarket brands on the back, so to bias handling toward understeer for more predictable manners and it works well on track days. MX-5s handle sweetly enough without major suspension upgrades if in good order and shod with quality tyres; however, with certain championships only make and type of tyre can be used. MX5parts. com markets Rear Stabiliser Bars designed specifically for the Mk2 MX-5 by Kenauto Japan. Testing conducted using a normal 185 Cup specification MX-5 saw the brace proven to be worth a few tenths on a lap for under £80. If you want to improve the handling further then a full set of polyurethane bushes is the answer, especially if all 22 of them are worn out and may fail the MoT anyway…


A superb starter classic

Sprites and midgets (and the Austin A30/35) are great for tracks and sprints and easy to make track worthy

Don’t waste money tuning a tired engine! With camshafts costing around £85 and cylinder heads around £400, it may be more prudent to opt for a fully reworked unit which can work out the most cost effective route. For example, Oselli sells a Stage Two 1293cc exchange unit for some £2800 a go. Moss and the MGOC have similar offerings. Supercharging used to be popular and a complete kit is available but costs the thick end of three grand – the way to go for real poke now is to fit a K-Series engine; Frontline Developments makes a full nut and bolt kit meaning that you don’t need to butcher the car about, but it costs over £2100 sans engine (although these can be picked up extremely cheaply). The celebrated Ford Type 9 five-speed conversion is great, boasting better ratios. Go for the kit from experts Frontline Developments with its special casing meaning the gear lever fits the same place. A30/35 racing has strict engine tuning regs.

Handling the power

Boy racer antics – or perhaps autotesting – can snap driveshafts so fit uprated types. Dampers, springs and anti-roll bars (various thicknesses are available; 5/8in or 11/16in considered ideal) transform cars. Frontline’s telescopic damper and wishbone conversion also adds welcome extra negative camber for around £500. Moving to the stern, ditching lever arms dampers for telescopics is the way to go (around £250). Do invest in an anti-tramp kit to reduce rear-end steer at under £200. Poly bushing, including the trunnions, makes the car feel kart-like and at less than £100 is a cheap upgrade. Disc brakes at the front are standard on most. EBC Green or RedStuffs before going for larger anchors. It’s rumoured that Metro Turbo items fit nicely – if you can find them. More elaborate mods include a nine inch disc conversion for £500 or so.

Triumph TR2-6

Win with these top triumphs

Whatever engine is fitted, these TR sports cars can be just as rapid as they are rugged and at a reasonable cost

Four-cylinder wet liner block is dead easy to stretch. TRGB sells an 89mm kit for 2.3-litres, while there’s a 92mm kit (2.5-litres), although isn’t warranted for most. Four-pot needs a lot of work to top 160bhp; standard unit is not up to the job, so needs a steel crank, rods etc. Most PIs are out of sorts so you’ll never see meaningful gains unless fully overhauled.

Revington says best tweak comes from a rolling road tune up, fitting a quality electronic ignition system and installing his Throttle Improvement Kit to cure the inevitable slack and wear in the set up. Best bolt-on tune is an exhaust followed by a gas flowed head and a Rally spec camshaft which should see 165-170bhp. The Lucas fuel injection can be made to work well and handle over 250bhp; Weber DCOEs give surprisingly little gain over SU carbs.

Handling the power

It’s easy to get this wrong warn TR experts! For instance, lowering is recommended only for serious track stuff. Revington produces its own suspension kits where the components are matched to complement each other. Best budget tweak is a poly re-bush followed by an all-wheel alignment sortie by TR experts, transforming majority of cars. Up to 22mm diameter front anti-roll bars are available; Revington advising it should also be coupled to a rear one but TRGB disagrees, saying it can make car too tail happy. Telescopic damping is mandatory on IRS cars for top handling. Modern four-pot brakes are best but rear Alfin alloy drums are deemed good enough even for serious track work. You can beef the chassis to reduce flex for a sharper feel. Special kits sell for around £75 but improvement is not that great on its own as they are chiefly designed to prevent cracking under (rallying) loads. Perhaps this is why many TRs sport roll bars, providing added rigidity into the bargain?


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