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‘If it looks right, it probably is right,’ someone once said. And in the case of a lot of cars it seems to be true – E-Type Jag, Mk1 Escort, Audi quattro – and the P15 kit car by Jeremy Phillips that visited the workshop back in January. This prototype had a 1600cc Ford Puma engine that made 143bhp. I’ve no doubt there are a lot of young lads out there who would sniff at anything shy of 500bhp but in a car this size this power figure equates to the best part of 300bhp per ton. That’s enough to have a lot of fun and I hope to see more of this car soon. It really deserves to succeed.

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At the other end of the weight scales, I had a Jag XJS V12 racer here in February and used it to illustrate how to check cam timing. Never assume that even a standard camshaft will be properly timed just by lining up the timing marks. You must check for maximum lift with a dial gauge if you want to get maximum power from the engine. Something that the chaps sat on the back of the pictured Seven had clearly done, as the 2.3-litre Ford Duratec in it made more than 300bhp. Stick that in the P15 and it would very likely take off.

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Not much chance of that with the VW Bus that was here in March. This Brazilian built version had the fuel injected version of VW’s ancient flat-four air-cooled engine that dates back to World War 2. Even when we got it running properly it only made 56bhp but it was barely running when it came in.

The HT leads were solid copper and the spark plugs non-resistor types – both strict no nos with an engine running electronic management. We changed both and it made no difference whatsoever. Eventually we went back to first principals and checked the firing order. Once we had the right HT lead on the right cylinder it rattled away happily like only a flat-four VW can. Always check the basics.

April soon had us fooled into thinking everything was going to go swimmingly and when I opened the bonnet of this Mk2 Escort rally car I was almost scared to touch anything, so beautifully had it been built. Unfortunately, appearances can be deceptive and the core plug sat on the engine mount was a clue to looming clouds. Then it rained – coolant poured out of the exhaust and into the sump. The head gasket had failed before we’d even had a chance to run it.

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Mid summer the sun got to me a bit and I decided it was time to resurrect my old Car and Car Conversions Fiesta race car with a view to having some track-day fun in it. I got it running on carbs but that was never going to keep me happy so it now has Jenvey throttle bodies and will hopefully make it to Mallory Park this summer for PPC in the Park – put it in your diaries for May 21 2011. See you there.

ppc-jan-11nIf my little Fiesta does make it to PPC in the Park it certainly won’t have as much traction as the Astra we had in during August. With the 4x4 system from a Calibra grafted in and a turbocharged Vauxhall XE engine, this thing had the grip to match the grunt. Very nicely done too. As was the BMW E30 with a supercharged six pot. That’s the great thing about this job – you never know what’s going to roll through the workshop doors next. Let’s hope for more weird and wonderful machinery in 2011 – Happy New Year to all PPC readers!