Top Modified Cars to see at the NEC
Some cars are modified to extremes, others defy taste. Here are five successfully modified classics at this year’s Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show
1988 Fiat Panda 4x4
Built from three Pandas ready for the scrapyard, this chunky modified Fiat is no show pony – it’s built to take on terrain that would find most seasoned 4x4 owners scarpering back to the tarmac. Owned by Adam Varley and built as a father/son project, the list of carefully premeditated modifications is lengthy and impressive. Besides a custom roofrack, CB radio and LED roofbar there’s remarkable prowess beneath the Skoda LRS paint.
Under the bonnet lurks a 60bhp, 1.2-litre 8 valve Mk1 Punto engine. To the untrained eye it may appear lacklustre, but in a car of this weight it leaves enough punch to put lesser machines in their place. This thing has more power than the two folk on either side of Alan Sugar combined. Longer driveshafts come from a Fiat Uno, there’s Mazda RX8 seats in the cabin and it’s even riding Lancia Beta alloys. Pimp My Ride has got nothing on this.
1961 Land Rover Series IIA
Old Land Rovers have been slammed before, but this one is unique. For starters, it still employs a galvanised Land Rover chassis with the original bulkhead and a bog-standard 2.25-litre four cylinder – albeit completely overhauled with new seals. Although untested for all-out speed in a straight-line, apparently it’s ‘more than sprightly for an old Land Rover’ when behind the wheel – and despite being stripped of ground clearance, speedbumps aren’t an issue.
The Series has been lowered by 10in at the front with an 8in drop at the rear, with specially made suspension springs to accommodate the changes. The banded Toyo wheels on the back are one-of-a-kind, double dished for maximum effect. The gearbox and running gear are all original, and although the front driveshaft has been removed, it wouldn’t take much to gain four-wheel drive. The entire process didn’t take long either, taking Goblin Garage roughly two weeks and £5k to turn the rag-top, crash damaged Series IIA into something that leaves showgoers skidding to a halt for a proper look over.
1959 Ford Thames 300E Van
Powered by a 2-litre Ford Zetec engine with narrowed Volvo 240 rear axle and suspension, Steve Roberts has turned an otherwise humdrum black-and-white commercial van into an Audi eating, street snorting power wagon. There’s Jenvey throttle bodies and an OMEX ignition system under the bonnet, with approximately 165bhp on tap. Brakes are a vented 2.8-litre Capri affair, with 350lb springs and adjustable front suspension. The exhaust is a custom made-to-fit stainless steel job, with a cooling system lifted from a 1998 Volkswagen Polo. It may sound like a Heinz 57 special, but Steve's Ford Thames 300E van is stylish enough to blend in when it counts, yet stand-out when necessary.
The list of body modifications is enough to leave your jaw open, with a six inch stretched bonnet, reduced windscreen opening and removed rain gutters to name but a few intricate operation details. Within the cabin you’ve got Recaro front seats with black leather inserts. And before you think it’s deafening for the driver, there are two layers of soundproofing around the interior – making it a fast, practical and down-right impressive modified everyday classic.
Vauxhall ‘Big Bertha’ Ventora V8
Based on a standard Ventora FE shell, with enough standard strength to avoid any chassis modifications, and a V8 producing in excess of 500bhp at 7600rpm, Vauxhall's flagship monster still takes your breath away. The engine found itself dry-sumped and paired with a Borg-Warner gearbox to support a Hurst gearshift yet, with such a combination, there was drastic weight reduction required. Out went almost anything metal to be replaced with carbon fibre – doors, rear wings and the bootlid were the first to go.
While you may argue that this is ‘tuned’ rather than ‘modified’, Frank Costin, Shepreth Works and Bill Blydenstein broke the mould when they unveiled their campaign for the 1974 Super Saloon Championship’s Formula Silhouette Class. Setting a template for all contemporary saloon racers, you’ll find long term influence still radiating from the modern racing classics gracing the club stands in Hall 5.
1994 Ford Transit ‘Supervan 3’
During promotion for the Transit MkV, Ford’s bonkers Supervan 2 was rebuilt into this fire-breathing incarnation. The Supervan’s first outing to endorse a new model, rather than one ending its production life, a seven-eighths reduced scale replica was fitted together with a new Cosworth HB engine to provide 300bhp and a 0-60mph sprint of 4.9 seconds. With work carried out by DRL Engineering of Suffolk, Supervan 3 made public appearances with Ford right up until 2001, where it appeared with Royal Mail livery to celebrate taking over from Leyland DAF vans.
In essence, this is a Cosworth-powered, sportscar-humbling 165mph Transit van. It attracted enough admiration to warrant a complete rebuilt in 2004, returning the SuperVan to its original blue and white colour scheme, although the original powerunit was replaced with a Ford-Cosworth Pro Sports 3000 V6 engine – because why not?