BIKE-ENGINED MK1 FIESTA
Bonkers, bike-engined, brilliant.
He wasn’t happy was he? Did you see it? Totally annihilated him, there was no way he was keeping up and he seriously had the hump — I mean how much was that car? A fortune and it was brand new! Just love it man, that’s what it’s all about.”
Confused and curious to know what they’re talking about, I’ve just walked into early morning banter; reflections on the night before. From what I’m hearing I’m proud that one of ‘our’ cars had totally embarrassed a modern performance car just hours before. Even more so in that it was a BMW M4 and the thrashee? Lawrence Darcy’s bike-engined Fiesta — the one I last caught up with on a Grafters feature a year ago.
I have to admit, I love doing Grafters features — you get to see a right mix of projects from the sublime to the quite frankly, totally outrageous. Some that you just know will never make it in a million years, others like Lawrence’s you kind of hope it doesn’t fall by the wayside. Because, lets face it, while there’s nothing new in dropping a bike engine in a car, it’s fraught with a billion problems to make it happen. Problems you simply take for granted in a normal build — like the basic task of driving the car backwards…
Good to go
Let’s rewind to November 2015. I met Lawrence at his lock up with his mate, Wayne Caplin. It’s Lawrence’s project but Wayne’s one of those blokes that are always around; firing you up, full of good ideas, and thoroughly inquisitive when it comes to technology. At the time, Lawrence was at the stripdown stage of this car’s build, one that had revealed all sorts of problems that needed sorting, but the basic fact was that it worked!
And it worked well, too. The mid-mounted bundle of insanity in the form of a 190 bhp Kawasaki Ninja motor made the ultra-lightened Fiesta’s body extremely tail-happy — all to the point where the driveshafts had broken rendering it game over for that particular test session. When I caught up with Lawrence, the
car was stripped back to the shell and ready to be slotted into the paintshop to be squirted with Porsche Gauschwarz; the colour you’re more likely to see on a GT3 RS.
To fill in a bit, the Fiesta forming the base of the project was the car we all want to find — a one-owner, old boy minter that needed minimal welding. True, the 1100 Crossflow was seized, but that was coming out anyway. All it really needed was a pair of new wings and a few bits here and there, but it was mostly rock solid thanks to being Ziebarted from new. And the engine choice was a natural one due to the world that Lawrence and Wayne are caught up in. A choice made even more natural when a friend’s written-off bike became available, allowing it to be economically broken — it gave up a pile of necessary and vital parts to make the build more straightforward than it could have been.
Mating it to the car was the daunting part. “It was such a mint shell to cut the back of the floor
“YOU’RE MORE LIKELY TO SEE THIS CHOICE OF PAINT COLOUR ON A PORSCHE GT3 RS”
out of, but once you start it doesn’t take much to get it out although I’d braced it all up to make sure the shell didn’t move,” says Lawrence. Then it was a case of using a Safety Devices front cage, then scratch building the rest from 38 mm CDS tube. Using a mix of original and custom parts, the engine’s solid mounted off the frame. “You can’t rubber mount it because it has a chain drive, so the aim is zero flex since it’ll make the chain come off!”
One of the problems that stopped play were the driveshafts. The centre section is from a Sierra Cosworth while the new shafts have been made up by Beresford Engineering, coupled with custom lightened sprockets linked to the Kawasaki sequential ‘box via that chain drive.
Logic says that a bike engine won’t be able to move the weight of a car’s body simply because it’s a race engine with no torque and all revs. That’s true to an extent, so you have to take action to make sure it all works. Losing weight’s the key — the Fiesta’s a great choice in the first place but it still needs to shed pounds to stand much more of a fighting chance.
“I’ve drilled the insides of the door frames to a cheese-like skeleton, while the bonnet, tailgate, bumpers and spoiler are now carbon fibre. The glass has gone too in favour of Polycarbonate — everything you can do to lose weight.”
No matter how much weight you lose though there’s a lot of technique in driving a bike engined car. “It’s hard to balance the clutch and throttle pedal because they are so sensitive — trying to get the mechanical ratio right is hard
“THE CAR REALLY FLIES BUT IT’S A RIGHT HANDFUL YOU REALLY HAVE TO BE AWAKE AND PAYING ATTENTION”
— just rest your foot on the throttle and it’s revving. So, initially it’ll go dead straight, but yes it goes sideways easy as you like. Getting down the quarter mile was real challenge; it just kept bogging — what you have to do is boot it using all the revs, but that itself created clutch problems because it just kept slipping. Hence it’s now been uprated with a billet clutch basket, heavy-duty springs and Barnet clutch plates meant for turbo applications.” The last bit Lawrence says with a knowing grin…
It’s development work that’s been totally necessary as the Fiesta now runs low 12-second quarter mile times at the Pod although there’s more in it yet. “It flies off the lights but it’s a right handful — you really have to be awake and paying attention. It’s skittish in the wet and it’ll really catch you out if you’re not careful!”
Having said all this, you just know Lawrence has a load more planned. “I’m just sorting out a flat-shift kit for it so you don’t have to lift your foot off the throttle to change gear…” But the biggest plan is still to come: “I fancy a big dirty turbo sticking out the side — probably a GT28 roller bearing, although it’ll need a custom manifold and plenum but we should see around 300 bhp — even 400.”
As mad as cars like these are, they do need mountains of development work. Above all, they need people like Lawrence and Wayne. Projects like this one just keep giving and giving pure entertainment.
Lawrence (left) built the Fiesta with loads of help (and mickey-taking) from mate Wayne.
Golf crystal headlamps suit the Fiesta a treat.
Neat custom mounts keep the radiator in check.
GAZ coil-overs work with the custom wishbone set-up.
Stripped-out interior is designed to save weight. For ease, the ’bike clocks have been mounted into the (now flocked) Fiesta dash.
The fuel tank now lives under the bonnet along with the ZX-12R’s radiator, though Lawrence is soon to upgrade this to a bespoke item.
A bespoke rear frame connects to the Safety Devices roll cage. The engine is solid-mounted to it, along with the wishbone suspension.
Lawrence reckons the Fiesta is very tail-happy. Even so, he’s looking to go down the turbo route.
Black-painted Ally Cats just add to the stealth appeal of this Mk1.