VORTEX G T-T DEFINITELY WORTH TAKING FOR A SPIN
THIS MONTH PATRICK LOOK SAT THE CORRECT WAY TO CONSTRUCT A KIT CAR IN THIS COUNTRY
After coming here on holiday from England, Andy and his wife Lesley decided that this was the place they wanted to be. In 2008, they packed their bags and made their way to picturesque Anakiwa, a little settlement in the Marlborough Sounds, just 25km from Picton. Andy and Lesley were not strangers to long-distance relocations, having lived for a short time in the US. While there, Andy purchased a ’97 Pontiac Trans Am, which he took back to England with him. At one stage, he also owned a C3 Corvette, but he eventually decided that left-hand-drive cars did not suit British roads.
Back in England, he and some friends started going to the Stoneleigh Park National Kit Car Motor Shows, one of the biggest kit car shows in Europe. He fondly remembers a rather rapid trip to Stoneleigh in a friend’s Ronart, a ’30s-style open-wheeled tourer powered by a modern Jaguar V12 engine. After seeing the wide range of cars, he started to ponder the feasibility of building his own, and even went as far as buying a Granada as a donor car for a Pilgrim Cobra. Sadly, the Cobra never eventuated, as he always seemed to lack the time and money to get into it.
Andy decided to retire in 2014 and, once again, thought about building his own car. His key criterion was that it had to be a semi-practical car that could be used every day without fear of it breaking down or of the roof leaking. In Andy’s mind, ‘semipractical’ meant that it had to be a coupé, which ruled out all the open-top cars that are available in New Zealand. He turned his eyes to Australia but saw nothing that he really liked, which took him back to the country of his birth.
One car that had started to grow on him was a vehicle he had seen at his first Stoneleigh show called the ‘Phantom’. Originally, the Phantom had been designed for a single donor car, the Rover 800. But, with the demise of Rover, over the years, many Rover parts became unavailable, and other manufacturers were called on to provide the necessary bits and pieces, those which the small company deemed to be too expensive to manufacture itself. One company that supplies parts Phantom was not using got in touch, but not to offer any parts: that was Rolls-royce, and the company had taken exception to use of the ‘Phantom’ name. To protect the Rolls-royce brand, the tiny company was politely informed that it did not have the legal right
to call its car a ‘Phantom’, and could it please desist using it immediately. The words ‘or else’ were never used, but the small kit car company got the drift! Hence, the name was changed to ‘Vortex’ in 2008.
Long-legged super cruiser
The Vortex GT-T has been around in various guises since 2005. Richard Hammond, of Top Gear fame, reviewed the car in 2005 and called it, “A long-legged super cruiser”. He believed it would hold its own against any exotic car anywhere in the world (go to Youtube and search for “Richard Hammond Takes a Look at the Phantom GTR Kit Car”). Since its inception, the vehicle has been in ongoing development. What this means is that almost every one of the 27 cars manufactured so far is bit different to the previous one, as the design has evolved to keep up with the times and the technology available.
Before going too far down the Vortex track, Andy purchased a build manual, which was followed by many questions back and forth via email between Andy and Vortex. Once his questions had been answered, Andy next checked with the Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association (LVVTA) to see if there would be any compliance issues that he would have to overcome to get the car road legal here. Despite being so far away, Vortex was very helpful, sending the LVVTA all the paperwork/drawings that would be required. This was a lot of work for one sale, but Chris Greville-smith, one of the directors of Vortex, is more of an enthusiast than a salesman and would help out anybody keen to build one of his cars. After looking through the drawings and design specs, the LVVTA said the only production issue it could see was that the suspension components were MIG welded. To be compliant in New Zealand, they had to be TIG welded, and Chris was more than happy to ensure that a TIG welder was used in the manufacture of Andy’s components.
Still, Andy was worried about the wide variety of cars that made up the parts bin for the Vortex. He even took a temporary contract job in England so that he could source the bulk of the required parts. On returning to New Zealand, he was still a bit nervous, but Chris generously said that he would source any parts that Andy could not find in New Zealand, a promise he kept throughout the build process when Andy found himself in a sticky ‘unobtainium’ corner.
Reassured, Andy placed his order, and a rolling chassis with a body temporarily attached was rolled out of a container in Nelson during April of 2014. All the Vortex-specific parts were included in the kit, and Andy got on with the serious job of building it. His kit was the first of the current generation to be powered with the Ford 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine, complete with a six-speed gearbox.
Although Chris was very helpful throughout the build, Andy soon found the advantages of being part of a club like the Constructors Car Club. With foreign kits, there is also generally a one-make internet forum on which previous and current builders provide useful tips and advice. On the Vortex forum, Andy discovered Ed Preston, a British resident who had built a Phantom many years previously. He was one of those enthusiastic types who thinks that everybody should be building or driving a Vortex and will do everything in his power to ensure that this happens. He had all the answers to Andy’s tricky questions and even went so far as to design and build a wiring loom to take the reversing camera and sensors that Andy wanted to fit on the car.
There are as yet no certifiers in the upper South Island who are sufficiently qualified to comply a homebuilt car of this complexity. Fortunately, due to the numbers of certifications that are required, certifiers
based in Wellington, Palmerston North, and Levin make regular trips to this neck of the woods and are generally quite happy to make a detour to check out any projects which are in progress. Andy said that the certification process was quite straightforward, with only the seat-belt mounts needing to be changed — an easy fix.
The Marlborough region is full of lots of small towns with small, single-owner businesses. When it came time to paint the car, he had to do a bit of searching around, as some of the first people that he approached were not keen to take on a project of this magnitude. Eventually, though, Andy found his way to a local boat builder, who directed him to Elite Refinishers. This company had been painting fibreglass hulls for years, and, effectively, the Vortex GT-T was simply an upside-down boat. The guys came out and had a look at the car, deemed it to be quite doable, and painted it a very nice metallic green.
This mid-engined car is almost finished, and, by the time you read this, Andy expects to be driving it around Picton, on the many roads suited to this type of sports car.