Performance Vauxhall - - CONTENTS -

248bhp XE with a straight-cut box – it’s a bit of an an­i­mal.

Will Foy has been in­volved in the Nova scene for a long, long time. Back when No­vas were still ten-a-penny, back when PNG con­sisted of a monthly news­let­ter and the odd meet up, and back when TV was still a few years away, Will was there, tweak­ing and build­ing No­vas, de­vel­op­ing a wealth of knowl­edge that’d see him in good stead years later. His fa­ther, an auto elec­tri­cian and com­pul­sive car-tin­kerer, also played a large part in Will’s early au­to­mo­tive for­ays, and though he sadly passed away last sum­mer, he’d no doubt have been very proud of how this par­tic­u­lar Nova has turned out.

Firstly though, let’s go back to 1999, and the year Will went off to Uni. Now most stu­dents spend their univer­sity years con­coct­ing po­tent snakebite mixes and ex­per­i­ment­ing with du­bi­ous nar­cotics – all good fun, but not ex­actly

“The prospect of en­gine con­ver­sions al­ways loomed large for Will”

the route to epic Nova own­er­ship. Not Will. The mo­ment his loan came in, he was off to scour the clas­si­fieds for a new project, and of course it was al­ways go­ing to be based on Vaux­hall’s first FWD hatch.


“I got the GSi for £600, back when you could still get clean-ish, sporty No­vas for that kind of money,” re­calls Will.

It wasn’t in bad con­di­tion at all, though the fact it needed some TLC less than a decade af­ter be­ing first re­leased onto the UK’s roads proved just how read­ily No­vas will rot. The C16SE was kept for a time, though Will’s in­volve­ment with the tuned Vaux­hall scene meant that the prospect of en­gine con­ver­sions al­ways loomed large. The Nova came off the road for a few years in 2001 and emerged with a 1.6 16v be­tween its wings, and not just any X16XE ei­ther, a real screamer of an en­gine. It came from a fairly well known Nova and sported some ag­gres­sive

cams in an up­rated and re­fined head, a BTB ex­haust, and, some­thing of a rar­ity on a Nova at the time, a set of Jen­vey ITBs on stand­alone man­age­ment. The 160bhp it churned out and the fan­tas­tic over­all fin­ish of the car made it an ob­vi­ous can­di­date for a fea­ture back in 2005. That might well have been the cul­mi­na­tion of the project and prob­a­bly would’ve been, but one 8000rpm launch away from the Sev­ern Bridge toll­booth proved too much for the highly-strung 1.6, and it spec­tac­u­larly det­o­nated, tak­ing the whole F13 gear­box with it!

“I kept the bod­ies and the MBE man­age­ment, but pretty much ev­ery­thing else was wrecked. I thought about get­ting an­other 1.6 in there but I wanted more power and torque, so the 2.0 seemed a bet­ter over­all bet,” ex­plains Will.

The hunt was on for a de­cent Red­top, and cul­mi­nated in one of the big­gest Vaux­hall bar­gains we’ve heard of. Ebay turned up a John Toovey built hot rod en­gine for £2500. Granted that’s hardly pocket money, but then again this was no reg­u­lar Red­top.

“I heard it run­ning in a hot rod truck be­fore I bought it, and to be hon­est, that sold it! It revved beau­ti­fully and picked up just like a box-fresh XE should. It re­minded me why the XE has such a fan­tas­tic rep­u­ta­tion.”

The fact that the en­gine came with £9000 worth of re­ceipts and a dyno proven 238bhp and 189lb/ft of torque also prob­a­bly played a

“Will had ev­ery­thing stitch-welded, then treated the car to a fresh coat of OE Star Sil­ver”

part in Will’s de­ci­sion to stump up the read­ies for the bare en­gine. He got it back to Wales, in­stalled it in the Nova, then fit­ted his 45mm ta­pered Jen­veys and MBE man­age­ment, and hey presto, one of the fastest NA No­vas in the coun­try. (Some­thing it proved at our Brunt­ingth­orpe thrash back in 2007, with Will top­ping out at over 149mph). Ev­ery­thing else per­for­mance-wise has been based around that Toovey en­gine, though it hasn’t all been plain sail­ing.

“I took it to Billing last year, but on the way back a cam ten­sioner bolt sheared. It didn’t de­stroy the en­gine and I prob­a­bly could’ve got away with a head rebuild, but my en­gine builder is Pete Burgess, and he’s a per­fec­tion­ist.”

What fol­lowed was a com­plete over­haul of the en­gine, with an over­bore to 88mm and a re­vised CR, now at 11.75:1. This, cou­pled with the Toovey cams and ex­ten­sive head­work, has re­sulted in a power fig­ure of 248bhp, mak­ing it one of – if not the fastest NA Nova in the UK.

That screamer of an en­gine is matched by an equally ex­treme trans­mis­sion setup, with the oblig­a­tory Quaife LSD and, best of all, a straight cut F20 gear­box. De­spite sound­ing, in

Will’s words, ‘like it’s go­ing in re­verse all the time,’ the straight-cut has proved worth­while.

“I was los­ing some­thing mas­sive like 28 per­cent of power with the stan­dard F20, now that’s down to 8 per­cent, plus it’ll hit 65mph in first,” grins Will.

com­ing to­gether

It might be mighty fast, but it isn’t a rough round the edges track-both­erer, ei­ther. De­spite var­i­ous bouts of TLC and care­ful main­te­nance over the years, in­clud­ing the fit­ment of a GM roof skin to cover up the sun­roof, by the time it came to the en­gine rebuild, the GSi needed some weld­ing. Fig­ur­ing ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’, Will had the sills re­placed, had ev­ery­thing stitch-welded, then treated the car to a fresh coat of OE Star Sil­ver. The over­all ef­fect is pleas­ingly sub­tle and very, very men­ac­ing. We’ve said it be­fore, but Com­po­mo­tive wheels re­ally do make No­vas look very ag­gro, and the MO6s on Will’s car are no ex­cep­tion. You’d strug­gle to pin­point why the whole car looks so very moody, but it’s cer­tainly there, even be­fore that manic XE crack­les into life!

In­side, you’ll find that cage, a mam­moth Roll Cen­tre eight-point beastie, with full tri­an­gu­la­tion to the front strut tops.

“It was fit­ted some­time af­ter the Brun­ters top speed run, mainly as it’s a bit un­nerv­ing do­ing silly speeds in an early ’90s hatch­back!” laughs Will.

There’s also a pair of tasty Cor­beau seats with six-point har­nesses, a flocked dash and a Stack 8120 dash sys­tem, plus a plumbed-in fire ex­tin­guisher. It’s cer­tainly a long way away from the usual GSi in­te­rior, and though it’s hardly lux­u­ri­ous, it’s noth­ing if not neat and per­fectly laid out – in short, what more do you want in a near 150mph Nova?

There was no point fit­ting such a revvy, ea­ger gem of an en­gine and not giv­ing it the chas­sis in which to shine, so Will’s over­hauled both the sus­pen­sion and brakes. It’s now sprung on Leda coilovers, with Protec solid top mounts and some stiff poly­bushes, while Wil­wood 290mm and GTE 260mm (front/rear) brakes with 4-pot calipers pro­vide su­perb stop­ping char­ac­ter­is­tics. It’s an age old for­mula for mak­ing the Nova han­dle like a go kart, but if it ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

What about the fu­ture? Well, de­spite the temp­ta­tion of a 2.0 turbo, Will’s es­chewed the C20LET, a de­ci­sion that’s left him with one of the finest NA No­vas in the coun­try. Big­ger brakes and stick­ier Toyo rub­ber will find their way onto the car very shortly, both of which should al­low him to get the most out of it on track days.

“It’s a keeper for sure. Other No­vas have come and gone, this one’s been mine for 14 years now and still puts a grin on my face!”

“In short, what more do you want in a near 150mph Nova?”

Flocked dash, dished wheel, Stack dash and bucket seats point to this Nova’s hard­core na­ture Note the GM roof skin re­plac­ing the sun­roof

A bon­net scoop comes in handy when you’ve got a set of hun­gry throt­tle bod­ies di­rectly un­der­neath it!

The 20XE was de­signed with mo­tor­sport in mind, and for the last 25 years it’s been the main­stay of club rac­ing, ral­ly­ing and hot rod­ding. John Toovey’s take on the Red­top is ac­cepted as one of the best around, and his hot rod and au­to­grass en­gines have...

This must be one of the most pow­er­ful XEs on the UK’s roads – no mean feat!

Will was run­ning ITBs a good 14 years ago, back when they were some­thing of a rar­ity

It’s not all about sheer grunt, this Nova is per­fectly fin­ished from ev­ery sin­gle an­gle

Roll Cen­tre 8 point cage is es­sen­tial if you plan on hit­ting loopy Nova speeds!

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