COSSIE AS­CONA 400

Replica rally racer with a YB!

Performance Vauxhall - - FRONT PAGE - WORDS Jarkle PHO­TOS Steve McCann

The car world is lit­tered with ex­am­ples of stun­ning engi­neer­ing so­lu­tions, ex­per­tise and clever think­ing, and we could fill the en­tire mag­a­zine by listing our favourite en­gines and car com­bi­na­tions. Pick­ing and choos­ing the per­fect blend of en­gine, car and trans­mis­sion really is some­thing of an art, and cer­tainly not some­thing to be taken lightly. There’s also an­other fac­tor at play here, and that’s pre-set rules – of­ten very strict and un­com­pro­mis­ing rules – dic­tate what en­gines should be bolted into cer­tain cars. C20LET into Corsa? No prob­lem. C20LET into RS Turbo (yep, one ex­ists)? All hell breaks loose. We can understand how some purists hate the idea of mix­ing Vaux­hall and Ford, but we also can’t es­cape the idea that be­ing so against com­bin­ing the two means they run the risk of miss­ing out on some truly spe­cial ma­chines.

This As­cona is, as you’ve prob­a­bly al­ready gath­ered, is one such car. From the out­side it looks like a reg­u­lar 400 replica, the kind of car that or­di­nar­ily has an XE or a C20LET ‘up front,’ but peek be­neath the bright green bon­net of this ex­am­ple and you’ll spot some­thing rather dif­fer­ent – a Cos­worth YB. This is an en­gine

that should need no in­tro­duc­tion, though it’s prob­a­bly worth a brief re­cap of its il­lus­tri­ous mo­tor­sport history. Cos­worth took a Pinto block and chucked their en­tire engi­neer­ing might be­hind the project, emerg­ing a short while later with a tur­bocharged 2.0 DOHC that sub­se­quently en­abled the Group A Sier­ras to ut­terly dom­i­nate tour­ing car rac­ing for a good por­tion of the ‘80s. It is, in short, one of the best four cylin­der en­gines ever built, and putting it in some­thing like an As­cona B is a recipe for hi­lar­ity.

“I just wanted a way to get cheap, re­li­able power into the car,” ex­plains the car’s owner and builder, Glenn Robin­son when pressed about his choice of en­gine. “OK so a YB is more ex­pen­sive than some en­gines, but it’s cer­tainly a lot more rea­son­able than a Milling­ton Di­a­mond.”

SHELLING OUT

The As­cona part of the equa­tion was some­thing that Glenn had been work­ing on for quite some time, right from the time he first set eyes on a 400R when he was just six­teen years old. A suit­able car was even­tu­ally ac­quired but the work re­quired to get it back on the road was slow and frus­trat­ing, tak­ing many years and cer­tainly test­ing his pa­tience. Luck­ily sal­va­tion ar­rived in a rather un­likely fash­ion just over three years ago, when Glenn’s friend and fel­low As­cona nut Brian Mur­phy opted to sell his im­mac­u­late rolling shell for a very good price.

“He’d made sure the shell was in pretty much spot­less con­di­tion, there really wasn’t any weld­ing that needed do­ing,” ex­plains Glenn. “He was only sell­ing it as he’d been of­fered a gen­uine As­cona 400 and needed to find a way of fi­nanc­ing it.”

A suit­able shell now sorted, Glenn be­gan work­ing on bag­ging him­self a

per­for­mance VaUX­HaLL

suit­able YB lump, even­tu­ally man­ag­ing to net an en­gine and T5 gear­box from a cer­tain well known on­line auc­tion site. Of course making the en­tire Ford driv­e­train (in­clud­ing At­las axle) from a late ‘80s Ford sa­loon fit a mid ‘80s Opel coupe took a fair bit of work and more than a lit­tle head scratch­ing, and Glenn even­tu­ally sent the whole shell off to be pro­fes­sion­ally pre­pared and strength­ened. The list of work un­der­taken was ex­ten­sive and even­tu­ally ran to the diff and trans­mis­sion tun­nels (both needed to be widened), the ex­haust re­cesses, and the hard points for the im­pos­ing roll cage. You’re prob­a­bly spot­ting that, de­spite Glenn’s orig­i­nal in­ten­tions, the As­cona was be­com­ing more and more like a full-fat com­pe­ti­tion ma­chine, some­thing only ac­cen­tu­ated when he had the rear end five-linked, the front sus­pen­sion tur­rets raised for ex­tra travel, and the front cross­mem­ber re-mounted and strength­ened, just like on the orig­i­nal 400 WRC ma­chines.

“It hon­estly was just go­ing to be a straight up road car,” ex­plains Glenn with a chuckle. “It only changed to a com­pe­ti­tion car with an MoT when I re­alised there’d be just no way I could really use it to its full po­ten­tial any­where on the pub­lic road, cer­tainly not with­out los­ing my li­cense!”

This slight shift in fo­cus really did open up the flood­gates for a bar­rage of mo­tor­sport ori­en­tated mod­i­fi­ca­tions, with the semi-float­ing axle treated to a ZF LSD and mated to the YB via a cus­tom two piece prop, al­loy (Ford) hubs, and some se­ri­ously im­pres­sive brakes. The fronts

per­for­mance VaUX­HaLL

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