Ethan Ea­ton’s 455bhp As­tra ‘Burg has helped him through good times and bad, both on and off the as­phalt…

Performance Vauxhall - - CONTENTS - WORDS Dan Furr PHO­TOS Andy Tip­ping

Ethan Ea­ton’s 455bhp As­tra ‘Burg has helped him through good times and bad, both on and off the as­phalt.

Mod­i­fy­ing cars is great fun, but with to­day’s tun­ing tech mak­ing se­ri­ously big bhp pos­si­ble from Vauxhall’s line of tur­bocharged two-litre en­gines, the chance of me­chan­i­cal fail­ure as a con­se­quence of push­ing a C20LET, Z20LET, Z20LEH or even an A20NFT to its limit is high. And when things go wrong, they tend to go badly wrong. Just ask Ethan Ea­ton, the owner of As­tra VXR Nür­bur­gring Edi­tion #348.

“I was driv­ing flat-out along my lo­cal by­pass when the car’s en­gine de­cided to dump its oil,” he sighs. The loss of a Vauxhall’s lifeblood is bad no mat­ter when it oc­curs, but as if to add in­sult to in­jury, Ethan’s ‘Burg de­cided to give up the ghost a short while af­ter be­ing on the re­ceiv­ing end of a fresh en­gine build. “I dis­cov­ered one of the bolts on the oil fil­ter sand­wich plate had come loose,” he groans. “I’ve fixed the fault, in­stalled a new fil­ter and flushed through with fresh oil. My hope is there hasn’t been any dam­age done. Only time will tell.”

Ah, yes. Time. That most frus­trat­ing of fac­tors when it comes to work­ing on cars. You’re ei­ther un­able to find enough hours in the day to crack on with even the small­est of jobs, or you think you’ve got an age to play with, only for fate to throw a dis­cour­ag­ing curve­ball your way in the lead up to a dead­line that can’t be shifted. “I’m sup­posed to be ready­ing the car for PVS,” says Ethan, ner­vously. “Wor­ry­ing about the state of the en­gine is trou­bling enough, but I joined some mates at a meet yes­ter­day, only for the car’s colour-coded Kuro Car­bon car­bon-fi­bre lower bumper to dis­in­te­grate when it came into con­tact with a bump in the road!” Clearly, Lady Luck hasn’t been not on his side.

If Ethan was less deter­mined, this se­ries of er­rors might stim­u­late thoughts of throw­ing in the towel, but ‘Burg #348 is more than just a car to the VXR fan from Whitchurch. “My bet­ter half has been very ill,” he tells us. “She’s spent a lot

of the re­cent past laid up in hos­pi­tal. It’s been a chal­leng­ing time. Work­ing on my As­tra has pro­vided me with a much-needed re­lease to re­lieve stress. It might sound strange to some, but this car has helped me to cope through tough times. I won’t be giv­ing up on it,” he says, solemnly.

His pre­vi­ous spells of Grif­fin own­er­ship have seen him in charge of a va­ri­ety of Cor­sas, in­clud­ing a Corsa C he was play­ing with whilst work­ing as an ap­pren­tice brick­layer. Sadly, his low wage en­sured sav­ing for the Z20LET, tun­ing equip­ment and big brakes he’d set his heart on was a dif­fi­cult pur­suit. “One of my col­leagues was sell­ing a Mk6 Fi­esta Zetec S An­niver­sary Edi­tion,” he says. “Buy­ing it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I im­me­di­ately re­gret­ted my de­ci­sion. The Ford drove ap­pallingly and rat­tled worse than any car I’ve ever sat in. I ended up sell­ing the Blue Oval in favour of a Corsa D, but tempted by the lure of an Im­preza, I left Vauxhall own­er­ship all over again. Pre­dictably, I was met with dis­ap­point­ment. Again!” he laughs, be­fore out­lin­ing how poor the saucy Subaru proved it­self to be. “Put sim­ply, I hated it!”


The com­ple­tion of his ap­pren­tice­ship and sta­tus as be­ing self-em­ployed fi­nally brought in a de­cent amount of dosh each month, en­abling the pur­chase of the ‘Burg he owns to­day. “It was a com­pletely stan­dard car when I bought it three years ago,” he says. It didn’t stay that way for long. 320bhp ar­rived fast thanks to a Rab­bid remap and air­flow up­grades, in­clud­ing an EDS in­let man­i­fold the car con­tin­ues to make use of. Mod­er­ately mod­i­fied, the VXR’s power out­put re­mained un­changed for a year un­til Ethan “went Gar­rett” in the hunt for the 455bhp his car is presently pro­duc­ing.

A cylin­der head, crank­shaft and C20XE block (deemed to be stronger than the Z20LEH part) was handed to Phil Nicholls at Flintshire Per­for­mance En­gines with an in­struc­tion to build a pow­er­plant ca­pa­ble of com­fort­ably gen­er­at­ing 500bhp. Be­fore long, Wöss­ner pis­tons, PEC con­nect­ing rods, Piper valve springs, Newman camshafts and RnD Mo­tor­sport tim­ing pul­leys were be­ing fit­ted, along with port­ing and pol­ish­ing work in­tended to pro­mote un­re­stricted air­flow. Ethan bought the Owen De­vel­op­ments GT3076HTA M-spec tur­bocharger for­merly used to ex­tract ponies from Char­lie Gaskin’s 533bhp As­tra VXR Arc­tic Edi­tion, a car we fea­tured in the Au­gust-Septem­ber 2016 edi­tion of

Per­for­mance Vauxhall (or­der a back is­sue at bit.ly/is­sue­spv). “Char­lie was break­ing his car and I was only too happy to re­lieve him of the turbo!” smiles Ethan. He was also pleased to in­vest in high-flow fuel equip­ment, in­clud­ing 1000cc fuel in­jec­tors, twin fuel pumps (an ASNU 330lph pump and a Bosch 044 unit) and a swirl pot, along with sup­port­ing equip­ment for the turbo, not lim­ited to a Tur­bosmart waste­gate, a re­cir­cu­lat­ing valve from the same man­u­fac­turer, an Airtec Stage 2 in­ter­cooler and a re­turn to Rab­bid for map­ping af­ter the in­stal­la­tion of a cus­tom tubu­lar ex­haust man­i­fold fab­ri­cated by Nikky Davies at ND


Per­for­mance & Fab­ri­ca­tion. “Phil and Nikky share a unit in Wrex­ham, so it made per­fect sense to take ad­van­tage of the ser­vices be­ing of­fered un­der one roof,” rea­sons Ethan. Be­ing handy with a set of span­ners en­sured he was able to fit the new hard­ware in his garage at home. He’d al­ready in­stalled a Wave­trac lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial, KW coilovers and a rear beam equipped with Pow­er­flex poly­bushes, and lit­tle more than a month af­ter hand­ing the Red Top bot­tom end to Phil, the car was up and run­ning with an ex­tra 135bhp and a gen­er­ous amount of ad­di­tional torque.


“Richard at Rab­bid added ‘boost by gear’ func­tion­al­ity as part of his Rab­bid ROM remap of­fer­ing,” says Ethan af­ter we ask how no­tice­able the im­pact of the me­chan­i­cal work and map­ping has been to the per­for­mance and drive­abil­ity of his VXR. “Power is trans­ferred to the road bet­ter than ever. I’m re­ally happy with how the car per­forms in all driv­ing con­di­tions,” he adds.

A Helix six-pad­dle clutch has been added to the stan­dard M32 six-speed gear­box, and KS­port eight-pis­ton brakes have bol­stered stop­ping power. More ob­vi­ous is the ad­di­tion of a CM Com­pos­ites front split­ter, car­bon ca­nards and eigh­teen-inch Bola B1 wheels painted Candy Blue, a colour con­tin­ued in­side the car, where a cus­tom multi-point bolt-in roll cage painted the same shade wraps it­self around Cor­beau Pro Se­ries buck­ets seats and a flat­bot­tomed steer­ing wheel.

Rally-es­que anti-glare flock cov­ers the dash­board, a panel which sup­ports an AEM wa­ter/methanol in­jec­tion sys­tem con­troller. The kit’s core com­po­nents are lo­cated in the stripped rear end, close to the spare wheel well where the up­rated fuel equip­ment lives. “I’ve

al­ways wanted to have a bash at track days. The roll cage and meth gear are a re­flec­tion of my in­ten­tion to get plenty of seat time at cir­cuits. My only hope is the en­gine holds out af­ter it drained it­self of oil!” re­marks Ethan.

Ob­vi­ously, the con­di­tion of the C20XE-bot­tomed en­gine and the pur­chase of a re­place­ment lower front bumper are his pri­or­i­ties, es­pe­cially with such a short pe­riod of time be­tween now and the car’s planned ap­pear­ance at PVS. Even so, he’s al­ready out­lin­ing the next round of up­dates. “A full three-inch ex­haust sys­tem cou­pled with a re­turn to Rab­bid is on the cards,” he an­nounces. Some might think con­tin­u­ing to al­ter the make-up of his mod­i­fied mo­tor is ask­ing for trou­ble, and we have no doubt his re­cent streak of bad luck wouldn’t in­spire con­fi­dence in softer souls, but Ethan’s made of stern stuff. Be­sides, he’s not pre­pared to dis­miss the bril­liant ‘Burg which has helped him to cope with dif­fi­cult times in his per­sonal life. We can’t wait to see the car at the show!

Let’s hope the en­gine isn’t suf­fer­ing dam­age af­ter sud­den oil loss!

KS­ports peek­ing out from be­hind Bo­las

Caged cabin sig­nals Ethans in­ten­tion to ex­pe­ri­ence plenty of track time

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