THIRD TIME LUCKY
This SAAB-powered, award-winning, wide-arched 430bhp hot hatch was built after its owner crashed his two previous Corsa Bs…
This 430bhp SAAB-powered Corsa B won the 2018 PVS Show and Shine award.
Many of you are Vauxhall brand loyalists, sticking to the output of our favourite manufacturer time after time. There are also those of you who’ve ventured away from the Griffin scene, only to be drawn back into the fold after the Volkswagen, BMW, Audi or whatever else you’ve flirted with hasn’t lived up to expectation. In a minority, however, are those of you like mechanic, Kieran Johns, who has not only stuck with Vauxhalls for the entire time he’s been able to drive, but he’s only ever owned Corsa Bs.
“They’re great cars!” he smiles. The petrolhead from Devon has owned three different Corsa Bs to date, but it’s fair to say the first two weren’t treated as well as the jawdroppingly good Sport he’s recently finished building. “I wrote them off!” he cringes. “The first ran into a ditch, the second smashed into the side of a lorry.” Fortunately, propelling his current ride to SAAB-propelled superstardom has more than made up for the sin of killing two perfectly good Griffins! FIRST STEPS “I believe it to have been the first road-legal Corsa B running a B204 engine after I first carried out the switch to SAAB power a few years ago,” he says. “I’d fitted a completely standard powerplant, but determined to drive like a loon, I ramped the boost up to the point the turbocharger cooked itself!” Understandably, the car came off the road, allowing Kieran time to fit a replacement turbo, an F28 six-speed gearbox and a Quaife limited-slip differential. “My Corsa was making use of an F20 five-speed, but I reasoned the F28 was better suited to the power being kicked out by the SAAB engine under load.”
While scurrying around beneath the car, he took time out to strip its underside (“it’s in pristine condition and has never seen welding equipment”) to bare metal before applying a generous coating of primer and lashings of Line-X protective fluid, which dries to form a hard plastic-like finish. It’s a heavy duty material used as a liner for truck beds, indicating Kieran’s desire to ensure his third Corsa benefits from resistance to corrosion. In contrast to the fate of his first two Vauxhalls, he wants this one to stick around for the long term. Looking at the photographs on these pages, it’s easy to see why.
Bodywork alterations soon extended (literally) to each corner of the car thanks to the purchase of fibreglass wide wheel arches and Corsa C side skirts. “To my surprise, the wheel arches demanded only minor alteration to the car’s metalwork, whereas the skirts weren’t anywhere near as straightforward. I spotted them in my local scrap yard, but after bringing the parts home, I realised I’d have to fit the offside skirt to my Corsa’s nearside sill and the nearside skirt to my car’s offside sill. In other words, both skirts are on back to front!” he howls.
To his credit, he’d done a great job of applying the external modifications, but by his own admission, he finds updating bodywork a tedious task. Besides, he’s wise enough to know if you want a perfect finish, you need to enlist the help of talented professionals. Enter Josh Day at JD Autos.
“I prepared the car for paint as best I could before Josh took control of the job. He finished what I’d started and covered each panel in a deep coat of gloss black,” recalls Kieran. “The finish he achieved was amazing. I returned the reborn car to the road and enjoyed driving it for close to twelve months, but fun
suddenly stopped when I was hammering along a dual carriageway and the oil level warning light unexpectedly illuminated. Within seconds there was a loud bang, smoke everywhere and bits of the engine bouncing down the road behind me. I could see them in the rear-view mirror!”
A connecting rod had decided to call it a day, bending valves, smashing a piston and ruining the crankshaft as it bid farewell. Determined to reintroduce SAAB power to the proceedings, Kieran started the build of a new engine, raiding the knackered two-litre for its ancillaries before adding them to a parts pile destined for a B206 block. “The B206 is a later version of the B204, but it’s more than twenty-four kilograms lighter due to the absence of double balance shafts,” he continues. “It’s a naturally aspirated engine from the early NG900. Crucially, the block is skinnier than that of the B204, which means I had more space to play with in the engine bay, enabling me to fit a larger turbocharger when converting the new lump to forced induction.”
Stripped bare, the block was decked and loaded with a combination of components from the SAAB parts bin. “I added a mix of items removed from 2.3-litre B234 and B235 engines, such as underpiston oil squirters, the crankshaft and rods. Some of the B204 parts I fitted include the camshafts and inlet manifold, although the latter was modified with a B235 flange and injector ports,” confirms Kieran, before going on to recite a long list of aftermarket parts used during the build; a Mamba GTX2871R turbocharger, a Toyosport intercooler, a Cosworth alloy radiator, a Trust tubular exhaust manifold, 875cc fuel injectors, an HKS blow-off valve and ARP fasteners joined a custom map applied to a SAAB T5 ECU equipped with a T7 APC update. The result? An estimated 430bhp, but that’s only part of the story.
Before the rebuilt engine was installed, Kieran set about executing a comprehensive wire tuck. He also spoke to Josh about updating the car’s paintwork after seeing a Ford Ranger pick-up truck exhibiting a glitter effect over gloss black. The paint proved difficult to identify and source (“we had to import it from America”), but after preparing the engine bay, painting it OEM Glacier White and then smoothing pretty much every exterior surface which could be smoothed, the
“there was a loud bang, smoke everywhere and bits of the engine bouncing down the road behind me”
Black glitter covers many of the car’s engine and chassis components
Extensively smoothed bodywork exhibits a deep gloss finish thanks to intense detailing