Vauxhall’s underrated Z22SE engine has the potential to deliver plenty of smiles to mile, especially when supercharged...
2.2-litre engines and a supercharger make for a fantastic duo of Corsa Cs!
tell Dave Green whatever modification he has in mind isn’t possible, and he’s going to prove you wrong. “Friends told me I’d never be able to tune my Corsa B’s naturally aspirated X20XEV engine past 170bhp,” he recalls. “I was determined to succeed, which I did with a final power figure of 226bhp!” Likewise, when everyone he spoke to told him he’d be unable to fit a 2.2-litre engine and supercharger beneath the bonnet of his radiant red Corsa C, he did exactly that, resulting in the force-fed SRi we’ve come to check out near his home in green and pleasant Oxfordshire. Dave is no stranger to Performance
Vauxhall. Seasoned subscribers may recall the Corsa B he’s just mentioned from its starring role in the magazine in 2005. Back then, C20XE ‘Red Top’ conversions formed the basis of typical two-litre engine swaps, but hell-bent on going his own way, the agricultural engineer slapped a set of throttle bodies on an XEV, shoehorned the lot into his killer B’s engine bay and promptly raced into our pages. Having contradicted the naysayers, he started to think about what his next project would look like.
“I owned a 2.2-litre Vectra B,” he explains. “I’d thoroughly rebuilt the engine, but the car’s bodywork was starting to show its age. I didn’t want to part with a perfectly good
powerplant, a train of thought which led me to consider the possibility of fitting it into a different Vauxhall.” Around the same time, Steve Crook (head honcho at independent Griffin parts retailer, LMF), was on the hunt for a classic car restoration project. “I owned a Triumph Herald in need of a lot of work,” continues Dave. “Steve had retired his Corsa C SRi Z20LET project from the road after it had featured in Performance Vauxhall and been relieved of its turbocharged engine. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for us to come to an arrangement which saw him take the Herald and me become the new owner of his Corsa!”
Within weeks, the Vectra was scrapped and the Corsa was fitted with the rebuilt Z22SE. “I bought a Corsa D SXi to run as a daily while I worked out what was needed to get the Vectra’s engine to power up inside my newly acquired Corsa C,” remembers Dave. “I had a lot of help from the chaps at my local Vauxhall main dealer, who provided wiring diagrams and advice enabling me to configure electrical systems and bolt the engine into place on my driveway.” He also invested in Bilstein B14 coilovers, a set of Irmscher Soft Star alloy wheels and various bodywork adornments in time for the car’s appearance at the Performance Vauxhall Show in 2012.
body of work
His experience playing with throttle bodies encouraged the purchase of brand new Jenvey 45s and an ECU which has remained in its box since arriving at the Green residence! “I’d become aware of the availability of equipment to perform what I saw as a straightforward Z22SE supercharger conversion. The Z22SE.co.uk forum features many project threads authored by owners of Astras and Vectras who have carried out the work themselves. I loved the idea of doing the same to my Corsa, even though I’d just spent more than two grand on a throttle body kit!” laughs Dave. In keeping with tradition, he was told successful completion of the project couldn’t be achieved when working with a Corsa C due to the width of the Eaton M62
“i’d just spent two grand on a throttle body kit”
supercharger exceeding the available space in his car’s engine bay, but all this did was convince him he needed to succeed in the face of adversity. Bravo!
The Eaton blower and its supporting hardware is fitted as standard equipment to the Chevrolet Cobalt SS in the USA. It’s a car resembling a less aggressive Astra G Coupe and features a two-litre engine following the same basic design as the Z22SE, which in turn, is very similar to the SAAB B207 two-litre unit. SAAB parts specialist, Neo Brothers, was selling brand new B207s for little more than £700 a pop at the time Dave was considering importing a Cobalt supercharger package. Never one to pass up the opportunity of a bargain, he bought himself one of the factory fresh B207s, which is now used as the beating heart of his cool Corsa, nicknamed Ruby.
states of play
Before the Swedish nuts and bolts were installed, an imported Cobalt supercharger kit was fitted to the Vectra’s 2.2-litre lump, squeezed into the Corsa’s engine bay and taken for mapping at Norfolk-based Vauxhall tuning outfit, Courtenay Sport. “I was hoping for 250bhp, but the engine managed close to 280bhp and was still climbing!” gasps Dave. “Sensibly, the guys at Courtenay told me I needed to think about forged
internals if I wanted to run the car reliably at that level of power, which is why they restricted the map to 261bhp and 215lb/ft torque.”
There was no way Dave was going to let that be the end of his supercharged adventure! The unused B207 was quickly stripped and fitted with a 2.2-litre knife-edged crankshaft, Eagle rods, Wiseco pistons, Comp Cams Stage 2 camshafts, Schrick double valve springs, Pro Alloy cooling equipment, Z20LEH fuel injectors and a mass of high output airflow gear, including a dBilas exhaust manifold, a Lexmaul exhaust and a sports catalytic convertor. A return trip to Courtenay’s North Walsham base with the shiny new SAAB engine in place resulted in 277bhp and 241lb/ft torque. “There’s loads of headroom for power beyond 300bhp, especially if I splash out on a bigger exhaust, but I’m keen to ensure the car runs its power safely with the current setup,” reasons Dave, satisfied with a job well done.
The engine is mated to a Z22SE transmission case filled with a Corsa C 1.7 CDTi’s F23 tall gear set and a Quaife limited-slip differential. Other chassis upgrades include Bilstein B8 dampers and Eibach lowering springs (replacing the previously installed coilovers), adjustable anti-roll bars, Team Dynamics Pro Race 3 wheels and Corsa D VXR Nürburgring Edition four-piston front brakes.
Externally, the car features a Seat Leon Cupra R splitter, colour-coded Irmscher trim and Holden Barina badges, while the interior pops thanks to hydro-dipped plastics and unique VXR-stitched Recaros thought to have been produced by Vauxhall as a styling exercise for the Corsa C VXR concept in advance of the launch of the Astra H VXR in 2005.
Dave is a big fan of in-car entertainment, which is why he’s filled his red road riot with
“the guys at courtenay told me i needed to think about forged internals”
a stack of audio equipment and covered every inside body panel with sound deadening material, but that’s nothing compared to what he has planned for Betty, his blue Corsa C SXi. “I’ve just spent five grand on ICE!” he beams, before telling us his original plan of action was to keep Ruby as a show car and use Betty as a track slag. “I bought the blue car cheap, fitted the 2.2-litre Vectra engine removed from Ruby and planned to finally make use of the Jenveys I bought,” he admits. “Things changed when I joined a car club with a high number of member vehicles packing massive audio builds, rekindling my love of soundoffs,” he sighs.
TWO OF A KIND
Despite not yet being on the receiving end of the trick throttle bodies, Betty benefits from a gasflowed head, Schrick cams, dBilas valve springs, a Pipercross Viper induction kit, a 2.5-inch exhaust and a Courtenay Sport map producing 176bhp. There’s a mirror of Ruby’s suspension and transmission, yet differences in chassis configuration exist, primarily thanks to the brilliant blue Corsa’s use of Meriva calipers and 280mm discs sitting behind SXi cost-option alloys. Contrasting specification between cars is also apparent when looking in Betty’s cockpit, which is populated by Cobra Daytona cloth seats and Irmscher polished pedals.
Despite serious toil, Dave has only just been able to enjoy the fruits of his labour. “I suffered a terrible accident at work,” he reveals. “I broke both legs, meaning I needed to rely on the goodwill of my friends, Craig and Edd, who ferried me around and drove my cars to the summer shows while I was in a wheelchair.” He occupied the time he was unable to walk by writing a guide to fitting the Z22SE engine and Cobalt supercharger to a Vauxhall. “Complete with all required part numbers, the article is available to view at Z22SE.co.uk,” he smiles, hoping his work will be of assistance to those of you considering the switch of your naturally aspirated 2.2-litre Griffin to forced induction.
Both Corsas appeared at this year’s Performance Vauxhall Show as part of our celebration stand commemorating twenty-five years of the model, yet with the mountain of ICE he’s purchased, not to mention plans for another Corsa C build, don’t think Dave will be done playing with Vauxhalls any time soon.
“I want to import a Corsa C pickup truck from South Africa before swapping the model’s standard 1.8litre engine for a Z22SE!” he roars, before letting slip he’s bought another complete Cobalt supercharger kit. A blown Corsa pickup? Tell him it can’t be done. Go on, we dare you!
Supercharger kit is standard equipment from a Chevrolet Cobalt SS Vauxhall wearing Team Dynamics wheels in ‘not Pro Race 1.2’ shocker
Seats are thought to be from the Corsa C VXR design study
Intended to be a track terror, now destined to pump up the volume
Cobra Daytona seats are a modern classic
2.2-litre engine was originally fitted to Dave’s long-gone Vectra B