FIRST, LAST AND AL­WAYS

Craig Hol­l­i­day’s Corsa Swing has been trans­formed from lowly gro­cery-get­ter to a C20XE-in­fused pocket rocket…

Performance Vauxhall - - NEWS - WORDS Sam Pre­ston PHO­TOS Davy Lewis

This Corsa Swing has been trans­formed from gro­cery-get­ter to a Red Top pocket rocket.

Your first car. It’s one of the ve­hi­cles likely to hold a spe­cial place in your heart, re­gard­less of what­ever weird and won­der­ful ma­chin­ery fol­lows in its wake. It’s the car which pro­vided you with your very own ticket to the open road, not to men­tion count­less won­der­ful mem­o­ries. Rose-tinted spec­ta­cles aside, how­ever, the truth of the mat­ter is first cars rarely hang around for long; once the nov­elty of be­ing let loose on the open road wears off, many of us look at what’s likely to be a fairly ba­sic ride and crave some­thing more sub­stan­tial. Per­haps a car that’ll jus­tify those lofty in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums?!

There are own­ers who buck the trend by stick­ing with their debu­tant drives. Af­ter all, chang­ing your car can be as re­fresh­ing as chang­ing your car. Bet­ter the devil you know, right? Rather than trade your trusty first ride in for some­thing newer with im­proved spec­i­fi­ca­tion, how about mod­i­fy­ing your mo­tor to suit your de­vel­op­ing needs and life­style. It’s the bold path Grif­fin ad­dict, Craig Hol­l­i­day, de­cided to ven­ture down af­ter he de­cided to keep hold of the 1.2-litre Corsa B Swing he snapped up af­ter pass­ing his driv­ing test al­most a decade ago.

His fruit­ful re­la­tion­ship with the ra­di­ant red hatch­back has in­volved a few ups and downs, but plenty of hard graft has left the Vauxhall tech­ni­cian from We­ston-su­per-Mare with a Grif­fin he can rightly be proud of. It’s the old-school three-door you see on the pages be­fore you. “The car started out as a Flame Red eight- valver,” he re­calls. “Typ­i­cal of Vaux­halls built in the 1980s and 1990s, Flame Red was well on its way to be­com­ing Flame Pink. My orig­i­nal plan of ac­tion was to tidy the car and en­joy driv­ing it as a runaround. I hon­estly had no idea I’d be­come so ob­sessed with it!”

His first job was to re­store the paint­work to a bet­ter than fac­tory gleam be­fore ap­ply­ing a sub­tle drop in ride height with bud­get low­er­ing springs, a change which im­me­di­ately trans­formed the look of the car thanks to a more ag­gres­sive stance. A quick win, and one which en­cour­aged Craig to con­tinue his jour­ney into the world of mod­i­fy­ing.

vi­sion thing

“Where do I start?!” he roars in re­sponse to our ques­tion ask­ing what up­dates he ap­plied to the car on the drive­way out­side his house. To be­gin

with, se­ri­ous at­ten­tion was paid to the aes­thetic, where the freshly ren­o­vated bright red hue was joined by An­gel Eye head­lights, facelift bumpers and colour-coded door mir­rors. Sporty seats lifted out of a Subaru Im­preza were also in­stalled, but Craig wasn’t happy with the way his car looked af­ter the work was car­ried out. Go­ing back to the prover­bial draw­ing board, he re­placed the An­gel Eyes with DEPO head­lights and ditched the Scooby seats in favour of bum hug­gers pro­vided by a donor Vec­tra B GSi.

Con­stant al­ter­ing of the car’s spec­i­fi­ca­tion has be­come the theme of the project. As it if to prove the point, Co­bra Monaco S buck­ets soon re­placed the Vec­tra pews, while a re­vised brak­ing sys­tem now sees a Vec­tra B V6 caliper and disc combo sit­ting up front. Ex­tra stop­ping power came in an­tic­i­pa­tion of in­creased en­gine out­put. “The time to get rid of the 1.2-litre lump pow­er­ing the car had ar­rived,” smiles Craig. “I pulled the stan­dard mo­tor and re­placed it with a 1.6-litre E16SE, the en­gine fit­ted as stan­dard to the Nova GTE,” he con­firms. The pow­er­plant he se­lected is a punchy near-100bhp unit of­fer­ing fuel in­jec­tion and a de­cent amount of grunt. With a few breath­ing modifications ap­plied, it proved to be a fan­tas­tic choice and gave his cool Corsa a much-needed new lease of life.

Keen to keep his mod­i­fy­ing mo­men­tum go­ing, he swiftly bought a full Corsa B GSi body kit. The parts were colour-coded and fit­ted with­out de­lay, a move re­sult­ing in an­other dra­matic change to the car’s al­ready up­dated ap­pear­ance. Morette twin head­lights, Au­toPal crys­tal lamps, South African do­mes­tic mar­ket rear clus­ters, an Irm­scher rear

spoiler, a ‘Bad­boy’ bon­net and a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter off­side wing vent add to the ef­fect, while ad­justable FK coilovers pro­vided Craig with the abil­ity to lower the car to his re­quire­ments.

As with any long-term love af­fair, with the ups come the downs. In this in­stance, Craig – the proud owner of a Mk3 Cav­a­lier – found him­self us­ing his sen­sa­tional Swing less and less. “I wasn’t happy with the idea of my Corsa be­com­ing a drive­way or­na­ment. I thought about ways to make the car more ex­cit­ing and soon de­cided a Red Top con­ver­sion was the so­lu­tion.” Set­ting his sights on the hugely pop­u­lar two-litre twin­cam, he set about in­ject­ing a whole new round of thrills to his pet project.

“I went to col­lect the en­gine in my Mk5 As­tra,” he re­veals. “It was amus­ing to see a C20XE sit­ting in the boot while my kids were in the back seat!” The six­teen-valver was soon re­lo­cated to the Hol­l­i­day fam­ily’s liv­ing room, where it sat on a stand and was sub­jected to a full re­build be­fore be­ing bolted into its new home be­neath the bon­net of the ever-chang­ing Corsa.

Bol­stered by a Me­gaJolt Lite Jr stand­alone ig­ni­tion con­troller fit­ted to the bot­tom of the dash­board, the en­gine has been lightly tuned with what seems like half the TX Au­tosport prod­uct cat­a­logue, Mag­necor KV85 ig­ni­tion leads, an X20XEV throt­tle body with a PKP En­gi­neer­ing adap­tor plate, a four-branch ex­haust man­i­fold and a free-flow­ing two-inch stain­less steel ex­haust sys­tem. The en­gine’s cos­metic ap­pear­ance was also im­proved with the ap­point­ment of a pol­ished cam cover to match the bling-tas­tic fin­ish of the TX gear.

un­der the gun

The en­gine bay and chas­sis were sub­jected to seam-weld­ing in or­der to pro­vide ad­di­tional strength in prepa­ra­tion for the hike in horse­power the new en­gine would pro­duce when com­pared to the Nova nuts and bolts. Gal­lop­ing ponies are trans­ferred to the road through a Ge­trag F20 five-speed man­ual

a mercedes sprinter off­side wing vent adds to the ef­fect

gear­box, sturdy GSi drive­shafts and Mk2 Cav­a­lier CV joints, parts which have proved them­selves to be more than up to the job of han­dling close to twice the power this fan­tas­tic three-door was pre­scribed at the fac­tory.

“It drives phe­nom­e­nally well,” grins Craig. “I try to keep the car in the best pos­si­ble con­di­tion. It serves me well on sunny days and when­ever there’s a show I want to at­tend,” he adds, be­fore high­light­ing Mk3 As­tra GSi ‘Step­down’ fan­blade al­loys wrapped in sticky Toyo rub­ber as parts de­liv­er­ing yet an­other sig­nif­i­cant change to the way his car looks. “I’m pleased with my choice of wheels,” he beams. “They seem to gen­er­ate as much pos­i­tive re­ac­tion from peo­ple at shows as the chrome­heavy en­gine bay, the mod­i­fied Mk2 As­tra GTE digi­dash and the sound of the ex­haust sys­tem.”

They say the first im­pres­sion is the last im­pres­sion. If Craig’s Corsa is any­thing to go by, the ap­peal of hang­ing on to a first car can be just as en­dur­ing. And when his red hot hatch has been trans­formed from zero to hero at low cost us­ing a high num­ber of com­po­nents snatched from the GM parts bin, it’s easy to see why he’s not let­ting go!

Front strut brace helps to stiffen the Swing Pol­ished cam cover de­liv­ers the ‘jew­ellery box’ ef­fect when the bon­net is opened

In­stantly recog­nis­able, for­ever de­sir­able

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