FIRST, LAST AND ALWAYS
Craig Holliday’s Corsa Swing has been transformed from lowly grocery-getter to a C20XE-infused pocket rocket…
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.
“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