Rally cars have often lit pangs of desire with racing fans. Most dream about owning a top flight historic example, but few manage to commit. Alasdair Stables is a man who decided early on that he would one day own his favourite; a Vauxhall Chevette HSR. Here, we learn more about the work involved in creating this fantastic example…
Think mid 70’s rallying, and the likelihood is you’ll think of the Ford Escort. There’s no doubt that it took plenty of the limelight, thanks to countless championship wins. This in turn helped the Blue Oval shift even more examples of their road-going family favourite. Mexico and RS badged models helped to capitalise on such successes.
Meanwhile, over at GM’s UK operations, Vauxhall wanted a slice of the action. Their answer was the compact Chevette, launched in 1975. With elements of the car more advanced than the equivalent Escort, it didn’t take long until a rally version was developed by Dealer Team Vauxhall, (DTV). Due to homologation purposes for Group 4 rallying, 400 examples of the Chevette HS were produced powered by a 2.3-litre, 16-valve slant-four engine which developed 135 bhp.
The rally-going HS was a great success; racking up notable wins for drivers including Pentti Airikkala, Jimmy McRae and Tony Pond. The Chevette won the 1979 British Open Rally Championship for drivers and the 1981 manufacturer’s title. It wasn’t too long before an evolution version arrived; the HSR. A production run of 50 cars were produced for the road. With a number of fibreglass elements to the vehicle’s exterior, the HSR developed the nickname ‘Plastic Fantastic’.
The Chevette HSR was loved by many; including one Alasdair Stables. With only 50 road-going examples of the HSR built, it was always going to be difficult to get hold of an original example. It was all the way back in the early 90’s that Alasdair finally got hold of a Chevette, with the plan to build a replica HSR. The project has been a labour of love ever since.
Things started well. Alasdair had purchased an extra wide Chevette HSR bodykit from Peter Maiden Components, a HS engine and many of the parts required for it to rally. Unfortunately, as so often is the case, life got in the way. It would be another 10 years before Alasdair would be able to continue with his Chevette HSR love-affair. By this stage though, many of the parts were rotten, and a complete refresh was needed.
Alasdair made contact with Ian Jemison, a well-known Chevette builder and asked him to create a Works-spec car using the HSR kit and HS running gear. A lengthy fabrication process followed. The shell was converted to long wheelbase, five-link boxes added to the rear and a remodelled transmission tunnel devised and fitted, and various other strengthening modifications made for good measure.
Another two years passed by, at which point Alasdair came to the conclusion that he just didn’t have enough time to complete the project himself. Following a move to Leicestershire, as luck would have it, he was a stone’s throw away from Retropower, one of the UK’s most respected restoration specialists. He persuaded them to take on the job after deciding that he wanted a car built to unmatched levels of finish and equipment.
The Chevette was stripped and was sent off to be media blasted; the shell that came back was effectively a blank slate. A roll-cage was created that followed the design of the original works cars. The result is a work of art, a six-point design with door, parallel and vertical bars, plus another running the length of the dash. The vehicle’s suspension system was then heavily modified; ironing out a number of weaknesses of the original set-up.
A full-blown suite of electronics and control systems from Life Racing has been fitted to the Chevette including a Power Distribution Unit, ECU and control panel with both digital and analogue inputs and outputs. The suite is able to be ‘remapped’ at the flick of a button, allowing Alasdair to have complete control of all hardware at any given time.
A C20XE engine built by Paul Exon replaced the old 2.3-litre slant-four unit. The car now produced an extremely healthy 270 bhp. The power the car was now making, along with the high quality craftsmanship elsewhere, meant Alasdair and the team at Retropower required a precision engineered, durable and quick-shifting motorsport transmission to go hand-in-hand with all of the other top-level components. This is when the team decided on the Quaife QBE60G 6-Speed Sequential Gearbox. Conservatively rated at 375 bhp, (although often seen handling more), the ’60G was the perfect fit for the RWD Chevette.
The finished car is quite something to behold, especially for fans of historic rallying. Finished in Alfa Romeo Touring Grey, the Chevette will be taking to the rally stages where fans can appreciate the work involved. Although Alasdair hasn’t got any rally experience prior to the completion of this project, he’s looking forward to using the car as it was intended.
We wish Alasdair all the very best with his car. We’re sure you will agree, his commitment and determination with this project has been extremely impressive…
Paul Exon built 2.3 C20XE with forged Omega pistons, steel rods and crankshaft, dry sump, ported and polished head with enlarged valves and double valve springs, direct to head Jenvey throttle bodies, Reverie inlet plenum rendered in carbon fibre, custom Simpson exhaust manifold and 2½in system, Ralloy dry sump tank and alloy radiator; custom plumbing.
Quaife QBE60G 6-Speed Sequential Gearbox with custom prop-shaft and five-linked Atlas axle with LSD.
Front: AP Racing CP6720 4-piston calipers on 295mm ‘J-hooked’ discs, hydraulic handbrake with custom mounting.
Rear: AP Racing 2-piston calipers.
‘Works’ HSR DTV suspension setup comprising custom-built adjustable Reiger dampers and double wishbones, custom upper ball-joint with 16 camber adjustment options with associated ‘pucks,’ custom lower arms with 10mm extension per side, quick rack with Corsa B Power Assisted Steering.
Wheels & Tyres
8x15in Revolution five-spoke tarmac rally wheels, Ford Group 4 studs/PCD, Dunlop semi-slick tyres.
Chevette HS shell painted in Alfa Romeo Touring Grey and converted to ‘works’ Group 4 HSR spec with long wheelbase conversion, cylindrical exhaust tunnel and custom transmission recess. Five-link rear axle boxes, MSA approved six-point weld-in roll cage with diagonal, horizontal, dashboard and door bars, various pressed steel strengthening plates, rear mounted fuel cell with fireproof housing, roof mounted cabin air scoop, Chevette HSR kit in fibreglass and full length engine/transmission sump-guard.
Motordrive bucket seats with custom DTV stitching on CNC made runners, carbon fibre panelling on doors, rear-three quarter and spare wheel well panels, Life Racing electronics suite comprising PDU, ECU, keypad and 3D printed housing along with dashboard mounted digital display.
Quaife QBE60G 6-Speed Sequential in Detail
- Ideal for front engine, RWD applications
- Rated at 375 bhp
- OE fitment for Caterham and Ginetta
- Direct replacement for Ford Type 9 gearbox
- Large choice of ratios along with helical or straight cut gears
- Modern shift drum for perfect gear shifts
- Available with standard Ford tail bush or upgraded needle roller conversion with sliding flange
- 80 mm shaft centres
- Choice of gear levers, input shafts and bellhousings for non-Ford engines
- Optional air actuator for paddleshift
- Oil temperature sensor
- Configurable as 5-speed if rules prevent 6 forward gears
- Strengthened LM25 alloy cases
- Available from £5,995.00 + VAT & Shipping
- View the range, including available ratios, within the Quaife web shop