Don't MissMe and My Project: Jim Mccall and his 418bhp Vauxhall Corsa C

Me and My Project: Jim Mccall and his 418bhp Vauxhall Corsa C

It nearly killed me!

The humble Vauxhall Corsa. An ideal shopping cart for a pensioner, a cheap first car for someone who’s just passed their test and heaps of fun in a sleeper form, of course.

In the next Me and My Project Car, owner and railway engineer, Jim Mccall tells Matthew Macconnell how it took 18 months to build his dream Vauxhall Corsa C in his home garage. Vauxhall’s fastest factory-made Corsa is the VXR; it can be used as an everyday car and for a bit of fun whenever the driver has the notion.

Vauxhall Corsa

“I’ve always been into Vauxhalls. Initially, I had a modified black Corsa C with 200bhp that I loved, but then the engine started to smoke. I took the engine out and rebuilt it, fitting a K06 turbo in the process which upped the power to 329bhp. A couple of years later, whilst I was contemplating how to get more power out of the engine, I noticed the car had a large rust hole around the fuel cap area.

Rather than spend the money welding, I decided to hunt down a donor car with a rust-free shell and came across a blue 40,000-mile, one-owner 1.2-litre Vauxhall Corsa SXI for £400 – complete with a green bonnet. The front had been bumped and the headlights were broken, but I spotted the potential.

First, I stripped the underside before it went to the paint shop so there was no risk of scratching any new paintwork. Because Vauxhalls are known for paint fade, the painter tinted the primer with blue paint, applied a blue base coat and then lacquered it. Believe it or not, I took the slam panel and bonnet from my old black Corsa; it’s a small reminder for me.

Vauxhall Corsa

When I got the car back, I took the Z20LEH engine out of my black Corsa – the cylinder came head off and I made sure the bottom end was okay; the engine was then bored out to 86.5mm. The cylinder head was sent to RnD Motorsport and I told them the plans that I had for more power. They ported and polished the head, fitted three-stage valve seats and uprated the valve springs.

Next, was to fit semi-race cams and stitch up the engine, put it in the car and then move onto the gearbox and clutch. I knew I could do better than the five-speed ‘box it had at that point. I dropped in an Astra H six-speed gearbox, put a big end casing in, big bearings and then a Wavetrac differential. The original clutch wouldn’t handle the power so I purchased a Helix six-paddle clutch and next was a billet TTV flywheel.

Vauxhall Corsa

Turbo: it had to be a Garrett GTX2871 R, which has very little lag – there’s a lot of witchcraft going on inside that turbo, that’s for sure! I then fitted a Nortech four-branch manifold, a 3” exhaust from the turbo to the back and a 3.5” screamer pipe underneath that loves blowing up any dirt or debris, as well as 1,000cc injectors. The rear seats and carpeting came out and a 400 litre-per-hour fuel system went in their place to keep things sealed and help reach my 400bhp goal.

The result was a dyno reading of 418bhp and 347lb ft – in a car that weighs around 1,100kg. The wheels scramble, even with a differential, but when you’re in fourth and fifth gears things do get a bit better. Of course, with power like that, you want to be able to stop so it also has meaty HiSpec brakes. For the interior, I removed the leather seats that were originally in it and went onto Ebay to find Corsa VXR Nürburgring seats, fitted a double-din radio unit and fitted an OPC steering wheel and gear knob.

At the tail end of the build, the car nearly killed me! It was in my garage; I had just spent a lot of money on it and the turbo and cooling system were fitted but it didn’t yet have an exhaust – I just wanted to make sure everything was running. I fired it up, very much a “whey!” moment. Then within a few minutes, the best way I can describe it, my vision went like an old fuzzy TV. Being in the middle of winter the garage door was closed and it suddenly dawned on me – carbon monoxide poisoning. I stumbled to the button and opened the garage door – it lasted for quite a bit. That was a hard learning curve, you really need to watch what you’re doing when working on any car in a garage.

While I don’t have any plans to increase the power further, I do my best to keep the car clean. It’s only taxed for six months and as soon as there’s any sign of a gritter, I tuck it away. I’ve not quite got a time in terms of quarter mile yet, but I have a set of Clio 182 wheels fitted with spacers to clear the brakes, and they’re wrapped in slicks – it should be interesting when I get it on the drag strip.”

Join the club:
Vauxhall Corsa C Sports Club

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