Morley - 1969 MkI Van
to impress in a somewhat alternative Le Mans Green, this wacky and wonderful
XE-powered MkI van delivers a tasty 200 bhp and comes courtesy of the
boys at oldskoolford.
Russell Martin, Photography: Simon Dodd
YOU'VE EVER TRAVELLED ON A MOTORWAY AT ANY TIME IN YOUR LIFE, you'll
know that it's not sales reps or supercars that blast past in the
outside lane - it's vans. Ben Morley is no delivery driver, but if
he ever decided to give things up as a mechanic and choose being a
nationwide courier for his next profession, his current set of wheels
would certainly get the package there on time. Ben is the prime mover
behind this bonkers MkI van, which is as eye-catching from the outside
as it is jaw-dropping on the inside. We say prime mover rather than
owner because Ben admits it's for his dad. Ben and his mates set up
oldskoolford.co.uk, a website and forum dedicated to all things wonderful,
old and sporting a blue oval. After numerous projects of his own,
he wanted to showcase his skills, plug the business and create something
for his dad to enjoy. "It feels food to have it done, get loads
of good feedback on the website and to make by old man proud of me.
He can come to all the meets we do in something half-sensible now,"
he explains. You'll notice that he said 'half-sensible', as if a 200
bhp rollcaged van is somehow practical.
father Ian set up Morleys Auto Services in the late '60s, and having
spent his formative years hanging around his dad's workshop, tinkering
and getting his hands dirty, it's no surprise that he turned into
a serial tweaker. His bubble-arched MkI featured in the first Group
Thrash in the March 2005 issue of CF, and he confesses to have two
other projects on the go already. The van began as 'something different,
and something to advertise the business'. It certainly qualifies,
as Ben explains it's the only five-linked van he's heard of.
with the one-owner donor van, the mechanicals were stripped and
the inevitable repairs made. This included sorting the rotten
sills and rear arches, as well as adding RS fibreglass arches
at the front and cutting away some of the bulkhead to allow for
turreted rear suspension. Ben points out that vans have higher
chassis rails, allowing the axle to be mounted lower - just the
way he likes it. The roll cage came next, based on an existing
design but modified for the van's shape. The rear legs are modified
to fit the turrets, and extra gussets secure it to the windscreen
pillars. Bars in the sills give strength down the flanks without
hampering access like traditional door bars.
had already decided to fit the 2.0-litre Vauxhall XE engine, because
it was sufficiently different from the more common engine conversions,
and he knew what a good engine it was. "My plan is to have
a fleet of XE-powered cars!" says Ben. The plan was to make
it look as factory-fitted as possible (bearing in mind the engine
is 31 years younger than the car). A seven degree tilt on the
bellhousing means it can be mounted lower in the bay, and removing
the dizzy mounting plate allowed Ben to shove it further back
too - all the better for weight distribution. It went in otherwise
standard for a while, but the desire to tweak it further was just
the motor off to OAP Race Engines, and then sent the completed shell
off for a respray. After discussing his plans with firm, they built
a 'safe' bottom end, with a lightened and balanced crank, polished and
radiused con rods, and lightened everything else. Although in a relatively
mild state of tune at the moment, the SBD throttle body kit makes the
most of the engine's current potential. A 25 thou' overbore brought
it up to 2.1-litres, and the Accralite pistons are pocketed to allow
lairy cams and solid followers to be fitted later on. Ben's reputation
suggests that this will be happening quite soon.
problem was the fact that few firms make exhaust systems for vans, so
Ben and his chums had to come up with something of their own. The eventual
solution was a bizarre mix of a Simpson back box and a Peugeot 306 centre
section. It works though, as a fruity rumble at low revs turns to a
rasp as the revs rise. Fate played a hand in the paintwork too. "I
drew the colour out of a hat," explains Ben. "We put Le Mans
Green, Vauxhall Blue and Vista Orange in the draw. We all wanted Le
Mans but weren't sure if it would work. I had a picture in my mind of
how I wanted it to look with the black and green. I wanted black door
handles too, so I sent some away to be powder coated and they came back
this photoshoot just days away, many pairs of hands were involved
in getting it finished. Ben's dad stepped in to sort the rear
disc conversion, while at the rear, the link rods and the panhard
rod needed fiddling to get the axle sitting in the right place.
It clearly works, as the rear wheels look well planted for maximum
traction, while the fronts have enough negative camber to deliver
serious grip. "I'm not really interested in straight lines"
says Ben. "I prefer corners. At least at the end of every
straight there's a corner." After competing with some success
in dirt oval racing in a MkII, you can see why he spent so much
time getting it set up properly. A smart auto-electrician stepped
in and produced a custom loom, hiding as much wiring as possible
in the engine bay for a clean look, and incorporating the sweet
push-button ignition and starter.
actual fact, the car is so freshly finished that it had had no
exercise until the day of the shoot. "It's the first time
I've driven it today. It feels great," says Ben. A few hundred
miles of restraint are needed before the engine is properly run
in, but apart from a rolling road session to map the ECU, setting
up the diff and having custom exhaust made up, it's all done.
icing on the cake for the MkI's owner was for sure the signwriting:
"I got a proper old boy to do it in paint. He was puffing
on a pipe the whole time." Just like the rest of the van,
it proves that old is gold - especially when it comes to classic
an alternative to a YB or Zetec, Vauxhall's 2.0-litre XE engine
has a lot going for it. Enduring popularity and a good competition
history means there's plenty of kit available, and a host of tuners
who know how to get the best from it. Go for a throttle body kit
like Ben and you can get an easy 180 bhp, while some extra headwork
and modified internals will get you over 200 bhp.
like SBD have been building race-spec engines for years, and one
of their full-house motors pumping on 100 Octane fuel had produced
299bhp. The only difficult part will be finding a decent one.
The earlier coscast versions don't suffer from the porous head
problems of the latter Vauxhall-produced versions, thought this
problem can be fixed.
1969 MkI van, restored with rear arches, sills, rear panel, floor
and fibreglass RS wings, front section of rear bulkhead removed
to allow turreted suspension, Teflon-coated satin black quarter
bumpers, carbon door mirrors.
2.1-litre Vauxhall C20XE, mildly-ported Coscast head, SBD TP208
tapered throttle bodies, MBE management, Accralite forged High
intruder piston, lightened and balanced bottom end, SBD rod bolts,
lightened flywheel, modified sump.
Quaife five-speed straight-cut professional gear set, quickshift,
Helix paddle clutch, 3.7:1 LSD.
Front: 360 Biltein struts converted to coil-over, 200lb springs,
adjustable TCAs, concentric top mounts, anti-dive kit. Rear: Five-link,
turreted, Spax coil-overs, 160lb springs.
Front: Bias pedal box, four-pot callipers, 257mm vented front
discs. Rear: Granada callipers, KA vented front discs
WHEELS AND TYRES
7 x 13inch Revolution wheels, powder coated satin black, 175/50R13
Continental ContiSportContact tyres.
Custom-made roll cage, pillar gussets, Sparco Rev seats, modified
two-dial clocks with Smith classic gauges, custom centre console
with push button starter and toggle switches, ignition barrel
removed, snap-off steering wheel.
Van was also featured in Retro
Ford, & has been reproduced by kind permission
of Retro Ford with follow ups in later issues shown on Ben's
SBD web page
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