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Total Kit Car
Spring 2005
Total Kit Car Spring 2005
Engine Masters
In the first of a new series we start a tour of the UK's best-known engine tuners and specialists. We kick-off with a visit to SB DEVELOPMENTS, a company familiar to kitcar owners using Vauxhall engines, although more lately Duratec and various bike engines have joined XE and Ecotec on the company's price lists.
Pictures: Kim Kingham
SB Developments were founded in 1992 by Steve Broughton, a man with an aviation background. One of his hobbies was rallying and working on engines. Pretty soon and almost inevitably that enthusiasm became a business and in just 13 years SBD have become one the most respected specialists with club motorsport, fast road and kitcar fraternities. We paid a visit recently to their humble but bustling unit in Surbiton, on the Surrey and south west London border and wanted to find out a bit more on what makes the company tick.

Despite a steady beginning supplying bolt-on tuning parts, a specialization in all things Vauxhall and working out what his customers wanted, saw SBD literally take-off within six months. An advertising campaign in specialist magazines and mates telling mates soon had people beating a path to company's door at that time based down the road in Chessington.

Fact was and still is for that matter if you've got a car with an XE or Ecotec 1.4/1.6 engine and want to up performance then there really is only one place to head for. Of course people aren't stupid and in this game if you're too dear then people go elsewhere, likewise if they cotton on that you're a Doc Holliday 'quick fiz-quick break' merchant. Steve has built his reputation on offering his customers affordable, quality solutions. More recently the company moved away from supplying complete engines preferring to concentrate on tuning kits and individual components and pride themselves on the fact that they hold more stock than most of their competitors. They also supply other 'household' names of the multi-valve engine brigade with parts for their engines.

Total Kit Car Spring 2005
Over the years I've had a fondness for Vauxhall engines, probably something to do with the fact that my dear old dad had a succession of motors made in Luton when I was a kid, and I guess the affinity developed from there. Even when GM's UK arm started making characterless Cavaliers, Astras and the like, the engines were still the best part of them. It's a shame that more kitcars haven't used the XE or Ecotec 1.6 because they've powered some of the best kits I've ever driven. Big fun turbocharged VX-powered Car Craft Cyclone anyone? It really is an overlooked group of powerplants by our industry and that's a shame because ask the owners of such cars and they'll tell how good they are and then probably drive away from you!

The message here is that there are still plenty of XE and Ecotec 1.6 units around, and the earlier and better XE weighs just 10kg more that a Duratec (107kg versus 97kg) - and 9kg less than a Zetec and according to Steve you can easily expect to see a reliable 300bhp from a humble 2-litre XE engine. For example SBD can supply a range of taper throttle tuning kits, taking the horsepower from standard 150bhp to set stages of 208, 225, 235, 250, 270 and 290bhp. Starting with the entry level TP208 kit, this can be used as a basis to increase power should you desire later, with torque at 172lb/ft. Indeed many customers have followed this path. Heart of the kit is a mappable MBE engine management system and throttle bodies and as agents for MBE, Steve is a big flag waver for the company and one of their main distributors and works extremely closely with them.

As horsepower increases thus the tuning kits begin to add components and the TP225 package starts to get more serious and adds high lift cams and modified original pistons. By the time you've got to 253bhp and 186lb/ft torque you've spent about five grand and have a superb bulletproof engine that when installed in a Lotus Seven inspired sportscar for example, you have a rocketshop on your hands at a value for money price. Prefect example of what a good choice the Vauxhall units make and even though SBD have quickly recognised the potential of Ford's new darling, the Duratec, they will always be quick to recommend the XE or Ecotec 1.6 should they better meet your requirements. They can supply all manner of parts as mentioned from the tunings to individual components to a dry sump package. You name it and they probably not only list it they stock it too.

As mentioned they are now offering an extensive range of SBD parts for the Duratec and although a few eyes have been raised slightly at the move to supplying Ford components, according to Steve it makes sound economic sense. The engine is here to stay for the foreseeable future and takes tuning and being breathed on extremely well. In Ford-speak the unit is totally dispensable. It breaks in your Mondeo and they'll 'give' you a new one. Even the liners are cast into the block and not separate components. There's a movement starting around the engine and SBD intend to be a part of it and are well placed to do so given the credentials they've built up for themselves with the Vauxhalls over the years. Don't forget either that the company have put their claims on show in a variety of race disciples and cars including Westfield and OMS. Indeed they are responsible for some very spiteful Westies running around with SBD developed XE units.

Taper throttle body kit

TP225 kit for 2-litre 16v XE Engine

This kit is a development of the entry level TP208 package and is a natural development for customers who wished to increase their power gradually. It retains smooth power delivery without affecting tractability. Other kits for this engine include: 208, 225, 235, 250, 270 and 290, signifying bhp figures.

In addition to Steve Broughton, the SB Developments team is a loyal and highly skilled one. Your first port of call will almost certainly be with Carole Torkington, although don't pigeon hole her as just a receptionist/telephonist as she is quite capable of answering the majority of your technical and parts enquiries, plus did I say? She also races too.

Another avenue that the company are establishing themselves in is bike engine and they are now applying the same level of skill to the likes of Suzuki Hayabusa and GSX-R1000 as they are to Vauxhall and Duratec units. this is an area that the company are going to expand in the future.

You'll also find ex-British Aerospace and rallying colleague of Steve's, engineer Dick Hulbert and toolmaker Dennis Early (Carole's dad) at SBD, both of whom are exceptionally skilled at their jobs, and have at least 10 years service each. A word too for general assistant Kim Kingham who is in charge of parts, despatch and also looks after the highly detailed brochure, keeping it updated.

We found our visit to SBD very informative, and despite a constantly ringing phone found the whole team to be very helpful and about all else knowledgeable. It's reassuring to be able to report that quality and value are very high on the agenda in this corner of South West London.

Duratec 214 kit for 2-litre Duratec engine

This kit is the first upgrade from fitting throttle bodies to the standard engine and delivers 214bhp and 170lb/ft torque. Other kits available for this engine currently include 203 & 233.

Duratec taper throttle kit
 
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