taken 13 years to refine and perfect this slick 16v Nova - and that's
13 years well spent we reckon
Jason Simms, Photography: Max Earey
is a virtue then Nick Caro is a saint. Most of us start loosing our
cool and even our interest if a project hangs around for more than a
couple of years without reaching completion. But Nick has been in there
for the long haul and has held on to his Nova, which was originally
a 1.4 SR, for 13 years.
Nick knew all about the car's very short history even before he got
it. "Friends of the family had a Vauxhall dealership, so I knew
the original owner ," he says. Bought way back in 1991, the Nova
was only a year old. Unsurprisingly since then the car has seen one
or two different phases of tune and modification, but Nick has followed
one guiding principle since day one: if you're going to do it, do it
right. That means paying attention to details , and as such a lot of
Nick's upgrades aren't immediately obvious, the attention to detail
is minute. In fact, you can't really see them at all. But that doesn't
worry him as he's more into what the car can do rather than drawing
crowds of onlookers.
not to say his car isn't a looker, and those in the know will
appreciate the fine standard his car's exterior has achieved.
For a start, the paintwork is nigh-on faultless after an exceptional
respray by Adrian Culley at LC Charles in Crewe. "He resprayed
it all bar the roof," Nick explains. "Instead of chasing
little bubbles and imperfections, he put two new doors on and
as the rear panel was looking a bit scabby he replaced that too.
He also sorted out the passenger side inner wing, which is another
classic spot for deterioration on the Nova." Nick's also
played his part. "I hand-made the rear clusters," he
reveals. "there are normally yellow lenses where the clear
ones are but there was no other yellow on the car so I wanted
to get rid of them - and make them a bit different to what everybody
else has." That meant moving the lights around a bit, including
the fogs and ditching the reverse light altogether, but the latter
is not problem as it's not a requirement for the MoT.
by the qualities of glass-fibre components, Nick also ensured
the fitment of a genuine ABS plastic Monteray scoop for the bonnet,
which wasn't cheap but it doesn't sag over time. Far more substantial
strength was needed in the body to fulfil Nick's performance ambitions,
|"The original 2-litre 16v conversion was done back
in 1997, but you could only drive it safely in a straight line,"
Nick reckons. "The chassis legs and turrets started to come
away if it was driven hard. I'd heard rumours that the body strengthening
kit was good so I took it down to ASW to get it done." The
upgrade is based around the Harry Hinckley Group N 12-plate kit,
pioneered for rallying. This is fixed in and around the engine
bay and at strategic points along the body, including the chassis
legs and is complemented by stitch welding of parts of the body.
It may sound like overkill for a road car, but Nick reckons it's
well worth it. "Now it drives like it did when it was a stock
SR and you can push it round corners and it feels safe."
a rock solid base on which to build in even more power, Nick looked
around for where he could take the car from here. "It was
a toss up between throttle bodies and a turbo," he remembers.
"What made my mind up was that turbos can be expensive if
they go wrong and you just can't beat the sound of throttle bodies."
There's no denying that but, as Nick discovered, there's still
a lot of work to be done getting them to run right. "I found
the kit in Cornwall and Dave France took the original injection
off the 2-litre engine and did the job of putting the throttle
bodies on as and when he could," remembers Nick. "But
when he did get them on, they were miles out, nowhere near right."
This was to be expected as the mechanical process of fitting throttle
bodies is just the beginning of the work it takes to get them
performing as they should. "I got the laptop connected up
to the ECU and that made sure I'd got the right amount of air
going into the bodies," reveals Nick. "Then I went down
to SBD to get them to properly map the set-up as it was running
isn't kidding either - it cost him £45 in fuel to get there
and just £25 to get back once the work had been done. "What
a difference it made," he says. "If you're spending
money on throttle bodies, you've got to spend the extra to get
them set up right." Now that it's all sorted, Nick is convinced
he was right to go down this route. "You don't have to keep
tuning, which is a distinct advantage over carbs, as the electronics control fuelling and you just set them up to suck in the right
amount of air and it doesn't need tweaking. I also think it's
better on fuel around town than it was as just a straight 2-litre
16v," he enthuses.
performance mad and a perfectionist, you'd expect Nick to ensure
his Nova's durability and maximise its driveability, and he has.
A Helix clutch and strengthened driveshafts make sure the drivetrain
can take the power, while the suspension mods go way beyond the
usual shocks and springs combination. Nick's Nova has modified track
control arms and modified tie rod brackets for that extra reassurance. With
such commitment to speed, you might expect comfort to be of no importance
to Nick, but that isn't true, as a glance at his Nova's interior
shows. The complete GSi interior has been retrimmed in leather and
Alcantara, right down to the MkIV Astra sun visors that don't need
modifying to fit perfectly. Continuing the GSi theme, its dash has
replaced the original SR plastic. These are the most obvious changes,
but a glance up at the roof reveals subtle touches such as the electric
sunroof and Alcantara headlining - neither of which are jobs for
the fainthearted. They were a nightmare and Nick remains indebted
to Brian Thomas for agreeing to take on the onerous retrim and Martin
Weaver and Andy Bishop from the Stoke region of the PVG, for their
efforts on the electrics.
Motorsport 2-litre 16v engine conversion, SBD throttle bodies,
cool running thermostat, SBD Sytec Motorsport 120 psi fuel pump,
SBD FSE fuel pressure regulator, ITG air filter and back plate,
Bailey Motorsport polished alloy header and breather tanks, -6
s/s braided fuel hose and 2 part anodized alloy JIC -6 connectors,
-10 anodized alloy pro-clamps, -10 to -6 alloy tee-piece, JP custom
s/s exhaust with 2.5 inch front pipe, 4 inch back box and polished
steel 1.5 inch manifold.
gearbox and Helix clutch, strengthened driveshafts.
shocks, ASW Tarmac-spec springs all round, modified track control
arms, modified tie rod brackets, alloy top suspension mounts.
inch Astra Sport alloys with 195/45 Toyo T1-S Proxes
V6/Calibra Turbo callipers and discs (288mm front), Astra GSi
rear disc conversion.
Group N-spec including body strengthening plates and stitch welding,
Courtenay wire mesh grille, PSG aircraft-style filler cap, MkIV
Astra clear side repeaters, GSi sideskirts, colour-coded, Omega
front fogs and custom pods, VW Golf bee-string aerial, rear arches
rolled, Courtenay carbon bonnet vents, Vauxhall Monteray 3.1D
bonnet scoop, modified front bumper, Renault Laguna lower spoiler,
custom decals, custom rear clusters, Vectra 16v metallic badges.
with a good dusting of ICE all around the Nova, it's finished the
project off to a tee. It's a real cracker, and one that gets attention
for all the right reasons, but after 13 years, Nick is kinda left
with nowhere to go with it, so at the right price he may even be
persuaded to part with it. All good things comes to an end, but
at least Nick has finally reached the end of this project.
Nova GSi interior retrimmed in leather and alcantara, headlining
retinmmed in Alcantara, MkIV Astra sun visors retrimmed in leather,
Vectra electric sunroof trim panel, Carlton electric sunroof motor
and switch, Corsa rear view mirror, Autostyle mats, Momo Daytona
3 Sport steering wheel and boss, 1992 Nova GSi dash and fittings,
Electric Life windows, custom s/s gear lever surround, Corsa indicator/wiper
stalk, Honda S2000 starter button
AiNet CD head, six disc changer and four -channel amp, Rockford
Fosgate component speakers, Pioneer two-channel amp, Pyle bass
tube, Pheonix Gold circuit breakers custom door builds.
so don't try it....
and Dick at SBD Motorsport (020 8391 0121), Adrian Culley at LC
Charles at Crewe (01270 507050), JP Exhausts (01625 619916), Trick
Manifolds and Big Ric (Exhausts), Trilogy Auto Security &
Hi-Fi (07711 079779/0161 303 9818), Tim Doyle, Dave France at
Fearless Motorsport (07714 757988), Brian Thomas (07734 461759),
Simon at Jedi Motorsport (07734 461759), anyone else who has helped
- you know who you are!
Caro's SBD Web page
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